You don’t have to be a video game player to know who Lara Croft or the Tomb Raider is. Whether you associate the name with the video game character or the movie role played by Angelina Jolie, you’ve undoubtedly encountered Lara in some form or another. It’s possible you’ve seen her endorsing products like energy drinks!
The Tomb Raider phenomenon is mind-boggling. With such a modest beginning, Lara Croft and Tomb Raider have turned into a multi-billion dollar franchise. There have been ups and downs to the property - both games and movies have received praise and criticism all over the spectrum. For a time after 2006, it seemed that Tomb Raider was stalled, with Eidos and Crystal Dynamics unsure with what direction to take their beautiful raider.
With the reboot video game of 2013, Lara Croft was definitely back. Then Rise of the Tomb Raider in 2016 gave the franchise sure-footing again with a rich story, expansions, and deep and long-lasting gameplay. So it was only natural that another movie would transpire from the new success.
This list contains things you didn’t know about Tomb Raider across movies, video games, and sources outside those realms. You’ll find facts from the old video games, the two Jolie movies, and things from the new reboot Tomb Raider movie with Alicia Vikander.
Here’s 17 Things You Didn’t Know About Tomb Raider.
Alicia Vikander is a talented actress, but to take on the role of Lara Croft in the new Tomb Raider movie, Vikander had to endure a hardcore, 7-month training program so she could do all her own stunts. She put on 12 pounds of pure muscle to her petite frame, proving that she’s also a great athlete.
Up until the film shoot, Vikander did strength training, ate lots of protein, and did small amounts of cardio 1 hour a day, 6-7 times a week. Then, as Tomb Raider began filming, she trained as early as 4 a.m. before hitting the make-up artist.
To prepare her for the “complicated fight scenes,” her trainer introduced “no-nonsense MMA-sytle fighting” to her regimen. Add to that swimming and rock-climbing and you have a Lara Croft ready to battle bad guys and raid some tombs.
Violence in movies - most action movies especially - is a given. Fighting, gunplay, explosions, people dying: it’s such a part of modern cinema that movie-goers often look past it unless the violence is innovative or different. When a movie forgoes that violence, it’s a rare breed. But that’s what the Tomb Raider movies did.
Maybe you didn’t notice, but Lara Croft - as played by Angelina Jolie - never shot anyone. She used her guns, but when she needed to use them against a person, she shot around, above, or below them.
There was some violence, of course: Lara fought the bad guys in hand-to-hand combat.
But the only time she used her pistols to hurt someone was when she used the butt of the gun to hit them.
In the early development days, Tomb Raider clearly had inspirations from the character Indiana Jones. The developers wanted a similar character, but wielding dual guns. And initially, the game’s main character was a man called Fletcher Christian. Toby Gard, one of the original creators of the game along with Paul Howard Douglas, noted some amazing work being done on another video game.
Virtua Fighter, first released in 1993 by Sega, was the first 3D fighting game and included a number of female fighters that had backstories and martial arts moves as impressive as their male counterparts. Gard found this exciting, and Virtua Fighter prompted him to switch Fletcher to a female and change the name.
What was kept from the first embodiment of the Tomb Raider were the guns.
Not all was great in the land of Core Design when Tomb Raider was released. The popularity of Lara Croft and Tomb Raider grew exponentially, faster than the creators and developers imagined. This was both good and bad for the company.
In terms of main characters, Lara Croft bucked the male-dominated video games and ended up on the covers of Newseek and Time. The first Tomb Raider sold well over 7 million copies. But that near-instant fame caused one of the original creators to quit Core Design.
Toby Gard watched Lara Croft travel down the road of fame and celebrity endorsements, and this didn’t sit well with Gard. He left Core Design in 1997 to start his own game development company, Confounding Factor, and eventually released Galleon.
Gard would eventully return to help Crystal Dynamics reboot the Tomb Raider franchise.
It’s hard to imagine Lara Croft as anything but an sophisticated British, heroine. But after the decision to change Tomb Raider from male to female, she still wasn’t anything like the Lara we know today.
When the female version was conceived, Lara Croft was going to be a hardcore, tough-as-nails, militaristic character bent on destroying whatever she needed to get what she wants.
