When the Tomb Raider video games came out, Lara Croft had the moves of a movie hero. She could run, jump, climb, shoot guns, do somersaults, swim and more. It was a no brainer to turn her into a movie, and Angelina Jolie played her in two films. The games continued, so it’s time for a new Tomb Raider.
Alicia Vikander plays Lara Croft in a film based on the 2013 Tomb Raider game that re-imagined her origin story. It’s the story of the first tomb she ever raided, looking for her long lost father (Dominic West). Vikander and director Roar Uthaug were in Los Angeles speaking about the film. Tomb Raider opens Friday.
Q: Did you see Angelina Jolie in the role, or played the game?
AV: I was a girl. I was probably around nine, ten years old when I walked into a room. I was at a friend’s house. I sadly didn’t have a Playstation at my house. I hadn’t seen a girl, a female protagonist in a computer game. I was so curious. I actually remember, I stood behind them and asked those older boys if I was allowed to play and they didn’t let me, so I had to wait until it was just me in that room sneaking down. I did play it then and then I was more into computer games. So I actually played the anniversary version of the first game around my mid-teens. Yes, I’ve seen the film and I think Angelina Jolie made her into an icon. Still that is one of the first times we got to see a female action hero on screen too.
Q: What was the perfect balance of making a unique film but honoring the game?
RU: Well, of course it was really important to honor the fans of the franchise. It has such a huge following all over the world. That, of course, makes it a bit daunting task but then it’s just about making the best movie version of this and expanding it onto the big screen. Creating the emotional connection to the character that you really need in a movie like this and Alicia portrays really well.
Q: Were there any moments where you wanted little homages for the gamers?
AV: Yeah, we had a lot of fun making sure we had little Easter eggs put into the film as well. I’ve played quite a few both fictional and real people on screen. It’s that perfect thing of really gathering as much information, make sure for me to have all the traditional traits of Lara and feel like it had all of the elements that made her become such an iconic character. She’s been with us for 22 years. Then it’s the transition of making sure she becomes one. She’s such a bold, curious, badass being. I had a lot of fun trying to find the core her and her personality.
Q: Were you building up to getting the full Lara Croft swagger?
AV: Yeah, it is a coming of age story and that was our inspiration. This film is now based a lot more on the 2013 rebooted game. There she is a normal girl in the beginning. I find it really interesting. I think we’ve seen it a lot in these big superhero and action movies. If you have the origin story, that’s a way for us to get to know our character, to feel for them, to relate to them on a more human level. I thought it was wonderful that I could play a young woman who’s still trying to find her footing in the world, also has a story with her dad that has been lost for seven years. She hasn’t really been able to mourn her either because she never knew what happened. It’s a story of where she goes out in the world and all the traits and skills that she has within her is forced to be pulled out due to the adventure that she goes on and the challenges that she’s put through. So I’m happy that you saw that in the end because I had that long span. I wanted to have every single step portrayed from the beginning ‘til the end for her to become in the end the action hero that we so well know her to be. It’s also very empowering when you get to be there in the end because I think if you have all the struggles and you feel for her being this real girl, that makes you be with her emotionally and then you root for her even more. So in the end when she’s holding on that cliff, you hopefully celebrate with her and look up to her.
Q: How hard did you train for the physicality of Lara Croft?
AV: I started about four months before we started to shoot. What I loved was when I met both Roar and Graham [King], the producers, that fact that we wanted the action sequences to be set in reality. Would you buy that this young girl can beat this bigger, stronger man? We then story-wise integrated that she’s a physical being. She trains MMA and she’s a bicycle courier, so I wanted her to be a strong girl and for it to be plausible that she could do what she does later on in the film.
Q: Any injuries?
AV: I’m actually covering up. You can see I still have little wounds on my legs, but no real injuries. We have an incredible stunt team that makes sure everything is safe. It’s just tough.
Q: Was it quite different performing the fights on location than it was in rehearsals?
AV: It’s kind of a natural process. You start normally in a room and you just have mats. Then it’s very much choreography. Even when it looks as gritty and dirty hopefully by the end, it is choreography. Then you take the next step and you come to a set which might not be completely done yet. Then you start to actually practice in there. Normally, it feels different to be on a set but you do have rehearsal time there too so you feel comfortable by the time you start shooting.
Q: At the beginning was there anything you were worried you wouldn’t be able to accomplish?
AV: Physically was something completely different. I had never taken on a character and a role in a film like this. I was a dancer before. For me to try and pretend that I can do an MMA fight or go up in a ring, that was really daunting to do that in front of people. I was almost like, “Just don’t look. Can everyone just turn away and I’m going to try it in front of the camera while no eyes are on me.” That was scary but we worked so hard and we met up in the mornings and we worked on the script. A daunting thing is to make these kind of big studio films, these big adventures which I’ve loved since I was a kid. I realize I’ve done arthouse films and to make a film like this, the films I look up to in this kind of genre, is when you’re able to mix these big spectacles with heart and find something that is grounded and make an artful, interesting story commercial and big and loud as it should be. That is the biggest challenge and I realized very early on but it was also something that gave me a lot of energy and force throughout the shoot.
Q: How did you decide which sequences would be done practically?
RU: Well, we wanted this to feel really authentic and gritty the whole movie. It was important to do as much practical as possible on set. We really put our actors through a lot on this movie. I think my favorite was the Endurance, the boat, which was built on this giant gimbal so we could rock it around. We hit it with water cannons and rain towers and big wind machines.
AV: I was in the middle.
RU: And Daniel [Wu] was in the middle of it. The rest of us were on solid ground, dry. Then we looked up and Alicia was there in her tank top getting pummeled with all this water, which also looked fun to me. I really think it pays off in the movie as well that you feel that you’re in the middle of it. I think that was the most important thing with these action sequences was to make them immersive and make the audience feel like they’re in the middle of it with Lara and the characters. I think the way Alicia handled that is just incredible, trying to act in the middle of getting hit with all that stuff. It was really impressive to see.
Q: Is Lara driven by the loss of her father?
AV: That’s a life but in any film you have to narrow it down and decide what story within that life you’re telling. And like Roar mentioned, we wanted to find an emotional way in to feel with her. I think one of them is the relationship with her father. It’s also, we kind of know this character too. She has the love for history and mythology and artifacts and all of that. I thought it was interesting, like a lot of young people do, you had your dad telling you stories when you were a kid but because of the pain that he just took off, she never really knew what happened. Maybe he just abandoned her. She kind of closed that door. It’s not until she finds his secret chamber and he realizes he was not only a suit in a corporate company. There’s actually a reason for why I have the love for these things. That’s a discovery and also acceptance of who she is. That is something I think any young person can relate to and also the fact that she has a lot of people who tell her what to do or ask her, “What are you going to do with your life? Is this good enough?” I think that’s a pressure I remember I had when I was in my early 20s.
Q: What was the most difficult scene?
RU: We have a sequence where Lara goes down the river onto an old Japanese bomber that is very inspired by the 2013 game. When we shot it, it was made up of all these different elements, like Alicia in a tank, Alicia on the wing set, then on a big gimbal plane set that would spin 180 degrees. And then culminating in throwing Alicia down a whitewater Olympic rafting course with her hands tied.
AV: 25 times. It was around 20 at least.
RU: I think when you put all that together and you have Alicia in the middle of all that, it makes for a great sequence.
Photo Credits to 2017 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.