There are only a few video game heroes who have expanded out of the medium that created them. Tomb Raider's Lara Croft is one of them. Thanks to her movies, games, and even comic books, Lara Croft has become a household name.
Like Mario, Sonic, and a few others, Lara’s name and look are recognizable to people who have never played (and will never play) a video game. Just because people know of Lara doesn’t mean that they know her and this includes her most hardcore fans.
Though it’s easy to dismiss Lara as a shallow character and Indiana Jones rip-off, there’s a lot more to her than most people may realize. Lara is more than a pretty face. In fact, she has ended the lives of countless men and supernatural creatures across her dozen games, making her a force to be reckoned with. There’s tons of little-known trivia and secrets about one of gaming’s first ladies.
A lot of these facts involve the original development and design of Lara as a character. Yet a few of them refer to insane accomplishments of the character and the series since their mutual creation. Lara Croft may never completely shake the impression of a vapid vixen but do so is a huge mistake.
Here are the 15 Things You Never Knew About Tomb Raider's Lara Croft.
15 She Has Appeared on More Magazine Covers than Any Supermodel
Lara might be fictional, but her image obviously sells. This isn’t just reflected in the amount of games that Lara has sold. Lara has also been responsible for the selling of magazines.
Lara has appeared on more covers of magazines than any other supermodel... ever. Granted, the figures are inflated by the various looks that Lara has sported, and various movies have been released, but this feat is still impressive.
As of June 2016, Lara had appeared on over 1,100 magazine covers.
Although some of those are obviously bunched together, it would average out to one magazine cover a month... for nearly 20 years.
Gaming magazines, such as Game Informer, are the most frequent home for Lara. However, she’s also been featured on publications that have seeming nothing to do with gaming or movies, such as The Financial Times.
14 She Released Two Musical Albums
As an archaeologist, genius, and ender of lives, Lara Croft has a lot of accomplishments. There is, however, another hidden career on Lara’s résumé: a (failed) pop star.
As a part of promotion, the decision was made to release two musical albums that supposedly had Lara as the recording artist.
However, once they were produced, it was recognized by everyone involved that they were awful.
One album, entitled Female Icon, consisted of such dumpster fire tracks such as “Getting Naked,” “Sure is Pure” and “Feel Myself.”
The albums, which were recorded in English, were buried and given a French only release. Thanks to the internet, though, they have managed to live on in order to torture any who are unlucky enough to find them.
13 Lara's Famous Bosom Size Was a "Mistake"
Lara Croft’s body has been obsessed over and studied far too long for anyone, let alone a fictional character. However, one (or two) of Lara’s most famous features are reportedly a mistake. One of the original developers of Tomb Raider, Nigel West, confessed years after the game first released that the size of Lara’s chest was mistake in the coding.
According to West, one of the many lines of coding that created Lara was entered incorrectly and it resulted in her impossibly large breast size. However, rather than fixing the issue, the game and Lara were shipped as is, with the hope that “no one would notice.”
Other Tomb Raider developers have since thrown doubt on Nigel’s story, explaining that he knew exactly what he was doing with Lara. The size might’ve started as a mistake but it was very much embraced when it occurred.
12 There's a Real Lara Croft
As good as Jolie was as Lara Croft and as successful as Alicia Vikander hopes to be in the role,* neither will ever become the real Lara Croft. This is because the woman already exists.
Lara Croft gets her name from a real woman who lived in Derby, England at the time of the original game’s development.
The crew behind Tomb Raider knew that they wanted their hero to be named Lara, they just couldn’t decide on the right last name that sounded English enough. The decision was made to look through the phone book and try to find the right name. They stumbled upon the real-life Lara Croft and liked the name so much that they gave it to their hero.
Somewhere out, there’s a lady who was instrumental in the creation of Lara, without doing anything but existing. Though it would be hard to blame her if she’s since changed her name.
11 Lara Cruz: Tomb Raider
The reason that the design team had to scramble for an English name was because Lara originally wasn’t English. Through the bulk of original development, Lara Croft was Lara Cruz.
