Lara Croft, Meet Angelina Jolie
By Bob Tourtellotte
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - It seems like a match made in heaven -- or deep inside a creepy crypt -- with Hollywood bad girl Angelina Jolie in the role of video game action queen Lara Croft for a movie based on the popular game ``Tomb Raider.''
Lady Lara, the buxom brunette who sees her wealth and title as only so much boring baggage, loves to blast underworld demons while on one of her many archeological excavations.
Jolie, daughter of Oscar-winning actor Jon Voight and an Oscar winner herself, often tweaks Hollywood's sensibilities in the roles she chooses, such as heroin-addicted model Gia Carangi or the wife of former Alabama Gov. George Wallace.
Indeed, in recent interviews to promote the new movie, she said many people advised her against taking the role of Lara because action stars and shoot-em-up movies are not the stuff of dramatic actresses. But Jolie told them to lighten up.
She defies social conventions too, as when she jumped in a hotel pool wearing her gown after winning one of her three Golden Globe awards (news - web sites), or the amulet she wears containing the blood of her husband, actor/director Billy Bob Thornton.
Combining a feminine figure (more about that later) with an unladylike hair-trigger finger and limber athleticism, Lara Croft has become an icon of video gamers worldwide.
The makers of ``Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,'' opening in U.S. theaters this weekend, hope putting the unconventional Jolie in the role will replicate that success at the box office.
``The roles she's taken in the past have been dark and complicated characters, and people think that's what she's like in real life,'' said director Simon West. ``I wanted all that baggage to come with her ... I wanted Lara Croft to have some of that danger and darkness about her.''
SUPER SEXY, SUPER SMART, SUPER COOL
Jolie admits that, unlike some of her dramatic roles such as portraying a mental patient in ``Girl, Interrupted,'' which earned her the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for 1999, the role of Lara Croft took very little acting talent. She felt she was able to step into Croft's skin, strap on a holster and blast away at bad guys without too much effort.
``You just become this person when you are there,'' she said. ''There's not much acting when you do these roles.''
Which is not to say she did not have to work at it. She spent about a year in England learning about the nobility and polishing an aristocratic accent. She also trained in martial arts and high-tech weaponry, although, like most of the people involved with making the movie, she admits to not being a player of the video game.
To follow the movie, one does not need to know too much about the game, just that there is a super sexy, super smart, super cool woman named Lara Croft who is determined to live a life she wants to live, despite what others think.
``I love that Lara is a character that is very strong but also very much a girl,'' Jolie said. ``She is somebody I really like. I think she loves adventure, and I think everybody has that in them.''
In the movie, Lara Croft and Angelina Jolie are one and the same. There is no doubt about it, except for one little fact that is a big part of Croft. But more about that shortly.
The film opens with Croft testing her handguns on a pair of remote-controlled robots made by her computer geek sidekick, Bryce, played by Noah Taylor of ``Almost Famous.''
After she finishes demolishing them, she discovers a sort of timepiece that is coveted by a ruthless businessman. Very soon thereafter comes a letter that her father, Lord Croft (played by her real father, Voight), wrote her before he died.
The letter contains a cryptic reference to the timepiece, and using the letter Croft learns it is not merely a clock or calendar but a key that unlocks two crypts where separate pieces of an ancient totem have been hidden.
TWO OF A KIND
If the two pieces are combined exactly when the planets are all aligned, then the person who possesses the totem can wield godlike powers and rule heaven and Earth.
The businessman, backed by a council of evil world leaders, wants to be that god, and it is up to Croft to save us from his destructive plans. As the movie unfolds, the two race against time and each other to be the first to find the two halves.
Like many movies based on video games, ``Lara Croft: Tomb Raider'' references the game, but the producers said they are not relying only on its fans to make the movie a hit. What they count on is the seemingly perfect match of actress with character -- Jolie with Croft.
``We gambled and put our chips on Angelina,'' said veteran producer Larry Gordon, ``and we think we were right.''
Indeed, the pairing is a match made in heaven except for one problem that had most everyone leaving the movie at test screenings around Los Angeles talking: In the video game, Croft's breast size is exaggerated. To approximate the look, the filmmakers put Jolie in a bra that, in essence, became its own special effect.
``I'll make it real simple,'' she said. ``I'm a 36-C. In the game, she's a double-D. In the movie, she's a D. We split the difference ... (the movie Croft) is much more athletic, and she has smaller breasts, but she's still Lara Croft, so there.''
Amid a room full of supposedly jaded reporters, Jolie sits silently -- rather matter-of-factly -- while they mostly turn away, scribble notes, check recorders and avoid eye contact. She has stunned them, again, but only because she gave a frank answer to a question everyone had been dying to ask.
``I'm extremely honest, and I pride myself on it. I don't try to be shocking. I'm playful, and I know when something I'm saying is maybe shocking, but it's just the truth,'' said Jolie. ''I never wanted to be scary to people or upsetting to people. I simply want to live the way I need to live.''
And who would fault a person for that? Certainly not Lady Lara Croft.
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