–Alicia Vikander talks Fassbender, Tomb Raider and Angelina Jolie–Alicia Vikander talks Fassbender, Tomb Raider and Angelina Jolie


Angelina Jolie won an Oscar in early 2000, but it was playing Lara Croft — the kick-ass heroine of pioneering action-adventure video game Tomb Raider — that made her an international star 18 months later. In an instant, the then 26-year-old became the world’s foremost female action hero, picking up where Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley from Alien had left off.

Now, 15 years after Jolie last strapped on the gun holster and the padded bra, another Oscar winner is stepping up to put her own stamp on Lara Croft.

In the new Tomb Raider movie, 29-year-old Swede Alicia Vikander swaps short shorts for sensible cargo pants and flashy guns for bow and arrow in a thoroughly modern take on the old school adventure.

“There was an obligation of making it your own while honouring the past,” says Vikander in Los Angeles. “We knew that we needed to give (the audience) something new that they haven’t hopefully seen before.”

Vikander, who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 2016 for The Danish Girl, had her own history with Lara Croft.

“What I was most nervous about was the fact that I was taking on a character we’ve known for 22 years,” she says. “I was 10-years-old when I walked into a room and saw a female protagonist in a video game. I hadn’t seen that before, and to see that female action hero on the screen, it meant a lot to me.”

With her fellow Scandinavian Roar Uthaug, Tomb Raider’s Norwegian director, the star conspired to put a fresh spin on the character.

“We wanted to create this sense of a girl next door,” explains Uthaug. “When we first meet Lara she’s working as a bike courier trying to make ends meet. She’s not this big adventurer, and definitely not a superhero, but a real girl. Then through all the ordeals she’s put through, she becomes the Tomb Raider she was always meant to be.”

Vikander was not an obvious choice to play Croft, being better known for dramatic period fare such as 2012’s Anna Karenina, 2014’s Testament of Youth and 2016’s The Light Between Oceans, the latter of which was filmed in Australia and New Zealand.

But the girl from Gothenburg has also packed a punch in action flicks The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Jason Bourne and garnered rave reviews for her turn in cult sci-fi favourite Ex-Machina.

“We’ve all seen her do period dramas and her emotional range is incredible,” says Uthaug. “But I have to say, we were all unprepared for her level of dedication on this movie. She trained with our stunt team and our fight choreographers because she wanted to do as much as possible. And she really did most of it.”

Vikander is no stranger to physical discipline is no stranger to Vikander, having trained at the Swedish National Ballet School for much of her youth. However, working out at a gym was a foreign concept.

“I said to my trainer, ‘You are never, ever going to be able to make me do a pull-up because that is just against the laws of nature’,” she laughs. “But then when I found myself being able to do it, and even a few of them in a row, I really loved feeling strong. I felt it in my body in a sense. It was an adrenaline rush and it was very empowering.

“I have always been a petite girl,” she continues, “but I love the fact that in this story it was so integrated that Lara is a very feminine young woman but she also carries this physical strength — so I put on 10 or 12 pounds of muscle. I don’t know if it’s just me telling myself, but my dance training is in there, within me somehow.”

Taking elements from the video game as well as the previous film franchise, Tomb Raider sees Lara Croft embark on a perilous journey to the last known destination of her father, an eccentric adventurer who mysteriously disappeared years earlier.

Shot in Capetown and London, the film also stars Dominic West as Lara’s father, Walton Goggins as the main antagonist, Vogel, plus Daniel Wu and Kristin Scott Thomas.

The father-daughter theme in the original remains prevalent in this current instalment.

Explains Vikander: “Lara’s dad suddenly went off on a journey when she was a young girl and never came back. It’s one thing to lose your father, but she never knew what happened to him so it’s very difficult to mourn properly. She had a strong love for her father in the same way that I do.”

Vikander’s father is a psychiatrist and her mother a stage actor. Her parents separated when she was two months old and she was raised mostly by her mother. But she was folded into a large family on alternate weekends — with five half-siblings on her father’s side.

“My Dad has been very present in my life and that is very different from the story that we have here with Lara.”

She smiles.

“I think my dad has been pleased to see a very happy daughter over the last year.”

Among Vikander’s reasons to be happy is her marriage, last October, to Irish actor Michael Fassbender. They have been together since shooting Light Between Oceans Down Under and tied the knot in Ibiza, Spain.

“We believe in love, not marriage,” says Vikander. “I think the best way to learn about love is to be loved and I have been very much so.”

She says life hasn’t changed much since the wedding. However, this Swedish-Irish coupling does have a new home: in Lisbon, Portugal. How did they end up there?

“I had friends who had moved there and my husband had loved Lisbon for a long time and we both thought it was the most beautiful place.” She leans forward. “And it’s warm. I might be Swedish, but I’m not very good with cold.”

Is there any cultural divide between a Swede and an Irishman? Vikander laughs.

“It’s interesting. My sister has kids with an Irishman. There is a lot we have in common: Swedish and Irish people are quite humble and down to earth. Both like good food, they like to drink and dance,” she smiles. “So it makes life very easy.”


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