The action star talks about what it took to play the iconic Lara Croft in Tomb Raider
I had an incredible trainer and guide in Magnus Lygdback – he really helped me build the physique that I wanted her to have. I put on around 12lbs of muscle and really built up my strength. With Lara Croft, she’s a strong and physical girl, so you want to crack that – especially because we were going for a raw and naturalistic take on her.
We wanted to make all of the action and stunts as plausible as possible. It was about building up my core strength and muscle building, and it was quite specific. The weight and muscle training was an intense hour, six days a week, in four months leading up to the shoot. And then while we were filming I’d train first thing in the morning for around 45 minutes.
Every week, the training was geared around weight lifting, push-ups, a variety of pull-ups, chin-ups and bodyweight exercises, a variety of squats, bear crawls, wipers, kettlebells, and medicine ball tosses. But then alongside the muscle and strength building, we did boxing, MMA, a lot of rock climbing, swimming and archery. I was unbelievably fortunate on this film.
The MMA was really helpful, because Lara is someone that’s often fighting bigger guys. That was quite lethal!
Diving head first into the physicality of Lara Croft was major for me. I grew up watching action and adventure films, I’ve always loved these films. I was a ballet dancer when I was younger, so there’s always been a curiosity to it.
I’ve been wanting to do something like Tomb Raider for years, and I think a lot of that is to do with the physical aspect. I love pushing myself in those ways. I think because of my dancing, I have often approached my roles in a physical way. And with Lara Craft I got to do it to the max.
The diet was important; that was as thorough as the training. There was high protein – eggs, tuna, salmon, chicken – and slow-release carbs, vegetables and good fats. No sweets or wine unfortunately in that time frame.
I was eating five times a day, every three hours or so. We were very consistent and prepared. I did my very best even if we were on the move to stay on point. It pays off, you really feel and see the results after a while.
This is the first time I’ve done muscle building and weight training for a role. I found it very empowering and I still felt very very feminine, even after putting on that amount of muscle weight.
I looked at a lot of different female athletes and stunt women, and that gave me a good push and inspiration. I really loved the weight training because I’d never done that before and I loved seeing my strength build up over time.
A lot of girls often don’t do that as much in the gym, but I loved how it made me feel. I just felt stronger and more capable – it was brilliant. I loved the idea that my job for several months was to go to a gym to build my muscles.