As Alicia Vikander prepares to draw back her bow for Tomb Raider, the director of 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider remembers how hard it was to cast Angelina Jolie in the original role.
As a piece of noughties nostalgia, neither Tomb Raider or sequel The Cradle of Life are remembered particularly fondly. With two thinly-veiled storylines and indistinguishable love interests played by Daniel Craig and Gerard Butler, it is pretty hard to tell the two movies apart. That being said, Jolie’s casting as a prim-and-proper archeologist sporting hot pants and pistols certainly helped the franchise’s A-list status. Apparently, though, it could’ve all been completely different.
Speaking to EW, director Simon West revealed how he struggled to get Jolie cast in the titular role, with Sony wanting a “safer” option to tool up as Croft:
“[She] had a great, dark reputation about her. She lived quite an alternative lifestyle and didn’t hold back her words. She spoke her mind, and she had a notorious reputation. It was quite hard for me to get her through the approval process at the studio, because I wanted an actress who was going to bring something to the part, and she brought this great Angelina Jolie mythology with her as this dark, crazy, wicked woman with a very particular and interesting personality. I wanted that mythology of Angelina Jolie to fuse with Lara Croft.”
Bear in mind that Jolie had already made a name for herself thanks to Girl, Interrupted, Hackers, and Gone in 60 Seconds, but this was still a time before she really hit the mainstream. With her convoluted personal life and troubled relationship with father John Voight, Jolie was something of an enigma in Hollywood. However, thanks to her casting in Tomb Raider, she did (briefly) reconcile with Voight and also have the door opened to big action roles like Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Wanted, and Salt.
These days, the first two Tomb Raider movies are largely thought as just another piece of evidence in support of the video game to movie curse. Other movies like House of the Dead, Doom, and Hitman have all backed this up, meaning that Resident Evil is the only series that has stood the test of time – and even that hardly comes with glowing reviews. Only recently audiences have seen the big-budget Assassin’s Creed flop spectacularly at the box office, so it is a case of wait and see how the newest Tomb Raider will compete with its predecessors.
The movies have languished since 2003, and while the gaming series has come on leaps and bounds to continuously find a place on consoles, Tomb Raider (2018) is a complete reboot. Vikander’s portrayal hopes to be in line with the feminist icon the modern games try to portray. That being said, the star is certainly lesser known than Jolie was at the time of her casting, and the jury is out on how she will fare. Say what you want about the Jolie days, but there is no denying that this “dangerous” spirit that West fought for certainly came across on screens.