Copyright 2003

[ July 22nd 2003 ]

Of all the challenges Angelina Jolie faced making the new Lara Croft action movie, the toughest was one she couldn't see. In Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, opening Friday, the video-game archeologist with the killer body battles ruthless villains to find the mythological Pandora's box. If opened, it could destroy the world.

The movie is filled with special effects and computer-assisted moments, but in director Jan de Bont's favorite scene, Jolie's Croft starts a simple shoot-'em-up in an underground laboratory lined with glass walls. The result is relatively old-fashioned, low-tech and glass-shattering. "It's like a game of hide-and-seek, with reflecting surfaces and mirrors everywhere," de Bont says. "They can see the enemy, but they can't get at them."

Filmed on the sound stage at Pinewood Studios in England where many James Bond movies have been shot, the segment crackles as gunfire smashes the partitions around Jolie and co-star Gerard Butler. For less than 10 minutes of screen time, de Bont (Speed, Twister) spent two weeks choreographing and filming. To create the scene safely without sacrificing excitement, de Bont and stunt coordinators increased the number of explosives embedded in numerous 9-foot-high by 6-foot-wide walls - but used safety glass to protect Jolie from the shards.

That created different problems. "It's actually very hard to break safety glass, since it's not made to be broken," de Bont says. "It took much more power to destroy them, so we had to set several electrical charges in each corner of a panel. It needed to shatter [all at once], otherwise it would create large broken pieces that could be dangerous."

The multiple blasts created the thousands of tiny shards the director wanted. The explosives were in the form of thin, hard-to-see metal rods, which were wired to the actors' prop handguns. When the guns fired, a flash came from the muzzle and the panes blew apart.

Jollie, who did many of her own stunts, was eager to get down and dirty when the scene called for Lara to roll across the glass-covered floor. "Angelina did get some cuts, unfortunately," says de Bont. "I didn't want her to [lie down] on the glass, so when she's rolling on the pieces, it's really on tiny pieces of prop rubber. "She's tough," he says, "but rolling on real glass would have been too masochistic."

Some problems were less edgy. "All the windows were reflective, which makes it tough to move the camera around because you catch your own image," de Bont says. "It's also very hard to actually show glass, since it's basically transparent or photographs as green or blue. So you have to light it from specific angles." De Bont added the idea of invisible walls (similar to the funhouse-mirror scene in Orson Welles' 1948 film noir The Lady From Shanghai) to what was a generic action scene in the script. "A little twist can make a hell of a difference," he says. "We wanted to expand on the idea of tombs," says "Cradle of Life" producer Lloyd Levin. "We have plenty of ancient places in the movie, so we conceived of this giant laboratory as a sort of high-tech, 21st-century tomb buried in the basement of a shopping mall."

However, for the director, it brought back painful memories. "I walked right through a glass door as a kid, and I can still remember today how painful it was," says de Bont. "I had a big scar on my head. That really hurt!"

Copyright (c) 2000 - 2023 is not owned or operated by CDE Entertainment Ltd.
Lara Croft and Tomb Raider are trademarks of CDE Entertainment Ltd.
Materials in this web site are trademarked and copyrighted properties of their respective owners.