The genre of films based on video game franchises has had a hard ride to this point – no matter how acclaimed, how beloved, or how profitable the source material may be. But of the few that have managed to gain a strong foothold in the mainstream, even fewer predicted the success of Tomb Raider – which is why it’s unsurprising that a film reboot of the former Angelina Jolie-led series has been in the works for years.
But it was only recently that the project gained speed; landing both a production commitment from Warner Bros. and a new writer. With the video game version of Lara Croft being successfully rebooted via a grittier, more emotionally-driven origin story for the famous crypt-crawler, it seems a similar direction is in store for the new movie.
That helps narrow down the field for possible leading ladies, while potentially ruling out actresses previously rumored for the part (from Hayley Atwell to Olivia Wilde). So we’ve done our best to assemble a list of actresses we think could tackle the part of Lady Croft in her early days – and a few alternatives, should the studio follow the previous plan and seek out an established star.
Without further ado, read on for our list of 10 Actresses Who Could Play Lara Croft in the new Tomb Raider movie.
She may be best known for roles as refined, bright-eyed young women, but there’s more to actress Lily James than appears at first glance. Having become best known internationally for her turns in Downton Abbey and the upcoming Cinderella, few would need convincing that James is capable of portraying the naive and pampered (even if well-meaning) Lara, which the first chapter of a Tomb Raider origin story would require.
Yet James’ role in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies shows she’s willing to take on more… ambitious parts, while giving her valuable experience as a polite-yet-deadly heroine. And her work as a competitive runner in Fast Girls (2012) proves she can pull of the physical aspects of Lara Croft’s character. A bigger-budget, action-oriented film may not be her top priority, but stranger things have happened.
Actress Camilla Luddington may be the only one on our list who has actually played Lara Croft already, having supplied the vocal and motion performances for the famous heroine in the most recent Tomb Raider video game. But her credits aren’t limited to the digital space – nor the character of the English cave-diver.
With roles in everything from Grey’s Anatomy and Californication to True Blood, Luddington has an impressive resume – even without the experience of playing Lady Croft. But if the plan is to tell an origin story like that of the game – and to do it with some speed – then Luddington could be the wisest choice. Having already captured the emotional and physical rise of Lara from an amateur archaeologist, much of the work would be done already.
While certainly too seasoned to play the ‘immature’ Lara that might be pursued, there’s no question that Gemma Arterton is capable of picking up the banner dropped by Angelina Jolie. After her turn in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters managed to both charm and thrill in a somewhat disappointing adventure, we were convinced there were few roles Arterton wouldn’t be able to play – Wonder Woman included.
True, a role like British socialite Lara Croft may not be too much of a stretch for Arterton. But with a film series carrying this much baggage, casting an actress who makes perfect sense on paper is obviously appealing. That’s assuming the filmmakers are comfortable with introducing an adult Lara, which isn’t necessarily a deal breaker.
Though not yet a household name (hard to believe), Tuppence Middleton has had an impressive year. After a variety of small TV and film roles in the UK, Middleton has delivered some notable performances in the past year – notable for very different reasons. First, there was the critically-acclaimed WWII-era The Imitation Game, followed by the significantly less-acclaimed Jupiter Ascending.
Middleton fits the bill in plenty of ways, and having recently played a member of galactic royalty who managed to seem likable in a deeply flawed adventure, there are few noblewomen that Middleton would struggle to play. The more physical aspects of a Lara Croft origin story might be a challenge, but having made a name for herself in just a few short years, a starring role would be a logical next step.
Daisy Ridley may be an unknown, but so were Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill when they were entrusted with the Star Wars name. Though her acting resume is limited to guest spots on UK shows like Casualty, Silent Witness and Mr. Selfridge, she seemed to contain enough potential for director J.J. Abrams to cast her as ‘Rey,’ one of the young stars launching a new trilogy with Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Few film franchises are guaranteed to make celebrities of young actors like the one set in “a galaxy far, far away,” which means the world will be watching to see if Ridley has the makings of a real blockbuster star. If she delivers, then audiences will watch her skyrocket to the top of the list of young English actresses – and a role as the new Tomb Raider could use that kind of marketing.
