‘I Was Carried Along by All This Energy’ : ‘Run Lola Run’ Star Franka Potente on Doing All That Running in 1999 Cult Classic Despite Smoking Two Packs a Day and Wearing Dr. Martens

The hair was a whole thing

Published Time: 05.06.2024 - 17:31:40 Modified Time: 05.06.2024 - 17:31:40

The hair was a whole thing.

In “Run Lola Run,” the 1999 German thriller that made Franka Potente a star, the actress hurtles through the streets of Berlin, seemingly propelled by her flaming-red tresses.

“My hair had been jet-black from my previous job, so they bleached it eight times,” she says, shaking her head slightly. “For Lola, we tried all these different colors before they found this red dye that came from London. But it would wash out, so I couldn’t wash my hair during the production because it would mess up the continuity.”

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And making the low-budget movie meant long hours and, as the title suggests, a lot of running. “Run Lola Run” finds its 20-something protagonist in a race against the clock to help her boyfriend replace a drug dealer’s bag of money that he lost. Most movie stars would sign up for a few triathlons or employ Usain Bolt’s trainer to get ready for such a gig. Not Potente.

“I didn’t do any preparation really,” she admits. “I was probably smoking two packs of cigarettes a day at that point. And I was doing all this running — I was running in rehearsals, I was running when we shot all the different takes, and I would run again so we could get the sound right. I was carried along by all this energy.”

And even though Potente could wear sneakers in shots where her feet weren’t in the frame, she stuck to Lola’s signature Dr. Martens. “It took five minutes to change shoes, and there wasn’t time,” Potente remembers. “They’re good shoes for utility work, but running in them took double the energy.”

Unusual for the time, Lola is a feminist action hero in a genre that ten -

ded to relegate women to roles as supportive spouses or eye candy. Everything is riding on Lola’s shoulders, and the men around her are congenitally disappointing.

“I’ve never had to play the damsel in distress, but Lola was a powerful movement forward,” Potente says. “There was a level of female fury that I enjoyed getting to play.”

As “Run Lola Run” celebrates its 25th anniversary with a June 7 theatrical rerelease, its popular appeal has exhibited a marathon-like endurance.

That has a lot to do with how writer and director Tom Tykwer gave the film both a philosophical underpinning and a relentless narrative drive. And that’s clear in the way the movie mixes handheld action scenes with black-and-white photography, still imagery and animation as it untangles three what-if scenarios. Lola’s fate — whether she and her boyfriend make it out alive or if they go down in a hail of bullets — depends on the choices she makes at key moments in the different stories.

“It sucks you in right from the beginning,” Potente says. “The movie starts, and you’re stressed out. And now that I’ve made more films and even directed one myself, I know that’s a hard feeling to generate. There’s no algorithm where you put this music on and cut things fast, and that’s it. Everything has to come together perfectly, and on ‘Lola’ it did.”

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