Daniel Wu Interview: Tomb Raider

Daniel Wu, known for his roles Into the Badlands, Warcraft, The Man with the Iron Fists, and several Hong Kong action flicks, plays Lu Ren, a new character made specifically for Tomb Raider, and an ally of Lara Croft. Daniel discusses playing video games, watching Alicia Vikander do her own stunts, and the amazing diversity found in the cast of this film.

Screen Rant: So, did you get to play Tomb Raider, did you play Tomb Raider at all when you were growing up?

Daniel Wu: The first two versions, yeah, I think it was like 1999 or 2000 or something like that.

Screen Rant: You and me both.

Daniel Wu: I quit gaming in like 2002 because it was just . . .

Screen Rant: You and me both!

Daniel Wu: Way too time consuming, well you know what it was, it was like all these R.P.G. games are coming out and you get so like deeply involved in it and that's all you f***ing think about for like days on end and it was like ruining me, like, it was like, it's a result of the same reason why I don't read books while I'm working on a film because you start going somewhere else and it's not good for the role.

Screen Rant: Oh, that’s interesting.

Daniel Wu: And same thing with the gaming thing, it like, it made me think about getting back in the game instead of concentrating on my work.

Screen Rant: That's super interesting because I have the same exact feeling, cause Final Fantasy VII drew me into this hole that couldn't get out of.

Daniel Wu: Yeah.

Screen Rant: So, this obviously was shot in South Africa and I'm sure this had a lot of big set pieces so what was the most difficult or most challenging part about shooting this film for you?

Daniel Wu: Yeah, I don't think there was as many physical challenges let's say like in Badlands, Badlands is rough, I mean I think I was balls to the wall fighting all the time, so this is. . . like comparatively a walk in the park for me; but there were some challenging scenes, I think the most challenging scene was the storm on the boat, that was pretty hectic.

Daniel Wu as Lu Ren in Tomb Raider

Screen Rant: It seemed very . . . like it was all on a gimbal, just seemed very challenging.

Daniel Wu: Yeah I mean if you look at it from the studio perspective without the CG, you’d think that's going to be easy right? And even though I walked in to do it thinking ‘oh man I'm going to do a lot of like CG acting, you know like, oh the boats rocking’ but the fucking thing was rocking like crazy and like I remember very distinctly like after the first take . . . because they had rain, they had these water cannons firing at the boat, and like pieces of the boat are flying off and shit and these barrels rolling up, like the first take, Alicia and I had no idea how intense was going to be, it was really intense, like it was so intense the cameraman was like falling all over the place.

Screen Rant: Oh, wow.

Daniel Wu: And so they had to take it down a notch, after that first day me and Alicia look at each other and say holy crap, like that it was intense, but I was also really happy because I didn't have to act anymore at that point . . .

Screen Rant: Like, just reacting.

Daniel Wu: Grave danger on my face. That fear is like real because there is literally . . .  like you can't really control much what's happening in that situation, those girls running around they're just bombing, you know bouncing around on the deck there and so you have to be a super aware of all that stuff, plus the gimbals like two stories off the ground, so if you fall out, you’re gonna hurt yourself you know, so there was a lot of that you had to be worried about, you know that shot of her when she opens the door and that wave f***in’ hits her and it's in the face? That was intense, like I knew what that was going to be like, but I'm in the back of the scene waiting for that happen and I’m just like, I'm so worried for her because that cannon was you know, like four hundred pounds of pressure, like it's a big tube filled water and they just shoot air through it and it just jammed . . . I mean they shot right into her face basically, I was like  ‘I can't believe she's actually doing this’ like have a double do it, you know I mean?

Screen Rant: Wow, that's intense.

Daniel Wu: And she took it, she took that thing right in the face and she ended up right at my feet. I remember my first reaction was like ‘is Alicia, the actor OK? Right? Not as Lara Croft OK and so that also made the acting really real at that point as well, but it was very intense. It was five days of that.