The name wasn’t the only difference either. Whereas Lara is a posh English lady, Lara Cruz was a rough-and-tumble treasure hunting mercenary from some non-descript South American country.
Cruz and Croft did share a PhD in archaeology and obtained most of their combat skills from their fathers. However, in every other arena they differed.
Lara Cruz was meant to be much more aggressive and meaner looking than Croft.
The decision was made that Lara Cruz wouldn’t market well, though, so things were changed for the much more “approachable” English version of the character.
10 She Was Originally a Man… Kind of
Lara Croft is, without a doubt, one of the most recognizable video game heroines. Even though Lara is very objectified, Tomb Raider did break relatively new ground with a female hero being front and center. Originally, though, the hero of Tomb Raider could’ve been much less distinctive.
To appeal to the widest audience possible, the plan for the first Tomb Raider was that the player would have a choice between a male and female protagonist. There would be no difference between the choice, the hero would just have a different gender.
However, the more that the team developed Lara’s look and character, the more they found her interesting. The male hero fell completely by the wayside and all effort was put into creating Lara.
The team believed that all fans would come to play if they were given a cool character, regardless of gender.
9 She (Canonically) Locked Her Butler in the Freezer
In Tomb Raider 2, Lara’s iconic mansion, Croft Manor, was greatly expanded from what was seen in the first game. Croft Manor was just big enough and released just early enough in gaming history that players could amuse themselves for hours just hopping around the mansion.
One of the cruelest (but funniest) things that players could do in Croft Manor was lock the tottering, shaking butler, Winston in the walk-in freezer. Winston would follow Lara everywhere in the mansion and by walking into the freezer, running out and locking the door, it was possible to trap the poor, almost infirm Winston.
For years this existed as a fun player trick but in the DLC for Rise of the Tomb Raider, Lara locking Winston in the freezer was made canon.
In the expansion, “Blood Ties” players can find a message from Winston to Lara’s father, explaining how a young Lara has attempted to give him hypothermia.
8 Lara Has Leg Up on Indiana Jones
Lara is the probably the most famous archaeologist in video games. She isn’t, however, the most famous archaeologist in pop culture. This distinction goes to Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones, who Lara obviously owes a lot to in her popularity and creation.
The original Tomb Raider team were aware of the debt that was owed to Indiana Jones and created a couple of Easter eggs based on the character that also slyly raise Lara’s stock.
In the first Tomb Raider, inside Croft Mansion, two famous artifacts from Raiders of the Lost Ark are on display. The first is the idol that Indy steals at the very beginning of the movie.
The more impressive find, though, is the Ark of the Covenant.
The incredibly powerful holy object that is the driving force of Raiders of the Lost Ark can be found casually sitting in Croft Manor.
7 There Was Never a Cheat to Remove Her Clothes
From the moment of her creation, Lara Croft was a symbol. This was despite the fact that, at her onset, she was just a series of jagged shapes stuck together.
With all the fervor over Lara’s appearance, a persuasive rumor circulated that it was possible to remove all her clothes in the game with a cheat or glitch. Throughout the school yard in the late '90s, stories circulated of increasingly ridiculous way to remove Lara's clothing. However, they were all false.
The only way anyone has ever removed Lara Croft's clothing in Tomb Raider was with hacking and mods. There’s nothing in the original game’s code that would allow Lara to appear in such a fashion.
On top of it all, original developer Edios legally went after the hackers who tried to make mods that would allow this to happen.
6 She's Been Proposed to Multiple Times... By Real Men
For a lot of people, Lara Croft might’ve been their very first crush. Lara has always been marketed in an alluring way and aimed at young audiences, so their adoration does make sense.
It gets a lot weirder when those fans grow up, though. As game technology has progressed and Lara has become more and more realistic in appearance, the lines between reality and fantasy have blurred.
A worker at Eidos, Tricia Gray, confessed that while she was at the studio, dozens of marriage proposals from real men came in for Lara.
Even one of Lara’s most recent models, Alison Caroll, has received her fair share of proposals for embodying the character of Lara.
