Why The Original Tomb Raider Director Had Trouble Casting Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider is only days away from returning to the big screen, this time with Alicia Vikander playing Lara Croft. Vikander inherited the role from Angelia Jolie, who first brought the character to life in 2001's Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and reprised the skilled archaeologist in 2003's Lara Croft: Tomb Raider -- The Cradle of Life. At the time, Jolie had made a name for herself through movies like Hackers, Girl, Interrupted and Gone in 60 Seconds, but when she auditioned for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, director Simon West had trouble convincing others that she was the right woman for the job due to her unique personality. West recalled:

[She] had a great, dark reputation about her. She lived quite an alternative lifestyle and didn't hold back her words. She spoke her mind, and she had a notorious reputation. It was quite hard for me to get her through the approval process at the studio, because I wanted an actress who was going to bring something to the part, and she brought this great Angelina Jolie mythology with her as this dark, crazy, wicked woman with a very particular and interesting personality. I wanted that mythology of Angelina Jolie to fuse with Lara Croft.

While Angelina Jolie is still a household Hollywood name, like many other actors, there was a time when she wasn't famous, so she faced an uphill battle scoring the Lara Croft role. As Simon West explained to EW, at the time Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was casting, there hadn't been an actress who'd carried her own action-adventure movie in a while, so Paramount Pictures was initially looking at more established performers. Some of the names thrown out by the studio included Catherine Zeta-Jones, Ashley Judd and Jennifer Lopez, but West only saw Jolie for the Lara Croft part. It undoubtedly helped that Jolie had won an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for her turn as Lisa Rowe in Girl, Interrupted, and but when combined with her natural personality, West knew Jolie was up to the task and subsequently altered Lara Croft and the movie's script to suit the actress' strengths.

While Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was met with mostly negative reviews (it ranks at 19% on Rotten Tomatoes), it performed decently at the box office, making over $274 million worldwide. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider -- The Cradle of Life's critical reception was a little better than its predecessor, and it made over $156 million worldwide, but when Angelina Jolie announced that she wouldn't play Lara Croft again, a second sequel was scrapped. More than a decade later, Tomb Raider is now being rebooted, and in contrast with the previous movies, this new entry will serve as an origin story for Alicia Vikander's Lara Croft.

Angelina Jolie's time as Lara Croft has long since concluded, but you can see what Alicia Vikander does with the character when the Tomb Raider reboot hits theaters this Friday, March 16. To learn what else will be released this year, head to our 2018 premiere guide.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.