Swedish actor Alicia Vikander, who won an Academy Award for her role in The Danish Girl, has stepped into the lace-up boots vacated by Angelina Jolie for her first action film, Tomb Raider. Based on the popular video game franchise, Jolie played its heroine, the adventure-seeking, treasure-hunting Lara Croft, in two films back in the early 2000s. “She made her into an icon,” says Vikander.
Taking over the role, Vikander’s Lara is inspired by the 2013 reboot of the game. “She still has the same traits – she’s intelligent, witty, clever, smart and fierce.” And yet this version takes her back to her origins, beginning with her as a humble bicycle courier weaving in and out of traffic in London. “She hasn’t been on an adventure when the film begins. It’s the story about a young woman who is still trying to find her footing in the world.”
Training for the role
Vikander has never starred in an action movie before. When we last met, she was starting her training, munching on protein bars during our interview. Her exercise regimen was intense and unrelenting. Becoming Croft also immediately transported her back to her childhood, whether it was playing the early Tomb Raider games, reading books on the Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses or watching adventure movies. “I have a mum who introduced me to film and theatre at a young age, and that was a lot of European arthouse movies. But when I went to the cinema, I saw Indiana Jones [and] I loved The Mummy.”
No question, the timing of Tomb Raider is spot-on, coming after female-driven blockbusters like Wonder Woman and Atomic Blonde. “I’ve now been working in English for five or six years,” she says. “Hunger Games came out when I started, and that was really the first time I had seen in a very long time a female lead. [It was] not just showing you can have a woman playing the lead action hero, but also that it can be commercially successful. And since then, there’s been a shift happening.”
Another tectonic movement is the representation of Croft. With her busty physique, she was a figure of male fantasy in the early days, but Vikander’s version is less of an overt sex symbol. A sign of the times, perhaps? “Having a cool personality, feeling you’re witty, strong, capable, funny … I think is what people find quite sexy nowadays. It’s different, the kind of idea of what sexy is.”
Tomb Raider is out now.