Alicia Vikander remembers the day she first came across Lara Croft. As a 10-year-old girl growing up in Sweden, her friends didn't really talk about video games, let alone admit to playing them. But her family friends had sons, and those sons had a Playstation.
"I stepped into that room and saw Lara Croft, the female protagonist of a video game, something I had never seen before," Vikander told Refinery29. "I was a bit afraid, because there were a lot of scary elements, so I used to spend a lot of time in the manor, practicing."
Fast-forward two decades, and the 29-year old is set to storm the screen as her childhood hero in director Roar Uthaug's reboot of Tomb Raider.
If you're already picturing an Angelina Jolie-lite version, think again. You won't see this Lara running through the jungle in short-shorts, holding her signature double guns. Vikander's character is more regular girl than Tomb Raider.
"She's not an action hero when we meet her in the beginning of this film," Vikander explained. "She's a girl who lives with her friends in East London, like I did when I was in my early twenties!" Of course, fate takes over, delivering a series of adventures and circumstances that lead part-time boxer and daytime bicycle courier Lara to become the heroine we know and love.
This is a very different role for Vikander, who won an Academy Award for her performance alongside Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl in 2016. But in reality, she sees this as a way to get back to her roots. "I've always loved adventure movies. I can't tell you how many times I've seen Indiana Jones, or The Mummy series," she said. I was always curious of what it would be like to do those kinds of action sequences and stunts."
The training took four months, and included MMA training, rock climbing, and weightlifting. By the end, Vikander had gained 12 pounds of muscle. "It was pretty crazy when I stood on the scale and saw that I had gained that much," she confessed. "I've always been very petite, and it was very empowering to see that it worked."
But sheer physical strength isn't the only thing driving this performance. In late December, Vikander got involved in forming what would eventually become the Time's Up initiative, which aims to address issues of inequality in the workplace in Hollywood and across other industries, alongside the likes of Reese Witherspoon, Natalie Portman, and America Ferrera.
A key part of that struggle is changing the culture that only shows women as love interests and sidekicks. Vikander recalled rushing out to see Wonder Woman while wrapping up production on Tomb Raider, and being profoundly moved. "I didn't think that I could do these things," she said. "I couldn't even dream of it because it wasn't even in my perspective of reality."
If only that 10-year-old could see her now.
You can watch the full interview with Vikander below: