Copyright 2000 Straits Times Thailand Bureau Source: Yahoo News

[ November 29th 2000 ]

Confirmation that Tomb Raider has begun its filming schedule in Cambodia's Angkor Wat was confirmed today by this report fresh of the presses of Straits Times Thailand Bureau

Hollywood star Angelina Jolie must make a strange sight to devotees visiting the temples in and around Cambodia's Angkor Wat. Dressed in a tight black cat suit, her muscles taut after months of fitness training, visitors could be forgiven for casting a second glance at the person tipped to become the next screen goddess as she shoots her new movie Tomb Raider.

Oscar-winner Angelina is playing Lara Croft, the well-proportioned, gun-toting kick-boxer known to millions of teenagers as the heroine of the computer game of the same name. Tomb Raider is now being transferred to the big screen by Paramount Pictures at a rumoured cost of more than US$100 m (S$175 m). There is not a single person in or around the temple complex who does not know that Hollywood and its big bucks have arrived in Angkor Wat after a 36-year break. A fake grass-hut village has been built in the shadows of the temple and everywhere Angelina films, she is followed by an army of vehicles, film assistants, Cambodian set staff and burly British bodyguards determined to stop even the most enthusiastic of tourists from snapping a picture of their charge.

Outside the Bayon Temple, famous for its 172 smiling head statues, The Straits Times watched Angelina shoot one scene in which she and her Land-Rover have just landed by parachute. On touch-down she accelerates away through water and mud while director Simon West looked on and called for re-takes. The previous day, the crew filmed a sun-set scene from a hill overlooking Angkor Wat as Angelina, this time dressed in a green jump suit, scoped the scene through binoculars. Afterwards she was heard telling the director that she already had the sequel in her sights.

"I'm looking forward to doing the second of this already,'' she said. Movie-makers say the film features both above and underground scenes. Many of those above ground will be filmed in Cambodia and Iceland while the rest of the scenes will be shot in Britain's Pinewood Studios. The fact that director West, best known for his film Con Air starring Nicholas Cage, managed to secure the rights to shoot at Angkor is something of a coup - but is also a reflection of the renewed confidence outsiders have in Cambodia.

Tomb Raider is the first movie to be shot since Lord Jim back in 1964. But the country then succumbed to decades of civil war and the brutal years of the Khmer Rouge. The damage those conflicts wreaked on Cambodia's infrastructure has made Tomb Raider a difficult movie to shoot. Truck-loads of hired film equipment had to be brought in from Thailand along a road renowned for the size of its pot holes. The army had been employed to repair bridges ahead of the convoy's arrival. Hundreds of Cambodians have also been employed to act as villagers or to help shift equipment and make sets.

The local economy has received a financial boost from the film makers who are paying $10,000 per day for the right to shoot, hugely benefiting those who usually scrape by on just a few dollars a day. Conservation work at the Angkor temples will also start with the money from the film-makers.

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