She’d be cold-blooded, anti-hero named Lara Cruz.
But to keep her consistent with the actions in the game and with the story, Core made her somewhat softer - more of a “proper English lady.” There was more to Lara Croft than shooting her guns and solving puzzles, and their British version fit the bill. Instead of Cruz, developers went to the phone book for the new last name, Croft.
As mentioned previously, Alicia Vikander performed all her own stunts. Some dangerous, some not, but none caused as many filming issues as those scenes that took place in water.
Since the 2018 Tomb Raider movie is based on the 2013 video game, you already have the expectation there will be lots of water since the game takes place on an island. The movie trailers add proof that water plays a big part. Also, Vikander appears submerged or almost completely submerged most of the time she is in the water.
Because of this, many of those water scenes had to be shot more than once. Vikander spent so much time in the often-chilly water that she would turn blue! Not even make-up could hide that fact.
Lara Croft is a character recognized around the world in any setting. From comic conventions to Halloween costumes, when you see the brown shorts, sea-green tank top, backpack, and the gun belts, you know you’re looking at the Tomb Raider.
However, Lara’s physique is also memorable, including her large chest.
The reason it’s more ample than some female video game characters was simply because of an accidental glitch.
Toby Gard was playing around with the dimensions of Lara Croft when his hand slipped on the computer mouse. The breast size rose to 150% of what he had it set at. The rest of the developers told Gard to leave it, saying the “’one-fifty’ design made picking out a marketing strategy remarkably easy.”
It might surprise you to learn that Lara Croft became so popular that she took to the microphone to release two musical albums in 2001. And that doesn’t mean soundtracks.
The two albums were a combination of heavy metal, breakbeat, and electronic dance music. The songs played on both Lara’s perceived bombshell status and tomb-raiding ability.
Reviews were extremely harsh, but rightly so.
The albums were so bad that they were released only in France. All the songs had English lyrics, but that didn’t matter: nothing could make them any better.
The first album was called Lara Croft: Come Alive, and the second one was titled Lara Croft: Female Icon (both sang by Rhonda Mitra) if you were interested in finding them. You can hear some of the songs on Youtube.
Lara Croft is a movie role many actresses would love to have. Croft is a strong, independent woman who knows what she wants and is intelligent and skilled enough to get it. Angelina Jolie has stated she enjoyed playing Lara, but the toll on her body was one of the reasons she quit the franchise.
For the 2018 movie, Alicia Vikander wasn’t the first actress considered or offered the role.
Daisy Ridley had been asked, but because her commitment to the Star Wars movies she had to decline. Other actresses who had been asked were Emilia Clarke (from Game of Thrones), Saoirse Ronan (of Ladybird and winner of a Golden Globe), and model Cara Delevingne (who starred in Suicide Squad.) Kristen Stewart was directly offered the part of Lara, but she turned it down.
Alicia Vikander appears to have been the perfect choice.
One of the most distinguishing features of Lara Croft is her pony-tail. It bounces and swings as she climbs cliff faces, jumps from ledge to ledge, and shimmies in the most precarious spots. That braided ponytail is in every game and is a part of Lara as much as her guns. Well, it’s almost in every game.
In 1996, when promoting Tomb Raider, the game studio created posters and magazine ads with the now-famous ponytail. But when the game released, the ponytail wasn’t there.
That part of Lara had to be cut because of polygonal limitations.
The first game could only support Lara with 540 polygons. Designers were already stretching the limits of hardware, and rather than sacrifice definition in the head and body, developers removed the pony-tail.
As highly detailed as the world is in the 2013 Tomb Raider game, it had also been massively dynamic. In the early development phases, the backgrounds and scenery moved much more than what’s seen in the final release. According to Scott Ames, nothing was static: bushes and trees and storms all made the world immersive.
One of the first encounters involved wolves leaping from bushes.
There was a slight tell before this happened, but because of this encounter, game testers became paranoid with the Tomb Raider world. They’d move “super cautiously,” suspicious of any moving tree or brush. Gameplay for the testers lasted 3 times longer than expected!