Granted, a lot of these proposals are tongue-in-cheek but the ones that are real are a little disturbing.
5 Aeon Flux and Hard-Boiled Are Behind Lara's Pistols
In recent games, Lara’s dual wielding pistols have fallen out of favor. Nowadays, Lara has a variety of weapons but her favorite part of her arsenal is the bow and arrow.
Yet, when Lara first arrived, she was aiming two identical pistols as she flipped, jumped, and rolled all over the screen.
The inspiration for Lara’s weapons and her attack style come from two surprising locations.
The original Tomb Raider team gave Lara her pistols due to the anime series Aeon Flux and the 1992 John Woo movie, Hard-Boiled. In both, the heroes engage in a lot of acrobatics and gun play at the same time.
It’s the main heroine of Aeon Flux who really resembles Lara’s original movements, as she often flipped around like Lara. The Hard-Boiled influence is a little less obvious, but like all Woo movies, the action is quite the spectacle.
4 She's the Best-Selling Video Game Heroine in History
Lara is a lot more than the most famous video game heroine-- she’s also the most successful. This isn’t just in the universe of the games either, although Lara is clearly loaded. Lara is the best-selling female video game hero ever.
Throughout the run of the Tomb Raider series, games headlining Lara have sold 40.88 million units overall. This smashes the record of second place heroine, Samus Aran of the Metroid series, who has sold less than half of that number. Lara might have more games released than Samus, but it's a very slight lead.
This record has allowed Lara to enter the Guinness Book of World Records. Although the sales figure is just one of several records that she has smashed.
3 She's Been Played by Countless Different Actresses
Lara has not always had a set look. A lot of the changes to Lara have to with improvements in technology. Her voice has also changed, as she's been played by a vast number of actresses.
This is slightly unusual for a (primarily) video game character. For example, Charles Martinet has been the voice of Mario pretty much since Mario has had a voice.
Lara has been played by over eight different actresses.
Shelley Bond voiced Lara in the first game. She was followed by Judith Gibbins, who had the job for a year. Jonell Elliott voiced Lara from 1999-2003 and Keely Hawes played Lara from 2006 to 2010. Currently, Grey’s Anatomy actress, Camilla Luddington voices Lara in the video game series.
This doesn't even include Angelina Jolie’s portrayal in the movies, Minnie Driver in the short-lived animated series and, of course, Alicia Vikander in the current movie series.
2 A Trio of Very Different Inspirations
The impact that Indiana Jones has had on Lara should be obvious. As previously mentioned, the design team was obviously inspired by Indiana Jones in creating their own swashbuckling archaeologist. Indy is just one of a trio of inspirations for the design team. He's also the only one who makes obvious sense.
In addition to Indiana Jones, Lara’s look and personality were defined by Swedish rapper, Neneh Cherry and the comic book character, Tank Girl.
Looking at both Neneh and Tank Girl, separately, the comparison isn’t easily made.
Yet Lara Croft’s creators saw something in both women, who are either real or fictional, that helped them create Lara’s look and personality. Cherry and Tank Girl had this brashness and swaggering aspect that would be key in figuring out who Lara was as a person.
1 Catherine Zeta Jones Was Set to Play Her First
Although Lara was created years before Angelina Jolie became a superstar, it felt like the actress was born to play her in the first movie. The original design of Lara and early '00s Jolie look nearly identical. However, a very different type of actress was nearly signed on to play Lara in her cinematic debut.
Worried that the movie would tank without a recognizable action-adventure female star, Catherine Zeta-Jones was courted for the role. Zeta-Jones, who had been in The Phantom, Entrapment, and The Mask of Zorro, was thought to be the safer bet. At the time, there was too much controversy swirling around Angelina Jolie.
Eventually, though, after extensive arguing by movie director Simon West, Jolie was cast. The movie wasn’t a critical success but it launched Jolie’s career and made many fans think of her as the real-life Lara Croft.
Did you know all of this about Lara Croft? Are there any little known facts about Tomb Raider's lead that we missed? Sound off in the comments!