Alicia Vikander stars as Lara Croft in the newest cinematic adaptation of the Tomb Raider series. Following in the footsteps of Angelina Jolie in the early 2000s movies, Vikander is assuming the role of a very different kind of Lara Croft based on the more recent Tomb Raider titles. More survivalist than action hero, Vikander’s Croft is more at home with a bow and arrow than dual pistols. We got a chance to sit down with her ahead of the movie’s March release and talk about the long history of the character.
How did you feel about getting the Lara Croft role? Have you played the games before?
Vikander: I have! I was probably around 10-ish when I probably walked in – I didn’t have a PlayStation at home, very sadly – and I walked into my friend’s house and I remember that I saw the screen of the TV and I had never seen a female protagonist in a video game. I was really curious and I asked those older boys in that family if I could get a chance to play. I think I got to Peru and then there were some wolves and I just freaked out and didn’t get to play more, but I did play the Anniversary version later on in my teens when that came out. Then I played the rebooted games before I started to do the film and realized then how time-consuming it is, but mostly … when I grew up, I was a big computer games fan, a lot of point-and-click games like Broken Sword and Monkey Island, things like that. I was very aware of Lara and also due to Angelina Jolie and her films.
We’re talking about four different Lara Crofts here – the original, the reboot, Angelina Jolie’s, and yours, as well. What do you think connects all of them?
I think it’s a wonderful character that has been with us for like 22 years. She’s become a great role model and I love the fact that she’s been able to take such a big place as a female character in the gaming world and in cinema. I think there’s definitely room for this character to evolve, and it felt like it came out in ’96, and I think it reflects a strong woman with the same kind of essence still as a smart, very curious, feisty, vulnerable woman. It’s almost like she has changed due to how society has changed, she has become more a woman of now, of the time.
The Lara Croft in the new movie is more of an urban explorer than the traditional heiress…
Yeah, she hasn’t been on an adventure yet.
For your Lara Croft specifically, how did you consider what way you should approach the character or did you want to hew as close to the game as possible?
It’s probably the biggest nerve I’ve had of taking on this part, which has also been my inspiration, of wanting to give people who love this character and who have been following her for all these years to feel like it’s the essence of her. Then I think, I know myself, you do want to get something new. It’s like, “Why another film?” You want to see a new perspective and I love that it was an origin story, that this is much more of a girl set in a reality maybe even closer to our world. I was 20 when I came to London with my roommates. I enjoyed that she was a very physical being and showed ways that were plausible that she became the kind of survivor that she turns out to be in the film. I love that we got to see the sort of steps of her becoming the action hero we know her to be. If you have a character that you love, if you get the chance to see them grow up in a coming-of-age story, then you get so many more levels and perspectives of the character that you love.
The original Lara Croft was kind of a lone wolf in her adventures, the reboot Lara is somewhat defined by her relationships with other characters.
Oh, you think?
She has the relationship with her father that’s kind of driving her in the film.
Yeah, but that she had already in the original. In the beginning of the film, it’s more that thing of how she doesn’t know what happened, it’s more difficult for her to mourn. I don’t know if I agree that her character is defined by other characters in the film. I think she is, when I first read about her, I thought she was a very strong character by herself. She does have relationships, which is the difference when you get more time to tell the story around her, then you do have time to see what her world is like. When you actually look at somebody’s world you always find the elements of the people surrounding you.
They’re both fiercely independent, but it does seem like the reboot Lara has more of an attachment to other people than the original did, who was kind of defined by her tragedy versus being driven by hope.
Oh, that’s good, I like that. It’s nice that you say hope now we have more possibility to explore things like that. I love the fact that she’s always been put through quite harsh times, dear Lara, and yet she always managed to pick herself up. I think that kind of stubbornness and excitement and capability to always see things from the good side and always stand up again, are very much the essence of her, too.
The movie kind of echoes Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade with the missing father and the forbidden land, how do you feel Lara Croft compares to Indiana Jones?
I grew up with those films, I love adventure films, so this of course – I got the chance to go on to the most gorgeous built sets, which made me feel like a kid, like temples and tombs. So of course it’s kind of similar, it’s an adventure genre, but then I think it’s important to try and make something that is its own and fresh. I feel like Indiana Jones and Lara Croft as characters are quite different. Hopefully we’ll be taking quite different journeys due to that.
The original Lara Croft from twenty years ago was a product of her time and was marketed with a heavy emphasis on her sexuality. The current Lara Croft by contrast focuses on her survival skills above all else. Why do you think that has changed?
I think that is due to society changing. I think it’s just different. If you were to walk out and ask any young girl or boy, man or woman, really what they find attractive and sexy, it would be very different today than what it was twenty years ago. The view on people and ladies in general is just different. I think that’s why the rebooted game, it’s just my thought, but maybe that’s why it came about. You have this character that has been so groundbreaking and has such a cool essence that a lot of people have already, from the beginning, just seen that and now they’ve brought that character with them into our time. I think that’s the difference.
Let’s say you have carte blanche to make your own Tomb Raider game. How would you go about making it your ideal title in the series?
How I would go about doing one myself? I think when I played the last two games, I loved them because of the focus on the story. That’s why I was drawn in to my point-and-click games when I was young. I love leaving reality behind and just kind of getting absorbed into adventures where I dreamt being able to go to myself. So I would be fine really trying to continue what they’ve done and make it a lot about the writing. Then from there you can put in the great action beats and thrills, but I think it all comes down to having the essence of a good story meaning everything.
Tomb Raider releases in theaters on March 16. Square-Enix has announced a new Tomb Raider game to be revealed later this year.