A cultural gap almost kept Maruschka Detmers from playing a part for which she thought she was destined.
The Dutch-born actress had read the script for "Hanna's War," a film based on the true story of a young Hungarian who stood up to the Nazis, and considered herself perfect for the lead."I recognized something that was meant for me," Detmers said. "I knew that I was going to do that. I came there totally calm, I didn't feel I had to convince anybody."
Except the director, Menaham Golan ("Over the Top," "The Delta Force"), who insisted that Detmers test for the part.
"I could see his point," the actress said. "Nobody knows me in the United States. This project is something he wanted to do for a long, long time. In Europe, it's not very usual for people to have a screen test unless you're just beginning. Here, it's very normal to ask for one."
But Detmers didn't feel that way at the time. She told Golan there was no reason to audition.
"It was not a tactic at all. I went back to the hotel not even thinking about the consequences of what I had done. I was already arranging for my ticket back to Paris," the actress said with a laugh.
And then, in true Hollywood fashion, Detmers got another chance. Golan called her and asked if he could stop by. The director arrived with a script under his arm.
"He said, `Let me read for you,' " Detmers recalled. "He's a big man. If you saw Menaham, you could imagine how touching it was from him to read a poem of Hannah's when she was 16 years old. He started reading and I said, `OK, I'll read the poem.'
"I read two lines and he said, `OK, OK. You don't have to go on, it's you! it's you!' "
It wasn't the first time that the 24-year-old Detmers had taken a chance. At 18, she went to Paris to pursue a career in theater. Two problems: She couldn't speak French and had no acting experience.
"It wasn't much of a risk," she shrugged. "They chose me as the first one of 750 people in some kind of selection thing. An agent signed me up when I didn't even know what an agent was. I knew that it was logical. I was never surprised."
Detmers wasn't so nonchalant about her debut film, "Prenom: Carmen," directed by Jean Luc Godard ("Breathless," "Band of Outsiders"), who helped lead the French "New Wave" explosion in the late 1950s.
"I can either talk about him for three days without interruption or just say it was extremely confusing and difficult. He was not nice at all. After two weeks he was telling everybody how bad they were."
But she felt she understood what made Godard so difficult to work with.
"He is extremely sensitive to absolute things in life. Absolute whenever they happen, nobody talks, nobody writes, nobody speaks, nobody films. As soon as you film something or write something, you start the betrayal of the idea that something is absolute."
While Detmers enjoyed an easier relationship with Golan on the set of "Hanna's War," she still found the film an overwhelming experience.
"I was just walking with this bubble around me. Sometimes people didn't dare approach me. I just couldn't keep my mind on anything else. Wherever Hanna went she had this incredible impact on people. She was converted into some kind of spiritual center.
"I'm sorry if I use pompous words, but it's the only way I can talk about her."
Hanna Senesh was born in Budapest in 1921 and grew up in a well-to-do family. She showed an early talent for writing and hoped to study at the University of Budapest.
But with the rise of Hitler, she fled to Palestine when she was 17 and became passionate about furthering the cause of a Jewish homeland.