We caught up with Camilla Luddington, the new face, voice and mind of Lara Croft, at Square Enix's Comic-Con headquarters a few blocks from the San Diego Convention Center over the weekend. She's been working tirelessly with Tomb Raider developer Crystal Dynamics to breathe new life into one of the sexiest characters in video game history—and we think she's done a bang-up job. Check out our interview and tell us what you think of Camilla in the comments or on Twitter.
So how do you like playing Lara Croft?
I think it's given me street cred in my family. I have brothers who are extremely excited and—but what is it like playing her? She's amazing! She is iconic, she's sexy, she's courageous, she's all those wonderful things and I think it was an honor to be cast as her.
Are you a Tomb Raider fan?
My older brother had the game—the first Tomb Raider game—so when I got a chance to steal controls off him, I would play the game (probably terribly, I can't remember all that well how I did). But that was my first experience with Tomb Raider. And then she's so iconic that I feel like everyone knows her. Who hasn't seen the movies? And then of course being involved now I've lived with her basically for two and a half years working on the game.
Have you played it?
I have yet to play it, only because I'm still in the process of doing the performance capture, and I've decided that once it's done (which'll probably be around next week) I will go play it. Having said that, though, it is being played down there right now, and I am just so tempted to run down and play. So it may happen in the next hour. We'll see.
What exactly has your role been?
What's great is I'm the first actress to do the audio and the performance capture. Usually you just head into an ADR booth and match the performance to the audio. This was I'm really experiencing it. I really do get beaten up. I would come home with bruises. It was an intense experience because the game is very dark, but it was fantastic. It was emotionally and physically draining, but I loved it. I loved every moment of it.
There's been a lot of talk about some of those emotionally charged scenes. What was it like to act those out?
Yeah, every scene that you've seen so far—there hasn't been an element to really any scene that I've filmed that hasn't been "light." It's emotionally driven. It's high-intensity constantly. And that's what you need to drive the story. She starts Tomb Raider as a young, naive 21-year-old, and I think in order for her to become this heroic character, she has to be pushed. She has to be put in these circumstances that are nightmarish. And that's what pushes her to grow, be courageous, stand up against all odds, and find it within herself to become the Lara Croft we all know and love. So that's what you're seeing. Those are the scenes that you're seeing.
Speaking of the Lara Croft that we all know and love—she's going to progress a bit differently than in past iterations. What stands out to you in this version of her?
This version of Lara—she's more human. She's more relatable. When you feel her get hurt, you feel when she cries, you're going on that experience with her. Before, you know, she was shooting guns. She was, of course, a heroine, but there really wasn't that side to her where you really felt for her, where she was struggling. And so there are all these new elements to her personality that you're getting to know and you're getting familiar with, and you're really going on that journey with her. So I think the real difference is that she's a human being this time around instead of just being almost a slightly one-dimensional badass. She's a girl. She's a young girl.
How do you embody that?
Well, um, I'm a girl. I am young [laughing].
I know. But I think I'm naturally adventurous. I've moved around a lot throughout my life, moved countries, so I feel like I have that ambitiousness and drive to want to explore, which I think relates to Lara. But I think that everybody feels that instinct to just do anything to survive. And I think that's just an innate human being instinct that we have, and just having that alone is really what drives the game. And so yeah, of course I relate to her. And of course I'm from England, she's from England too. But yeah, so I think there are many, many ways in which I relate to her. But you have—I really sort of made the character my own, because you have to. You have to take artistic license and make her part of you, which is what happened.
Lara Croft is basically the original video game sex symbol. What's it like playing a sex symbol?
Um, I did not feel very sexy in a motion capture suit [laughing]. But what they made me look like in the game is amazing. But I think the sexiest thing about Lara is really her drive and her ambition and her courage. I think those characteristics make someone extremely sexy. So of course it's amazing to play her.
Do you do anything special to get into character?
You know, I actually—I sat down with Crystal Dynamics and I went through their vision, and we sat for a long time and I looked at sketches, I looked at very early stages of the development, and we really talked through where they wanted that journey to go, what kind of person she was, so I sat with them for a long time in order to prep before we even shot anything. And then for me physically, because it was really demanding doing the motion capture, I actually did circuit training for a while just to limber up a little bit and prepare. But nothing prepared me for what that was like. I mean, I came home with bruises. It was intense. So I prepared as much as I could but it was—I'm not sure if you could prepare for what happened.
Do you ever get too much into character and have weird instincts to swing on stuff or anything?
[Laughing] The only think I have to say about, like, possibly getting too much into character is that there are some scenes that were very intense and emotional and I did have to walk away and just kind of take my time before I went back in, because she's in extreme circumstances. As an actress you have to mentally put yourself in that place. Otherwise you're not staying true to the character. So in that way, it was hard sometimes to separate myself from what was going on.
Did any past roles in your career help prepare you for this?
Wow, um—you know what? I've done such a variety of different roles, but I've never done anything that I can think of that's action-related. So this was a role unto itself. So I did something once that was like this very, very small short called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and I had a samurai sword, and I was in the old Pride and Prejudice outfits and I was hunting zombies. But nothing like this. Nothing like this.
What are you looking forward to most once the game is out?
Well, I've been looking forward to meeting the fans maybe more than anything. I was excited once I was announced, because— and they want me to really interact with them and hear from them. And support has been really surprisingly overwhelming. I think whenever you take over a role you're just really hoping that people will embrace you. And everyone's been so nice so far. And just even being at Comic-Con, I've been grabbing girls that are in Lara Croft cosplay and probably scaring them and saying, like, "Please, can I take a picture with you?!" [laughing] so I've been just so eager to meet the fans. That's probably the most exciting part for me. Also to see even just my family play the game. I mean that will be so cool.
Do you feel the pressure a lot of playing this character who's been around for so long?
I think that you initially do, and I think that you have to let go of it in order to give your all to performing. Because otherwise I think it would scare you and overwhelm you too much sometimes. So I kind of—I did initially feel that way, and then I thought, "I've just got to throw myself into it, into this," which is what I did.