From director Roar Uthaug (The Wave) and inspired by the 2013 reboot of the video game, the action-adventure flick Tomb Raider follows Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander), the fiercely independent 21-year-old daughter of a father (Dominic West) who vanished seven years prior, leaving her with the desire to forge her own path instead of taking the reins of his global empire. Faced with the very real possibility of learning what happened to him, she sets out on a search for the fabled tomb on a mythical island off the coast of Japan, which was his last-known destination, with the hope that she’ll find answers.
During a conference at the film’s Los Angeles press junket, Academy Award-winning actress Alicia Vikander talked about how she came to be playing Lara Croft, her introduction to the original game, what she thought of Angelina Jolie in the role, telling a coming of age story, getting physically prepared, the biggest challenges, and her favorite scene to shoot.
Question: How did this film come your way? Did the filmmakers come to you, or did you pursue them?
ALICIA VIKANDER: I had a call, through my agents, saying that they had reached out, and we set up a meeting with me and (director) Roar [Uthaug]. That’s how it all began. I was curious. I had said to my agents, on the phone, “What?! That’s been done.” And then, they told me that it was referring to the 2013 reboot of the game. I haven’t played video games much, for the last 15 years, but I had read about it online and I did my research. I was like, “Oh, this is actually a very different take on this character and this story.” When I read something, my imagination starts spinning, and I was like, “Sure, I would love to meet Roar.” And then, we met and had the same idea of what you could possibly do with this film.
What is your relationship with the video game?
VIKANDER: I was a girl, probably around nine or ten years old, when I walked into the room, at a friend’s house. Sadly, I had no Playstation at my house, so I went to a friend’s house. I hadn’t seen a female protagonist in a computer game, and I was so curious. I actually remember asking the 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, and then I did play it. I was more into computer games then, so I played the anniversary version of the first game, around my mid-teens.
Had you seen Angelina Jolie in the original films, and what did you think of her performance?
VIKANDER: Yes, I have seen her in that role. Angelina Jolie made [Lara Croft] into an icon. That is one of the first times we got to see a female action hero, on screen. This character has been with us for 22 years. I was at Crystal Dynamics – the gaming company – in San Francisco, and it was so cool. I got to see all of these different versions of Lara, that have been throughout history. What I realized was the fact that she’s the kind of woman that has inspired a lot of young girls and boys, around the world, for so many years, and she’s morphed into a different version of herself due to the time that she’s in. I think that’s interesting. It reflects the time that we’re on now. This is the kind of girl that you can relate to, in 2018. I think if you were to go out on the street and ask guys and girls of young ages what they would find cool and attractive, you’d get a very different answer now than you would have gotten in the 1990s.
As a gamer, what was it like to get to work in actual moments or nods to the game, like the scratches on Lara Croft’s face?
VIKANDER: We had a lot of fun, making sure we had a lot of little Easter eggs put into the film. It’s daunting. I’ve played quite a few fictional and real people, on screen, and it’s that thing where you gather as much information as you can. I wanted to have all of the traditional traits of Lara and all of the elements that made her become such an iconic character. She’s been with us for 22 years. And then, it’s the transition of making sure she becomes her own. She’s such a bold, curious, bad-ass being. I had a lot of fun trying to find the cool her and her personality.
Where would you say Lara Croft starts from, internally? Is it the absence of her father that’s affected her entire life?
VIKANDER: It’s a life, and with any film, you need to narrow it down and decide what story, within that life, you’re telling. We wanted to find an emotional way in, to feel with her, one of them is the relationship with her father. She has the love for history, mythology and artifacts, but like a lot of young people, you have your dad telling you stories when you were a kid, but then she has that pain from him just taking off. She never really knew what happened. Maybe he just abandoned her. She’s closed that door. It’s not until she finds his secret chamber and realizes he was not only a suit at a corporate company. There’s actually a reason why she has a love for these things. It’s a discovery, but also an acceptance of who she is. That’s something I think any young person could relate to. She also has a lot of people who tell her what to do, or who ask her, “What are you gonna do with your life?” That’s a pressure that I remember I had when I was in my early 20s.
This is such a physically demanding role. What were the challenges, getting into shape to do this?
VIKANDER: It was a lot of months. I started about four months before we started to shoot. What I loved was that when I met Roar, Graham [King] and the producers, we wanted the action sequences that are such a big part of this film to be set in reality. Would you buy that this young girl can beat this bigger, stronger man? Story wise, we integrated that she’s a physical being. She trains MMA and she’s a bicycle courier. I wanted her to be a strong girl, for it to be plausible that she can do what she does, later on in the film.
Dealing with fight choreography in rehearsal is different from dealing with it on set, out in the elements. How did you find staging those scenes?
VIKANDER: You normally start in a room and you just have mats. It’s very much choreography. Even when it hopefully looks gritty and dirty, by the end, it is choreography. And then, you take the next step and go to a set that might not be completely done yet and you start to actually practice in there. It feels different to be on a set, but then you do have rehearsal time there, too, so that you feel comfortable by the time you start shooting. It gives you a lot. It’s actually nice [to get onto the set].
Were there any injuries, during this shoot?
VIKANDER: I’m actually covering up because you can see that I still have little wounds on my legs, but no real injuries. We had an incredible stunt team that made sure that everything was safe. It was just tough.
Clearly, this role took a lot of mental and physical commitment. At the beginning of it, was there something you thought was particularly daunting and you weren’t sure if you could pull it off, and how did you push through that?