Put down your Playstation and pick up your popcorn, Lara’s coming to the big screen! Starburst talks to the cast and crew behind this sure-fire summer hit...

Angelina Jolie and Iain Glen

Text by Anwar Brett

Selected from Starburst #274
Extra feature June 2001: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider Film Bytes

Despite nabbing the hottest role in Hollywood this side of Harry Potter, to become the first screen incarnation of Lara Croft, Angelina Jolie admits that she was never a huge fan of the computer game that spawned her character. “I wasn’t a fan of Lara Croft so much as I was annoyed with her,” she chuckles, “because all the men in my family seemed to like her so much. I’m terrible at the game though – I make her die whenever I play because I like the way it sounds!”

All that might change now that Jolie carries the onerous responsibility of embodying the number one pin-up of the cyber-geek generation, in the eagerly awaited film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. She certainly looks the part. With body make-up to cover up her famously tattooed arms, her hair pulled back in a Lara-style ponytail and a robe covering her familiar tomb-raiding costume, Jolie is – perhaps – on the brink of being irreversibly linked with a major blockbuster franchise.

Shapely figure

Eating a burger will never be the same for an actress who is destined to grace many a McFast Food meal. “When I saw the plastic head of my action figure I nearly passed out,” she chuckles. “All this is so bizarre, because I’m really a very private person.” Getting her on board seems something of a coup now as Jolie is a respected, Oscar-winning actress. She won for her role as a troubled young woman in Girl, Interrupted, though not even that career highlight could prepare her for the whirlwind of fan worship and mega-publicity that she is surely about to be swept up in.

“Now suddenly I’m really public,” she adds. “This is going to be tough, I’m guessing this summer it will be difficult for me to hide and I’m a little scared of that. But the good thing is I’m not actually me,” she laughs. “Little kids have asked me to sign things and they say ‘can you sign it Lara Croft’.”

Abreast with the action

While she undoubtedly shares the same fears, doubts and neuroses of any actor, Angelina Jolie seems to also have a steely streak that will stand in her in good stead in the months ahead. It certainly came in handy during the making of the film, when she threw herself into some of the stunt work with rare gusto, earning the admiration of stunt co-ordinator Simon Crane and his team. “Working with Angelina has been very easy,” says Crane. “I think she’s probably earned her own stunt team jacket at the end of the film.”

“Simon’s really bold in what he’s attempting with the stunts,” Jolie continues. “It’s great because we did so much of what we prepared for. All the training was just about learning these different skills, which we could then put to use. And I’ll try anything, though I also have my moments of not wanting to do that stuff. I have my moments of being soft and wanting to be a girl again.”

Such a dichotomy is surely the essence of the tough yet beautiful Lara Croft. Her larger than life adventures in this tale take her around the world, from Cambodia to Siberia to the Home Counties in a desperate race to prevent evil hands unleashing dark forces on the Earth. If the power held within a triangle made from a piece of crystallized meteor is harnessed, the once in five thousand-year alignment of three planets will herald the end of the world as we know it.

Creating the world as Lara knows it is, it turns out, an easier affair for the likes of Simon Crane than the more reality based films he has worked on previously. These include prestigious projects like Braveheart, GoldenEye, Titanic and Saving Private Ryan, films that require great imagination, but which are still located within a familiar kind of reality. Tomb Raider, by contrast, is the kind job where he can – budget permitting – let his imagination run riot. “This is much easier to do because it’s a Hollywood style action film. To do something realistic you have to study a hell of a lot, whereas here we can go to town with a lot of ideas, and pick out the best ones. For instance on Saving Private Ryan the most difficult thing was to get people to run from A to B, and get shot.

“If you see someone get shot they actually just fall flat on their faces, which is very difficult to do in a film. But here we have Angelina running around the wall of Croft Manor, 40 feet up and attached to a bungee rope. Although that was difficult too, but it was a lot easier than doing a more conventional stunt piece...”

Angelina packs it up as Lara Croft

One of the things that elevates Lara Croft: Tomb Raider above the many other Fantasy adventure movies that fill the summer release schedule is the impressive depth and quality of its cast. Aside from the three leading actors on the film – young, sexy stars that Jolie, Daniel Craig and Iain Glen undoubtedly are – there are some wonderful performances to be found further down the cast.

It’s like seeing an impressive team take the field, then gazing at the potential strength sitting on the bench. Australian actor Noah Taylor plays Lara’s wisecracking techno wizard pal Bryce, and is perhaps best remembered for his performance as the adolescent David Helfgott in Shine. No stranger to cultish, futuristic adventure, Red Dwarf star Chris Barrie is Lara’s butler Hilary, while rising young actor Julian Rhind Tutt (The Trench, Hippies) fulfils a similar butling role for villain Manfred Powell.

A couple of veterans crop up, in the form of Richard Johnson and the wonderful Leslie Phillips, two seemingly benign figures who pose a deadly threat to Lara’s safety.

“We did some extensive casting on this film,” explains Simon West. “Character wise, Lara is such a strong person that I wanted to surround her with the best possible actors I could.”

For more on Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider, see the new
Starburst Summer Special (#48)!

Starburst #274 "We wanted to get completely away from the gun-toting muscle-bound Stallone or Schwarzengeger character". (Adrian Smith, Core Design). Anwar Brett talks to Lara's creators about the film, plus Jolie's co-stars Daniel Craig and Iain Glen in this issue. Read on by getting Starburst #274

Images © Paramount
Feature © Visual Imagination 2001. Not for reproduction