REMAKING OF AN
Copyright 2000 Time Asia | Author Stephen Short
[ December 12th 2000 ]
report on filming the Simon West movie Tomb Raider
from the religious Temples of Angkor:
is the fourth day of shooting at the Angkor Wat
temple complex in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and the
place is weaving its fabulous and mystical web
over cast, crew and Lara Croft. We are sitting
with Angelina Jolie who will play the aforementioned
hot-pants-clad, whip-cracking Tomb Raider computer-game
icon, and Jolie looks like she has been poured
out of heaven. Smoking cigarettes in the shade,
she is barefoot, dressed in a traditional monk's
orange shawl, and her compact, succulent lips
pull you in like a plate of oysters. "I can finally
be more myself on this project," she exhilarates,
"and it's shocking this is who I am. I'm like,
my God, why does this feel so normal?"
out that she's in Angkor Wat clad in religious
costume and is that really normal for an all-American
girl? "Yeah, yeah, but you know what I mean. I'm
not going to lose any sense of normal." There
is not much in this production that is normal.
For a start, this is the first time in three decades
that any Western crew has filmed in Cambodia.
"The only reason we're in Angkor Wat," says American
producer Lloyd Levin (Boogie Nights, Die Hard
2), "is because we didn't end up in China. We
wanted to shoot at the Great Wall and have Lara
crashing through it on a motorbike and underground
tomb raiding, but we couldn't get it sorted out."
plan to shoot in Scotland with a 15-m faux wall
was bruited about, but the team decided it was
cheaper to go to Angkor Wat. Nevertheless, excess
still runs through this movie. The 150-strong
crew are fresh in from shooting in both London
and Iceland and this is Day 80 of the schedule
on a film budgeted at $85 million. On today's
slate are two scenes: one of Angelina, dressed
as a monk, receiving benediction from fellow holy
men, there are 50 of them and another where she
takes instruction for her mission from the Yoda
of the clan and then levitates.
is a light day for Jolie. She is just getting
over a blown ankle she ripped a tendon on the
set a couple of weeks ago. Good thing she whipped
herself into the best physical shape of her life
to play the two-dimensional version of a cyberaction
heroine. "The thing I love about Lara Croft, the
most important thing about her, is that she is
absolutely not a man-hating feminist," says Jolie.
"She's sensual and sexy and wicked, she's playful,
she has a weird sense of humor, she's a bit nutty
and she likes people." She hesitates for a moment:
"I mean, she's insane in a great way."
from a woman who is renowned for a life off the
set that can be, at times, certifiably insane.
Divorced in 1999, she recently married actor Billy
Bob Thornton whom she refers to as "lunch" in
a shotgun Las Vegas wedding. She is all but estranged
from her actor-father Jon Voight, and it is rumored
that she was institutionalized prior to her nuptials.
This shoot has been taking its toll on Jolie's
personal life as well. "The phone is a nightmare,"
she says. "When I finally get through to Billy,
and you try to say something romantic you both
end up saying, 'What? You said what? Oh forget
it.' Trying to be sexy on a cell phone in Angkor
Wat just isn't working."
challenging is making a computer game based on
a woman in a pith helmet chasing down valuable
relics sort of a gussied up, more sophisticated
Super Mario into a live-action hit. Over a lunch
of wilting ham-and-cheese sandwiches, Levin attributes
the rise of Lara Croft to a new definition of
celebrity. "In a world where pop stars like Britney
Spears, Christina Aguilera and West Life have
massive popularity but are so vacuous, maybe a
different kind of idol is emerging.
is intelligent, sexy, fierce and feminine and
gives fans more to live through and hold onto."
O.K., but she's a computer-game heroine. Director
Simon West, whose previous credits include Con
Air and The General's Daughter, has a different
take: "I wanted to make her dark and a bit edgy
she's not meant to be whiter than white, and she's
an adrenalin junkie." West was at first skeptical
of the project, doubting that a video game could
be adapted into a successful film. He quickly
came around. "I began to feel the way people must
have felt when they first started dreaming up
James Bond in the 1960s. Lots of edge, very exciting."
extends the analogy: "Croft is a female 007, she's
a female Indiana Jones and she's also very, very
female." Yet Jolie didn't fall for the idea from
the outset either. "I'd come to a point in my
life where I really didn't want to be an actress.
"I'm human after all. But now I've taken on the
personality of a tomb raider, I'm no longer a
Hollywood actor. I've changed jobs and nobody's
noticed." It's enlightening to get her original
take on Lara Croft: "My first reaction to playing
her is you look at yourself in the mirror and
you go, I'm a clumsy, odd, dorky creature.
I was married to Jonny, my first husband, we played
games together, and he'd play Tomb Raider and
it would drive me nuts. You know, like every woman,
I'd go, 'Ugh, her! There's a woman who makes me
feel inferior.' I hated her and now I'm praying
I can live up to her."