Sure, Canadian actress Tatiana Maslany may not fulfill the ‘English’ requirement of the role, but she has already proven capable of playing vastly different types of character – at the same time, no less. As the star of Orphan Black, Maslany has played a hothead and an intellectual; women who are shaken to their core by the slightest bit of disaster or violence, and those who use trauma to forge them into even more durable heroines.
That proves she’s got the skills to do justice to most of the aspects of Lara’s character, especially if the film is intended to take her from one extreme to another. Since Maslany is still short of ‘star’ status for the masses (read: criminally underrated), her open schedule may also be that of an actress lacking the star power sought by the studio. But if an actress of her quality landed the part, it would prove the filmmakers were looking to tell a true origin story, and avoid the pattern set with the previous two films.
It’s hard to believe that despite the instant fame brought with roles in The Wolf of Wall Street, Focus, Z For Zachariah and the upcoming Suicide Squad, Margot Robbie has yet to reach the age of 25. Clearly not shying away from the spotlight, the Australian actress is soon to lead one planned blockbuster franchise – but in this day and age, a rising young star tied to just one is increasingly uncommon.
Mastering the art of seduction and falsehoods in Focus – after playing a sweet, lighthearted flight attendant in Pan Am – proved that Robbie has range as well as staying power opposite Hollywood heavy-hitters. We know that she’ll be getting into ‘superhero shape’ for her role as Harley Quinn, and with roles in Tarzan and Fun House already in the works, Robbie is looking to get her hands dirty. Pair that drive with a heroine like Lara Croft, and how many fans would raise an eyebrow?
Alexandra Dowling may have only a handful of credits to her name – perhaps best known to our readers for her brief (and we mean brief) role as Roslin Frey in Game of Thrones – but all it takes is a single performance to turns heads. It’s for that reason that Dowling’s turn as Queen Anne in BBC’s The Musketeers seems to have sent her star on the rise with alarming speed, landing her on the shortlist for the new female lead in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (a part that ultimately went to another actress on our list).
Portraying the Queen of Great Britain leaves little doubt that Dowling can carry Lara’s entitled upbringing convincingly – the fact that she managed to do it while still showing a softer side has us (and Disney, apparently) thinking she’s capable of a bigger spotlight. Add the fact that Dowling has the look fans are likely to get behind, and she makes our shortlist with ease.
The Star Wars camp hasn’t let many young, relatively unknown actresses slip past them, with Daisy Ridley and Tatiana Maslany apparently being eyed for mainline or spinoff films. But it was Felicity Jones who landed the starring role in the 2016 Star Wars spinoff; an unsurprising choice, given the recent buzz surrounding the English actress. Not only due to an impressive turn as Jane Hawking in The Theory of Everything, but as a potential comic book superhero in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
In hindsight, it may have been for the best that Jones’ role as Felicia Hardy (a.k.a. Black Cat) was kept to a minimum; on the other hand, there’s no reason to doubt that Jones would have been a strong addition to Sony’s Spider-Man universe. But all must move on, and although a starring role in a Star Wars spinoff film may make another adventure franchise seem like overkill, a dramatic approach to Tomb Raider is something we would love to see Jones tackle.
Kaya Scodelario may be the youngest actress on our list, but she’s also one of the most seasoned. Starting her acting career on the UK series Skins at the age of 14, Scodelario’s talents soon led to more TV and small film roles, but her career has hit top speed in the past year. Hitting American audiences as the sole actress in the YA novel adaptation The Maze Runner, the planned franchise is just the first of many that she may find herself signed for.
Disney gave Scodelario the nod for the upcoming sequel/soft reboot of Pirates of the Caribbean, confirming that a blockbuster career in North America is most definitely a possibility. At just 22 and already a veteran portraying relatable young women enduring the hardships that adolescence brings, Tomb Raider doesn’t just seem like an achievable challenge, but a strong fit, first and foremost. Whether the filmmakers agree (or her schedule will allow such a role) remains to be seen.
That concludes our list of actresses that we feel could play the young, vulnerable, untested Lara – as well as the battle-hardened, fearless tomb raider she will one day become. Whether the filmmakers decide to cast an actress who will need to toughen up before the eyes of the audience, or a proven badass who will have to show a softer side, we think any of the names on our list would be compelling choices.
What are your hopes for the next Tomb Raider? Do the actresses on our list fit your idea of the ideal Lara, or do you have a different actress/version in mind? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
The new Tomb Raider is currently without a release date.