Lots of people dreamt about being Tomb Raider when they were kids. Some of us are grown-ups and we still dream about it. Few people get to actually do it. There are the various voice casts over the years, as well as current Lara Croft actor Camilla Luddington, two Hollywood adaptions, and an upcoming anime series, but a huge part of Lara’s legacy is her body doubles. These performers were stand-ins for Lara at trade shows, with some lending their bodies to the games themselves. These days, Luddington provides the performance capture as well as the voice for Lara, meaning Alison Carroll, body double for Tomb Raider: Underworld, was the last performer to fill that role.
For Tomb Raider Week, we spoke to Carroll about her experience in the role and how it compared to the portrayal by Natalie Clarke, the first Lara Croft double. Clarke, who went by Natalie Cook back in her Tomb Raider days, spoke to the site a few months ago - you can read her full interview here.
As you might expect, life as Lara Croft involved a lot of excitement for Carroll. “It was quite full on – it was long days full of exciting activities,” she says of her time in the role. “I got to travel the world, surf, rock climb, perform live gymnastics, drive racing cars, theme park rides, photo shoots, and television. Every day was an adventure.”
When we spoke to Clarke earlier this year, she too had some adventures as Lara - although thanks to an overly concerned bus driver, not all of them were pleasant. “I was coming back from a job up north and I phoned my parents and said ‘Would you pick me up from the station? I've just finished a Lara Croft job’,” Clarke explains. “When we got to the traffic lights, my dad said ‘Show me one of those guns that you have to use for Lara’. So I took it out and he sat at the traffic lights looking at this gun. Well, they dropped me home, then two hours later there's a knock at the door. And it's my mum and dad with four police with them. The police had a warrant to search the home, and what they were looking for were the guns. When we were at the traffic lights, unbeknownst to us, a bus driver had seen my dad and reported him to the police. They had armed police at the door because my dad fitted a description of a wanted man and they didn't believe my dad when he said his daughter was Lara Croft. So they had to be police-escorted to my house, and the police ransacked everywhere. I showed them pictures of me as Lara Croft and they believed me in the end.”
Unfortunately, this seems less like a one-off and more like an occupational hazard - Carroll befell the same fate in her time as Lara. “Yes, I was arrested a couple of times too,” she tells me. “Once in Russia, and once in a German train station. Those guns can get you in trouble!”
Clarke ended up as Lara after her brown eyes caught a casting director’s attention while she played Snow White - those eyes were actually contacts, meaning Clarke had to keep them in for the entirety of her Lara career too. Carroll, a former gymnast, had a more straightforward entry into the role. “I did the stunts for a Tomb Raider commercial and that was where I was scouted to play the Official Lara Croft. [My gymnastics] really helped me to take on the character and bring her to life in an all action way. I was too busy doing the real thing [to play the game] as I was a very active and athletic teenager but my brothers were into the game – so I was very much aware of who Lara Croft was.”
Ultimately, like so many people involved in the series over the years, Carroll’s overwhelming feeling from her time as Lara is pride. “I feel as if I am so lucky to have been part of such a prestigious franchise,” she says. “It feels like an absolute honour to have portrayed the character. Tomb Raider will continue for many years to come because the true soul of Lara is the amazing fans.”
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