Angelina Jolie: Lara's spitting image?
This weekend, Angelina Jolie stars as Lara Croft in Paramount Pictures' movie adaptation of Tomb Raider. GameSpot recently interviewed Jolie about the movie and also uncovered exclusive info on the next-generation Tomb Raider game.
Sometimes, actors go to extremes for their craft. Just ask Angelina Jolie, the 26-year-old actress who did anything she could in order to appear as the flesh-and-blood version of cyberheroine Lara Croft. "I mean, just having that hair braid--I can't tell you how many times I got hit in the face with it," she explained, referring to the Croft coiffure she wore for the five-month shoot of the Tomb Raider movie, helmed by action director Simon West (Con Air, The General's Daughter).
Of course, the braid was just one item on a lengthy list of things Jolie needed to keep in mind if she wanted to truly become Miss Croft. "We wanted to give her the braid, the breasts, and the boots--all the things that were her," she said with a laugh. "But at the same time, we didn't want to go to the extreme the game went to."
After all, even in a movie replete with action sequences and stunts, what works in polygons doesn't always work for the stunt team. Jolie said that one of the biggest hurdles was designing costumes that would work for the character, especially after Lara's skin-tight blue top seen in the games was judged impractical for the movie. "It was a lot of work from a lot of people to figure out outfits that were sexy but also practical," explained Jolie, who said she was introduced to the Tomb Raider games by watching her ex-husband, actor Johnny Lee Miller, play the games on his PlayStation.
Costuming aside, the process of bringing Tomb Raider to the big screen has had more peaks and valleys than Croft's own curvaceous body. Signed up with Paramount in 1997, the film was stuck in development hell for years, in part because everyone involved knew that video games had never been turned into well-made films. Box office bombs like Super Mario Brothers, Street Fighter, or Wing Commander were positive proof that Hollywood studios were quickly becoming weary of the "game license movie." But some saw it as an opportunity. "Thankfully, video games in the past have not transferred that successfully to film--it couldn't get any worse," joked West, who joined the project after Stephen Herek, the director of Mr. Holland's Opus, left the project.
For nearly two years, up to 11 different screenwriters took a crack at creating a script that both Paramount and Eidos would approve. It wasn't easy. In this month's Premiere magazine, a behind-the-scenes story on the movie revealed that Eidos CEO Charles Cornwall personally nixed one script that he thought didn't work. It makes sense, especially since it's rumored that Eidos will pocket 10 percent of the movie's gross box-office receipts. Given the huge potential returns, both Paramount and Eidos wanted to make sure the screenplay was up to snuff. "To their credit, the studio could have made this movie two years earlier when the game was even more popular," West explained, "but they didn't like the script back then."
Page 2: The movie gets going...and so does the next game
West signed on to the project in 1999, and after that, things finally got moving. Angelina Jolie signed on as Lara Croft, only months before her asking price went up after winning an Academy Award for Girl, Interrupted. West retooled the script, and by early 2000, the movie was a go, green-lit for a five-month shoot that would cost close to $100 million and take the crew to England, Iceland, and even Cambodia. Before long, the movie was quickly shaping up as Paramount's tent pole summer blockbuster for 2001. The early footage, shot at Pinewood Studios in England, impressed everyone. "Angelina Jolie scores A+," said Paul Baldwin, VP of marketing at Eidos. "She is Lara Croft. Her style, her sassiness is exactly what we wanted."
Lara's buff body and aristocratic English accent play out in a movie that has all the trappings of a summer spectacle. While the game served as a conceptual framework for the motion picture, the story packed on to 120 minutes of celluloid is largely original. In the movie, Lara races against time in a quest to stop a secret society, the Illuminati, from uncovering the parts of a secret triangle that can harness the power of God when the planets are perfectly aligned. Lara gets drawn into this mess after discovering an ancient clock among her missing father's possessions--a clock that just happens to be counting down to the next planetary alignment.
While console and PC gamers have been eagerly counting down to the movie's release, longtime players of the Tomb Raider series will no doubt notice the lack of a new game to accompany the movie. While Eidos has been known for pumping out derivative sequel after derivative sequel, the company's 2001 product slate has nary a mention of Lara Croft.
"There is a new game in development," Baldwin revealed. "It's just that the engine wasn't ready yet--it's a new engine for the PlayStation 2 and PC." While some early screenshots have appeared on the Internet, Baldwin said the official announcement of the game will be in August or September, with the product slated for release in the second half of 2002. Baldwin said the new game isn't based on the movie, and he also said it's unlikely that Jolie will provide Lara's voice for the game. "But you never know what could happen," Baldwin continued, "because there are tentative plans for a movie sequel for summer 2003, and if that happens, we could do another Tomb Raider game to come out day-and-date with the sequel."
Croft fanatics will have to get their fix of Lara at the movies this year, but Baldwin promises that the DVD release of the movie in November will include a special trailer for the next game. What can we expect to see in the trailer? "This game is going to completely relaunch the franchise," Baldwin said after attending the Hollywood premiere of the film. "In fact, I'm not so sure Lara is going to be in any tombs at all. For a while, we weren't even sure we wanted to call it Tomb Raider." He paused to consider. "Now, with the movie getting so much attention, we'd probably be nuts not to keep using the name." Moral of the story: Keep the name, but if Angelina Jolie has her say, it probably would be a good idea to drop the hair braid.
Tomb Raider opens in the US and Canada this Friday. For more information, visit GameSpot's Tomb Raider Central, which includes information about Tomb Raider games, merchandise, and movie showtimes.
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