How Playing Video Games Got Alicia Vikander Into The Rebooted Role Of Tomb Raider

Stepping into the kick-ass boots of Angelina Jolie is no mean feat, so her 29 year old, Oscar-winning replacement had to drill herself in MMA and rock climbing to put on 4kg of muscle and live the role…

RISING We hear you transformed yourself to play Tomb Raider by adding 4kg of muscle and that fellow Swede, Alexander Skarsgard, was your #gmyspiration? ALICIA VIKANDER, ACTOR ‘I told my trainer I wanted to look like Alexander in Tarzan, haha! He was my end goal.’

RISING What kind of training did you have to do? AK ‘A lot of weights, lots of lifting. A combination of boxing, MMA, climbing and lots of high interval training – all the fun stuff! I learned more about physicality then I ever realised and I'm shocked how my body reacted to this training and lifestyle.’

RISING But you must be used to working your body hard, given that you trained as a dancer? AK ‘It’s a different world. But that's a big reason why I wanted to do something like this, I've been after a role with high endurance physicality and it doesn't get more physical than Lara.’

Six days a week in the gym for two hours – weights, MMA, climbing – it's very gruelling

RISING Have you kept up the regime? AK ‘No, it's slipped a little by the wayside. Six days a week in the gym, a couple of hours a day, that is very gruelling and rigorous.Without my amazing trainer, Magnus, I don't have the discipline to do it on my own.’

RISING Lara Croft was one of the first female icons in video games – was that a large part of the appeal? AV ‘Yes, absolutely. I played the games on friends’ PlayStation and then grew up watching Angelina in the movies. You know, we know that video games are a very male dominated world, so to have a female protagonist in this way was so intriguing to me.’

RISING What was your reaction when you were first approached? AK ‘You know, I was sceptical when they first spoke to me about it because why would you want to tinker with something already done? It's done. Even when I told my Mum about the movie, she immediately said: “Oh that's the Angelina Jolie movie, yeah she was great.”’

RISING What changed your mind? AK ‘I met Roar and the producers and got a very concrete sense of what they were after, and what they planned to do based on the new game, which I had never played before – I had only played the older version. And getting to play the newer game, I realised there was this untold story to tell, which separates it from the previous movies and that spoke to me. That was it really.’

RISING What is that untold story? AK ‘It's an examination of how she morphs into the Tomb Raider, so we're seeing Lara at a very different part of her life. At this moment, she's trying to understand who she is and what path to take. She’s the action hero, or she will become this action hero, but also a very relatable young girl who's ordinary in so many ways. She’s living in East London at the beginning, living her life and just trying to find her place on her way to her destiny. She's still has the same fire and drive, and spirit but without all the experience under her belt.’

RISING Were you concerned or are you still concerned by the comparisons with Angelina Jolie? AK ‘I could never compete with what Angelina did. She's perfect! She made her into an icon because she is an icon. But this is our different interpretation – it’s the origin story, we're not trying to copy or reinvent what she did.’

RISING It’s interesting that Wonder Woman was the biggest hit of the year? AK ‘I went to see that while we were shooting, and I think to see the opening sequence with all women in this amazing fight scene, I was blown away by the idea that I don't think I had ever seen that before. I was sort of taken aback by that revelation. Society is changing for the better, and as long as the conversation continues, and continues to continue, positive change will come from that. We cannot accept the norm for what it's perceived to be. Diversity is the key to telling all stories and where is diversity without women also telling those stories?’

RISING Do you become very philosophical or caught up in the lives of characters like the one you played in The Light Between the Oceans? AK ‘I become very invested in my characters and I try very hard to understand their emotional world, and their psychology. What’s interesting for me is being able to push myself and get outside of my comfort zone. It may seem strange, but I usually look for roles which scare me and make me worry about whether I can really pull it off. I feel that the more I challenge myself the more I will evolve as an actor and as an individual.’

RISING You’re not a big fan of social media – why is that? AK ‘I’m not interested in it. I stay in touch with my friends and family so I fail to see the need, at least in my life. I did have Facebook, which I used for a while but my interest sort of waned. And I did have Instagram but I didn't like the idea of posting pictures every day – there's a pressure there to post good ones, haha – and I lost interest. I’m just not good with it. And I like privacy, I like keeping things to myself.’

RISING Did you ever think you'd be headlining a huge, action blockbuster? AK ‘I love going to the movies, it's one of my passions, actually going to the movies and staring up at the screen. There's a magic to it. And much of that enchantment comes from movies like Indiana Jones and The Mummy, real cavalier hero adventures. I must have seen The Mummy twenty times by now, and just dreaming one day of being that hero – I've always wanted to be that.’

WHAT NEXT? Watch the trailer for the Tomb Raider reboot, starring Alicia Vikander and Daniel Wu, which hits cinemas in May.