Screen Rant: It was five days?

Daniel Wu: Soaking wet for twelve hours a day was pretty rough, yeah.

Screen Rant: That does sound rough. Now, we're seeing this trend in Hollywood right now which is a great trend of strong female lead characters in films, but Lara Croft in Tomb Raider has been doing this for almost twenty years. . .

Danny Wu: Yeah.

Screen Rant: What does Lara Croft, the actual character, mean to you?

Danny Wu: Yeah, I think you know, the reason why I started playing the game was like, it was such a fresh idea, like ‘oh a female hero this time’ and then you can actually play her, right? And so whether you're man or woman you can get inside this, this female character and she was badass and sexy and all this stuff and I think that was a game changer for video games of the time for sure and then eventually in the movies came out that too. I mean we hadn't seen that many female heroes on T.V. before, you know on the big screen before, and so I think that created a legacy.

Screen Rant: Sure.

Daniel Wu: You know everything that’s come since then is trying to kind of copy that or recreate that vibe, you know that feel. I think it's a good thing that you know, twenty years on we're going with an origin story and recreating a new kind of Lara Croft that's not . . . I mean it is obviously tied into the first two, but because this is an origin story we're going to see her as how she became that girl and I think that's what's most interesting about this movie and that's why I wanted to do it actually. There wasn’t this like slick 007 type of character that’s perfect she's vulnerable and she has weaknesses and she had . . . and then through all that, she comes through it finds her power and I think that's what was amazing about it and having a daughter, like it was the first time I go ‘this is a movie my kid could watch’ you know most of my shit, like my kid can’t watch, right? And then this is something that she can watch and then feel proud of and be a role model for her and I think that's why I'm going to do this movie.

Screen Rant: It's interesting you say that because this movie feels very very grounded, it doesn't seem, it doesn't have this overtone of mysticism in it, but I was going to ask you, is that what attracted you to the project, because it was such a grounded actual story?

Daniel Wu: Yeah, I mean I think the basic script that was there had that in it, then I talked to Roar over the phone . . .er on Skype and you know I asked him what his vision it was and I had seen the movie he did, The Wave and that was a great movie because it was this big event movie about this flood that was going to happen, but then it was a really intimate family story within it and I just really want to know if that's why he was hired to do this and if what he's trying to go for, is a more intimate story within this big action piece and that's what he wanted to do and that's when I was like ‘OK I'm on board.’ That plus Alicia, I knew she was going to bring some grounded reality to this character and it wouldn’t be a fluff piece.

Screen Rant: Sure, sure.

Daniel Wu: She really brought it, I mean she was determined to make this character her own and make it a girl that can become iconic in a different way than we've seen before and that you can relate to her, what she's going through in the stories, she's trying to find her identity and every young person a man or woman or girl or boy is going through that or is going to go through that or has gone through that and I felt that was a universal theme in the story and that and family, the idea of family and who you are because of that. Those things really made this thing like you know, grounded in that reality.

Screen Rant: Absolutely. Now, I'm half Asian and I'm super proud to see you on screen because representation is now becoming like a bigger job, obviously with Wonder Woman and Black Panther, so I have to ask, like what is your dream role, like what is the role that you, like you want to do or even genre whatever it may be?

Daniel Wu: I used to be that way, like in the early part of my career, now I’m more about experiences and so I don't have a certain focus, but I'd like to do a comedy. I would like to do an action comedy like a Bad Boys type of thing or what we had in Hong Kong was like Stephen Chao action comedies, like that kinda thing, cause I haven't really explored that genre too much so that would be fun. But yeah comedy I think, cause I have had a lot of serious roles the past few years it's kind of exhausting emotionally, so to do something fun and light, but still is fun and you know good, you know good laugh is important.

Screen Rant: Now as an actor, I'm sure that with every character you learn something new or you know you take something with you, what is it in this in Tomb Raider is it that you took with you that’s going to carry on through your career?

