The camera absolutely adores Alicia Vikander.
When she appears onscreen, the contours of her face stand out a bit, her skin glows slightly, viewers can almost feel her presence. Then there’s her acting skills, which allow her to disappear into each role, sometimes being unrecognizable from one film to the next.
Though she had built up quite a career, mostly in TV series and short films in her native Sweden, it didn’t take long for American audiences to catch on when she landed the part of broken-hearted Kitty in Joe Wright’s 2012 adaptation of “Anna Karenina.”
Though Vikander had a strong presence as a CIA agent in “Jason Bourne,” it’s her newest film, “Tomb Raider,” a reboot of the “Lara Croft” series, that’s going to give her a huge boost to the top of the female action star genre. She’s stepping into the shoes of Angelina Jolie, who played the character in two previous films, but Vikander, 29, completely reinvents, and now owns, the part in this origin story. She spoke about it recently in Los Angeles.
Q: This film is very different from the Angelina Jolie entries, in that it’s as much about Lara Croft’s personality as it is about action and special effects. Was playing Lara before she becomes the Lara the fans know what drew you to it?
A: Our inspiration was that it’s a coming of age story. This film is based more on the 2013 video game, and there she is, a normal girl in the beginning. If you have the origin story, then that’s a way for us to kind of get to know the characters, to feel for them, to relate to them. I thought it was wonderful that I could play a young woman who’s still trying to find her footing in the world. It’s a story where all the traits and skills within her are forced to be pulled out due to the adventure she goes on. I wanted to have her every single step to become, in the end, the action figure that we know her to be. She’s a bold, curious, bad-ass being, and I had a lot of fun finding her core and personality.
Q: Were you already familiar with the previous movies and the games they were based on?
A: I was probably around 9 or 10 when I went to a friend’s house and saw (the first) game. I hadn’t seen a female protagonist in a computer game, and I was so curious. I remember asking the older boys if I was allowed to play, and they wouldn’t let me. I had to wait until it was just me and I could sneak into that room and I played it then. I also played the anniversary version of the first game in my mid-teens. I was a gamer.
Q: You had a lot of physical demands put on you to play this character. Was any of that really daunting?
A: I’d never taken on a character and role in a film like this. I come from another world; I was a dancer before. And for me to try and pretend that I can do an MMA fight, that was really daunting to do in front of people.
Q: But it wasn’t just the brief bit of MMA fighting. You were constantly running and jumping and shooting arrows and then running and jumping more. What kind of training did you go through?
A: I started training about four months before we started shooting. When I first met with (director) Roar Uthaug and the producers, we knew we wanted the action sequences, which are such a big part of this film, to kind of be set in reality. You know, would you buy that this young girl can beat this bigger, stronger man? Then story-wise we integrated that she’s a physical being, that she trains MMA and she’s a bicycle courier. So I wanted her to be a strong girl for it to be plausible what she does later on in the film.
“Tomb Raider” opened March 16.