Certain visual cues were changed throughout the game so the game “didn’t stress players out the entire time they were exploring.”
Modern video games usually have multiple studios working on separate aspects of the game. Teams of hundreds, sometimes thousands, are involved in creating a game that takes years to see the light of day. But the first Tomb Raider, an innovative game in 1996, was designed and programmed by only 6 people who made up Core Design.
Tomb Raider (1996) took three years to develop. Croft Manor - used as the backdrop of a training level - was cobbled together in a single weekend. Toby Gard pieced together Lara’s childhood home in two days, basing the Manor on the building where Core Design was headquartered in.
Does that mean the designers worked in a castle?
A more modern castle, but yes, Core Design built Tomb Raider in a castle-like office building.
The 2013 game version of Tomb Raider was a complete reconstruction of the franchise. From story progression, character development, to puzzle creation, the game studio wanted to release a game that appealed to modern gamers instead of playing on nostalgia.
Because the new Tomb Raider was a prequel, starting with Lara as a recent archeology graduate, the biggest challenge was Lara herself.
How do you reboot one of the most famous video game characters of all time?
You look for inspiration elsewhere.
Scott Ames, co-head of the game studio, said that Casino Royale and Batman Begins (released a few years before) influenced their handling of Lara. James Bond and Bruce Wayne had been fantastically reinvented and “that’s exactly what they wanted to do with Lara Croft.”
The Tomb Raider games became synonymous with the Sony PlayStation console. But in the beginning of the series, Sony didn’t want Tomb Raider. When Core Design submitted the game to Sony, the game didn’t meet the standards Sony had put forth on what they allowed on its system.
Sony was notoriously picky, so when the company declined Tomb Raider, Core Design planned for the game to be released on the Sega Saturn for most of the development. Over that period, Core did tailor the game to Sony’s standards, and Sony finally accepted Tomb Raider for the PlayStation system. Later, a Sega Saturn version did come out, but it was considered sub-standard compared to the PlayStation game.
Sadly, for Saturn owners, that Tomb Raider was the only one for that system.
When the Guinness Book of World Records decided to include a section on video gaming (ultimately creating a separate book on the subject), Tomb Raider managed to snatch quite a few records over the years.
Because 9 different models and actresses have played or portrayed Lara Croft, the Guinness Book of World Records gave Tomb Raider the record for Most Real-Life Stand-ins. One of the first records Tomb Raider received was the Most Recognizable Video Game Character.
One of the hardest records to get was Most Detailed Game Character, but Lara Croft managed that with no problem.
The first Lara was 540 polygons, but in the newest game, she maintained over 40,000.
Other records included Highest Grossing Game Spin-off and Most Successful Live-Action transfer.
Since Tomb Raider has been in existence, very few women have portrayed Lara Croft outside of the Angelina Jolie movies. From 1996 to 2010, only 9 models have donned Croft’s look. Eidos used these models at special promotions, trade shows (mostly car shows), publicity events, and general photo shoots.
The first model was Nathalie Cook. Then the British actress Rhona Mitra (who also recorded the 2 albums.) Vanessa Demouy took over for a few months in 1998 until Nell McAndrew was hired for the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in that same year. McAndrew posed for Playboy, and Eidos subsequently fired her because she used the Tomb Raider franchise without permission.
Models Lara Weller, Lucy Clarkson, Jill de Jong, Karmia Adebibe, and gymnast Alison Carroll were the final 5 to portray Lara Croft in real life.
Fifteen years is a long time for a franchise across multiple entertainment platforms to go without an addition to its universe. The first Tomb Raider movie came out in 2001, and the second - called The Cradle of Life - released in 2003.
In 2009, fans were almost treated to a new movie (different than the one before it), which would essentially be a minor reboot of the movie franchise. For some reason, Warner Bros. let the project die.
They even had a star attached: Megan Fox had accepted the role of Lara Croft.
MGM decided Tomb Raider needed to return to the big screen, so the studio nixed the previous script. A prequel to the franchise was greenlit and the screenwriters were switched out, starting in 2011.
What do you think of the Tomb Raider franchise? Are you excited to see the new movie with Alicia Vikander? Let us know in the comments.