'Tomb Raider': Alicia Vikander on Her History With Lara Croft, the Physical Demands of the Role, and More

Sure, Alicia Vikander has already collected the ultimate Hollywood artifact, an Academy Award (she scored a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her turn in The Danish Girl), but even she wasn’t sure she was up to the physical and mental demands of playing the iconic video game heroine Lara Croft in the rebooted Tomb Raider film.

But like her on-screen alter ego, the 28-year-old actress dove in head first and found her way through all the perils and pitfalls, as she revealed during a press conference for the film attended by ComicBook.com.

Alicia Vikander Tomb Raider

On reinventing Lara Croft with a more of-the-moment sensibility and a greater degree of vulnerability:

Alicia Vikander: It is a coming-of-age story, and that was our inspiration, because this film is now based a lot more on the 2013 reboot of the game. There she is a normal girl in the beginning. I find it really interesting, and I think we’ve seen it a lot in these kind of movies, superhero and action movies. If you have the origin story then that’s a way for us to kind of 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, who also has a story with her dad that has been lost for seven years, but she hasn’t really been able to mourn him either, because she never knew what happened. It’s a story where she goes out in the world and all kind of traits and skills that she has within her [are] forced to be pulled out due to the adventure that she goes on and the challenges that she’s put through.

I wanted to have every single step, hopefully, being portrayed, from the beginning until 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. I think if you have all the struggles and you feel for her, being this real girl, that makes you being with her, emotionally, then you root for her even more.

On including little nods -- like the scratches on her face -- that call back to previous incarnations of Lara Croft:

Yeah, we had a lot of fun making sure we had little Easter eggs put into the film. I’ve played quite a few fictional and real people on screen, and it’s that perfect thing of really gathering as much information and make sure, for me, to kind of have all the traditional traits of Lara, and feel like you have all of the elements that made her become such an iconic character for 22 years. Then, it’s the transition of making sure that she becomes her own. She’s such a bold, kind of curious, badass being, so I had a lot of fun trying to find her personality.

On who Lara is when she walks into the film:

In any film you need to kind of narrow it down and decide what story within that life you’re telling. We wanted to find an emotional way, and to feel with her. I think one of them is the relationship with her father. We kind of know this character too; she has the love for history, mythology, artifacts, and all of that. I thought it was an interesting thing, like a lot of young people do, [that] 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 has kind of closed that door, and it’s not until…she 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 an acceptance of who she is, and that is something that I think any young person can relate to, also, the fact that she has a lot of people who tell her what to do. They ask her, “Well, what are you going to do with your life? Is this good enough?” I think that’s a pressure that I remember I had when I was in my early 20s.

On the demanding physical regimen required to play Lara:

I started about four months before we started the shoot. What I loved was the fact that we wanted the action sequences, that are going to be such a big part of this film, to kind of 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, and she trains in MMA, 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… I still have my little wounds on my legs. No real injuries, we have an incredible stunt team to make sure everything was safe.

On mastering the fight choreography:

It’s kind of a natural process. You start, normally, in a room, and you just have mats, and then it’s very much choreography, even when it looks as gritty and dirty, hopefully, by the end, it is choreography. Then, you kind of take the next step, and you come to a set which might not be completely done yet, and then you start to actually practice in there. Normally, it feels different to be on a set, but then you do have rehearsal time there so you feel comfortable by the time you start shooting.

On the demands of the role that she wasn’t sure she’s ultimately be able to pull off:

There’s so many different answers to that, because physically it was something completely different. I had never taken on a character and a role in a film like this. I was a dancer before, and 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, “Don’t look – I want you to turn away, and I’m going to try it.” That was scary, but then I think, we worked so hard. We met up in the mornings, and we worked on the script, and I think a daunting thing is to make these kind of big studio films, these big adventures, which I’ve loved since I was a kid.

The thing is, I’ve realized that I’ve done a lot more art house films, and to make a film like this, and the films that I look up to, 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, big, and loud, as it should be. That I think is the biggest challenge, and I realized, very early on, that it was also something that gave me a lot of energy and force throughout the shoot.

On her past history with Lara Croft:

I was 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 there. I hadn’t seen a female protagonist in a computer game, and I was so curious. I actually remember I stood behind them and I 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. I did play it then, and then I was more into computer games, so I played the anniversary version of the first game around my mid-teens.

Yes, I’ve seen the film. Angelina Jolie made her into an icon, and still, that is one of the first times where we got to see a female action hero on screen.

Then, this character has been with us for 22 years, and it’s been interesting. I was at Crystal Dynamics in San Francisco, the gaming company, and it was so cool. I got to see all these different versions of Lara that has been throughout history now. What I realized was the fact that it’s truly the essence of her, the kind of woman that has inspired a lot of both young girls and boys around the world, for so many years, but it’s more that she’s morphed into a personality or a different version of herself due to what time she’s in.

I think that’s interesting. It sort of reflects on what terms we’re on now. This is the kind of girl that you would relate to in 2018. I think if you would go out on the street, guys and girls of young ages and asked them what they would find cool and attractive, it’s a very different answer you would get now than you would get in the 1990s.

On Lara’s use of weapons other than firearms throughout the film:

I love that, and that was something that we discussed in one of the first meetings, I think, we had. She doesn’t use a gun in this film, and I love that instead, coming back to integrating story in this action-adventure, I love the fact that everything that she uses, even it’s down to an ice pick, she needs to be evasive. She needs to use what she has around her ,and if she doesn’t have the size or the same strength, she needs to use her wit and intelligence instead. Definitely, that was something that attracted me to the role from the beginning.

On landing the role:

I had a call through my agents saying that [the producers] had reached out and we set up a meeting with me and Roar [Uthag]. That’s how it all began. I was curious because I think I had said to my agents, on the phone, I was like, “What?” That’s with me being a person who played this game growing up. I think mostly it was actually because I was like, “Well, it’s been done.”

It was not until they told me that it was referring to the 2013 reboot of the game. I haven’t played that much video games for the last 15 years, but I had read about it online, and I went in and did my research. I was like, “Oh, this is actually a very different take on this character and this story.” Suddenly, my imagination starts spinning, and I was like, “Yeah, sure, I would love to meet Roar.” We felt like we met and had the same idea of what you could possibly do with this film.

On the most challenging – yet nostalgic – stunt scene:

The bicycle scene was tough, but I loved that! I lived in East London when I was 20 with my girlfriends, and I used to have a bike because it’s so crazy expensive to get on the tube. I almost got killed, so I know that it’s life-threatening, so that makes for a really good action scene!

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Tomb Raider is scheduled to release in theaters on March 16th. Alicia Vikander stars in the film as Lara Croft.