A part she manages as flawlessly as her English—no surprise to Damon. "She's an alpha female, a really strong woman," says Damon, who plays an amnesiac secret agent who seeks help from Potente to discover his past. While filming in Prague last year he happily followed what he calls her "infectious forward momentum," whether hitting nightclubs or hiding from the trainer. Notes executive producer Frank Marshall: "She's spunky."
Tell it to her parents. Dieter, 53, a school headmaster in Potente's tiny hometown of Dülmen, and Hildegard, 50, "were hoping to see me onstage," says Potente, whose brother Stefan, 24, studies medicine. But after the multitattooed acting student at Munich's Otto Falckenberg School was spotted by a casting agent at a bar in 1996, there was no talking her out of film. Just as today there is no talking her into commenting on her reported romance with Elijah Wood, 21, whom she met making the upcoming comedy Try Seventeen this spring. "Just say," she suggests, "I had a huge smile on my face."