Don't bet against Diane Kruger. While filming the $150 million epic Troy in Cabo San Lucas last year, Kruger and her co-star Orlando Bloom passed time between takes playing high-stakes backgammon. The 27-year-old German actress not only shellacked Bloom, she gloated about it afterward. "Both Orlando and I are horrible winners, so we would rub it into each other's faces like crazy," she says. "Most guys hate losing to a girl."

The great thing about getting trounced by Kruger, of course, is that you get to look at her while it's happening. But is she ravishing enough to play Troy's most famous female? When you're cast as Helen, the iconic beauty whose face "launch'd a thousand ships," there are, to say the least, expectations. "I certainly don't think I'm the most beautiful woman on this planet," Kruger says.

Wolfgang Petersen might disagree. Troy's director had already screened 3,000 women when he received a videotape that Kruger had hastily shot in a hotel room. "I almost got tears in my eyes," he says. "For the first time, I had the feeling, We have something here."

It took weeks for Petersen to persuade Warner Bros. to hire Kruger, who had done three French films but was unknown in America. "I'm taking a risk not going with a Julia Roberts or a Nicole Kidman," he says, "but I think there's a star here in the making."

Kruger "really wants to make a name for herself," says Josh Hartnett, who stars with her in the upcoming romantic thriller Wicker Park. The shoot required its stars to romp around Montreal in 20-below weather, but Kruger didn't complain. "She's tough when she needs to be," Hartnett says. "When a person leaves home at 16, they can go wild and lose themselves and then go through rehab and find themselves again—or they can hold true to what they are and become kind of stubborn. I think she went pretty stubborn."

Forty-eight hours after Troy wrapped, Kruger reported for work on Jerry Bruckheimer's National Treasure, with Nicolas Cage and Harvey Keitel. She plays a curator at the U.S. National Archives; the role had to be tweaked to account for her German-French-British lilt. Josh Hartnett calls her accent "the one Madonna's been looking for for years," but Kruger has been told that to be a truly international star, she must learn to speak like an American. Want to wager on how long the accent lasts?