Daniel Wu: I would say this time was interesting, because it really truly like this ragtag . . . no one's really ragtag, but a really internationally mixed group of people working on this film. They're South Africans, they were Europeans like Alicia’s Swedish, Walton's like a Southerner, right? Representing kind of Asian-Americans but also Hong Kong and then you had the South African crews and then you had the British crews and then you Roar from Norway, it was really this really, just really good mix of people all doing the same thing and made me realize the power of film is universal, you know, and then it doesn't matter where everyone’s from, if you're trying to tell a good story, that's what filmmaking is all about.

Screen Rant: That's interesting.

Daniel Wu: Yeah and I really. . . that's that whole experience, just learning about different people and say even if the person addressed me in the morning and that where their culture was and where they're from and where they grew up and all that so it was so cool, it was really cool to do that and then you're in Cape Town, South Africa one of the most beautiful places in the world, to go through this with all these people is like amazing.

Screen Rant: Now, what do you want people taking away from this film? Obviously, Lara is a strong female character, but she has her flaws and in this origin story, you definitely get to see some of those flaws, but another thing I like too is that it seems like a video game, because she has to use problem solving skills instead of just being like a quick out, you know what I mean?

Daniel Wu: Yeah, instead of having the gadget solve the problem. She really uses her mind to solve these problems and I think that puzzle thing in the very beginning is a metaphor for what she's going to go through on the whole journey, the little puzzle boxes she opens to find the first clue and that really makes it this character's base and intelligence and smartness you know, not just the raw action hero but she's using her intelligence to get through this situation, I think that is great, is a good thing, really good thing.

Screen Rant: Now I'm certainly hoping this movie does extremely well numbers, because I love video games and I love the franchise of Tomb Raider.

Daniel Wu: Yeah, we need one that does it right, yeah?

Screen Rant: Yeah! This is it, this is it. So, where do you want to see Lara go next and where would you want to see your character go next?

Daniel Wu: Yeah, I mean I think it would be interesting is to see, you know, we all know that she creates a team later on and she has people helping her along the way, it would be cool to be an integral part of that team, to help her. You know, one thing I liked about this movie is that it wasn't the typical action movie where this is like crazy, sexual tension between the characters . . .

Screen Rant: I love that too!

Daniel Wu: And there wasn't some forced romance and some people might say ‘Oh well that's because she's white and he's Asian and they don't want to see them kiss’ but no, I don't see it that way, I see what the commonality between these characters is, they both lost their fathers, right? And they're from two totally different groups cultures, they go on this crazy journey together because of that, right? And I think that's what's powerful in their relationship, not some bullshit like love stuff that you're trying to create because that's what you're supposed to do in an action movie.

Screen Rant: I completely agree with you.

Daniel Wu: And that's what I thought was really cool about the role and I think in the future, like whether that relationship matures in a deeper way it's cool, but I think it doesn't have to be a romance, you know right?

Screen Rant: And last question, there's a lot of fan casts going on in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and for you is Namor, would you be up for Namor?  He's like the Aquaman of Marvel. Would you be up for one of those big franchise, blockbuster superheroes?

Daniel Wu: I don't know, I mean frankly speaking, I'm a little superhero’d out. I would like to do something this off beat a little bit, like I do like Deadpool because of that, I like Ant-Man because of that, I'm not so big into the mainstream ones, so if it was a side character and I actually liked Benedict Cumberbatch’s  Doctor Strange, I really liked that, it was you know, it was a different take on the superhero characters and I think if someone wants to do an oddball one, I’d want to find an oddball character, that would be more interesting to me, so. . .

Screen Rant: Namor. . .

Daniel Wu: Yeah, OK cool, I’ll look it up.

Screen Rant: Thanks for your time.

MORE: Walton Goggins Tomb Raider Interview

Key Release Dates
  • Tomb Raider (2018) release date: Mar 16, 2018
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