Training for Tomb Raider was ‘empowering’, says Vikander
Swedish actress Alicia Vikander, who plays the new Lara Croft, says her tough preparation had benefits
To many fanboys, Angelina Jolie was - and perhaps still is - the definitive Lara Croft incarnate.
But Swedish actress Alicia Vikander was not daunted by stepping into the Hollywood star's boots as the kick-ass archaeologist protagonist in the new Tomb Raider movie, the origin story of the popular video game character Jolie played in 2001's Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.
At our interview at the Four Seasons hotel in Los Angeles, the 29-year-old said: "Angelina Jolie's version, of actually seeing a female action heroine up on screen, meant a lot. So you want to honour the character and the traits she is so famous for. And then there is also an obligation of making it your own.
"We need to give the audience something new they have not hopefully seen before."
A video game fan as a child, Vikander found some similarities between her and Lara in the beginning of the story, where the latter is an aimless young woman and whose job as a bike courier barely covers the rent.
Opening here tomorrow and directed by Norwegian Roar Uthaug, Tomb Raider sees her turning her back on the global empire her loving father (Dominic West) left behind after he vanished seven years ago.
When she is given a video message from him, it compels her to solve the mystery of his disappearance and save humanity.
She goes in search of him at his last-known destination - a fabled tomb on a mythical island that might be somewhere off the coast of Japan - and so begins Lara's first adventure in which she becomes a tomb raider.
Vikander said: "When I prepared for Lara, I thought, she is 21, she lives with her friends in a commune in east Hackney, just as I did, the same ride along London.
"It is a little bit of pressure for young people, including myself, to know what to do in life. People expect you to decide what path you are going to go on.
"You have to be able to stop and not feel like you are forced into something. I think that is something I would have told myself, to not work myself up so much in the worry of not knowing what is going to come."
She certainly did not have to worry about her career. An Oscar winner two years ago for her supporting role in The Danish Girl, she has now bagged what could be a lucrative franchise.
The prep was a challenge, despite her ballerina training.
"Ballet is a hardcore sport," said Vikander. "There were definitely similarities to how I trained then and what I did for Tomb Raider."
She began a combined training and nutrition programme seven months prior to filming, and her workouts included intense weight training.
"I did rock climbing and mixed martial arts (MMA) training and I met some incredible female boxers whom I worked with, and swimming and cycling. I remember I had such stage fright because I had been working out with these girls, and I had never been boxing in my life or done any MMA.
"I almost wanted to ask the entire crew, 'Can you turn around and not look at me the first time I do it?' But yeah, I had a lot of pain in my body throughout those months, but it felt empowering."
Her diet consisted of complex carbs, including brown rice, quinoa and rice noodles with fish and eggs, which she admitted was "pretty boring".
She ate five times a day at three-hour intervals and lamented the fact that she could not touch alcohol.
The popular Tomb Raider video games have been around for 22 years, and in the 2013 version, Lara's look was rebooted.
To realise that look, the movie's costume designers created 48 pairs of khaki combat trousers in four different stages of breakdown, from clean to dirty; 100 khaki vests in five stages of ageing; and 14 pairs of boots in three stages of breakdown.
Because Lara is wounded in the story, they also created three bandages - one each for her hand, upper arm and leg.
Vikander won't discuss her marriage to Irish actor Michael Fassbender last October, only saying her life has not changed.
"I have always been a big romantic, and I don't believe in marriage. What people are searching for in life is love."
However, she does talk about their decision to move to Lisbon, Portugal.
"My husband had loved it for a long time, and I went there and thought it was the most beautiful place. It is also warm. I am from Sweden, but I am not good with the cold.
"I had been playing with the idea for a long time, but it was not until Brexit happened."
She felt she would not have got her first big-screen break, the 2012 British historical romance Anna Karenina, if she had not been hired as a local in pre-Brexit times.
"They were already questioning giving a chance to a foreign actress whose English wasn't that good yet. And if they would have had to pay for a work visa, I don't know if I would have at all been given that chance.
"For me, (Brexit) was a really sad day, and I consider myself very much as being European and I want to live in Europe."
Success came relatively early to Vikander, having snagged roles in films including Ex Machina, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Jason Bourne and The Light Between Oceans, and she is aware of her good fortune.
And the Time's Up movement against sexual harassment makes her feel hopeful about positive changes in Hollywood.
"It is like it is happening, it's here. I have made more female friends in the industry in the last few months than I have done in my entire career, which is exciting. And I think in a time like this, what is happening is that creativity is blossoming and people are looking for films from minorities and females.
"It is a time when the stories that need to be told will rise to the surface."