Copyright 2003

[ July 16th 2003 ]

Lara Croft Tomb Raider went down in history as the highest-grossing film ever with a female lead. That nugget of cinematic trivia raises expectations for the latest Tomb Raider adventure, The Cradle of Life. "There's a lot of pressure on me," says Lara Croft herself, Angelina Jolie. "I plan on not answering the phone for three weeks if it's all over. As we were doing (Tomb Raider 2) and when I saw it, I thought it is a lot better than the first one. So I'm pretty confident that if people give it a shot, it certainly holds up. It's much, much better than the first, but you never know (how the public will respond). I don't take it so seriously. It's a summer movie. It's business. If it goes well, that's great. If it doesn't, it's not the end of the world."

The first film shot its way past the $300 million mark in domestic and international release two summers ago, much to the shock of critics who predicted that Tomb faced certain box office doom. And such predictions seemed justified; the first film was a frenetic affair that relied on Jolie's star power, exotic locales and death-defying stunts to mask a barely-there story. Even the actress acknowledges that she was disappointed in "Tomb Raider." "I wasn't satisfied," she tells in an interview. "Even through the making of it, we were all still trying to figure out how things work. I think we were trying to make the videogame into a real person, but still have it be the videogame and still have her be a video vixen. She wasn't quite a solid woman with emotions and feelings. Even the way she looked wasn't to me sexy and real enough. We couldn't adjust everything right. We thought a lot about how to change these (flaws)."

And so, in "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life," Lady Croft still looks sexy as hell and globe trots from Greece to Hong Kong and Tanzania to Kenya, but this time there's a more coherent mission: prevent a power-mad scientist (Ciaran Hinds) from obtaining Pandora's Box and harnessing its mystical powers. And there's also a romantic interest. "Dracula 2000's" Gerard Butler plays Terry Sheridan, an imprisoned ex-agent and Croft's one-time beau. They leap off buildings and leap into bed with equal abandon. "Having a love interest, something that tempted her and she cared about and took to heart was very important in this one," Jolie says. "You see what her sadness is. Maybe she is fighting alone. We wanted to make sure there was a man who wasn't some weak boy who loved her. We wanted to find a man who'd be equal to her and just as strong and wild. (Butler) is a strong man and he has a great role. They are equal. He sometimes does a one-up on her and saves her, and she does a one-up on him sometimes."

"Angelina is an inspiration," Butler says. "She is incredible. She obviously has so much more screen time than anybody else in the movie, so she worked an awful lot." Jolie's work might very well pay off with another hit movie. And if "The Cradle of Life" rocks the box office, it'd be about time. She'd scored hits with "The Bone Collector" and "Gone in 60 Seconds" and won a best supporting actress honor for Oscar for "Girl, Interrupted" in between, but her post-Tomb Raider output included only the duds "Original Sin" and "Life or Something Like It."

Like it or not, Jolie through the hits and flops became a tabloid magnet. She relished discussing her sex life with husband Billy Bob Thornton. Every article chronicled their boundless love, the tattoos, the vials of blood they carried of each other and Jolie's adoption of a baby boy, Maddox. Then the marriage broke up and a short-lived reconciliation with her father, Jon Voight, snapped when he aired his concerns about her mental health on television.

Today, Jolie appears fit, sharp and resigned to the notion that people will make assumptions about her. But one assumption is true. It's tough being a single mother to Maddox, who is nearly 2 years old. "It's only tough because sometimes you are aware of moments you wish you were sharing with somebody who'd remember them when you were growing old, who could talk to you about that time when Maddox first walked in Africa or when there was nobody really there to hold your hand or throw an arm around you and say, 'Isn't that beautiful? Look at that,'" Jolie says softly. "I'm aware that's something that could be sad, but I think it's better to not have that than to have the wrong relationships around. So it feels really good that everyone in his life is honest and 100 percent permanent. I don't have to worry that something will have to be adjusted or something isn't completely there."

Jolie takes Maddox wherever she travels for work, meaning he's been all over lately. The actress, who lives in England, recently completed the drama Beyond Borders, makes a cameo in "The World of Tomorrow," and is currently in Montreal filming "Taking Lives." As for the possibility of Maddox traversing the planet as Momma shoots "Tomb Raider 3," Jolie is non-committal about the film, not Maddox. "I don't know," she says. "I'm going to see how the second one opens, how people respond to it and talk to the fans and see if they want another one and what they'd want from it."

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