Casting Call

5 Actresses Who Could Play A New Lara Croft


In this series, we speculate on what actors would be the perfect choice to play an upcoming character, or what type of character a particular actor is best suited for. Feel free to unilaterally agree with all our picks voice your opinion in the comments!

Way back in the dark ages, video game adaptation films somehow seemed more viable than comic book superhero films. I know, right? Weird. And the biggest surefire hit for studios was definitely this gorgeous cross between James Bond and Indiana Jones who wore skimpy outfits and carried giant guns. Her name? Lara Croft.

And though the two Tomb Raider films we got were middling at best (I feel charitable toward them because they’re a hell of a lot better than Max Payne, Doom, or Prince of Persia) they did succeed as far as casting. Angelina Jolie was the perfect embodiment of Croft’s early days as a heavily-armed pinup girl with a truckload of money and gadgets that would help her recover mystical artifacts and beat the megalomaniacs trying to use them for evil.

But thankfully for us all, Square-Enix has updated the character quite a bit to reflect a more human, resourceful, complicated personality. Was their attempt a complete success? You’re mileage may vary on that, but it was a big hit with a big hit sequel just released. So now that the series and character are more three-dimensional, who should play this new Lara Croft? I have some ideas.

Emma Watson 2013

1. Emma Watson

The once-and-always Hermione Granger is by far the most capable of the Harry Potter kid actors, and she even imbued her frazzled bookworm character with conflict and pathos as early as the third entry to that series. More recently, she’s established herself as a potential badass in This is the End (admittedly this is played for laughs specifically because it’s so against Watson’s image and character). And she’s set to become a big, dynamic Disney heroine as Belle in Beauty and the Beast… another bookworm.

Watson is definitely the route to go if a new Tomb Raider movie was focusing on the change Lara experiences in the reboot game. Though she has an uncanny ability to show vulnerability and remorse, the flip to determination and survival would be a dramatic one. Especially with her very slight frame and elven features, it would be the big revelation her career (and the game adaptation sub-genre) needs.

Natalie Dormer departing ABC Time Square Studios

2. Natalie Dormer

Though less action-oriented than some of the other candidates, Dormer has shown through her CV that her Lara Croft would be strong of character if not strong of muscle. As Margaery Tyrell on “Game of Thrones” as well as Jamie Moriarty on “Elementary,” she has established a patient intelligence that would lend itself to Lara’s new background as a graduate student of history and archeology.

The real boon of casting Dormer is that she would look natural desperately gunning down bad guys, solving puzzles proactively and logically, and trudging through a muddy cavern with a torch in one hand and a climbing axe in the other. Her Lara would be complicated, which is what the new games are going for.

Emily Blunt avp 2014 (headshot)

3. Emily Blunt

This couldn’t be more of an obvious pick, and I’m really not ashamed of that. Beyond the requisite “proper British intellectual” background for the character, Blunt also happens to be gorgeous, has a diverse acting range, and proved she can become a huge action star. Not only that, she has the distinct advantage over my other candidates of being a full-fledged A-list movie star with enough recognition to headline a franchise.

Witness her turn in Edge of Tomorrow (aka Live.Die.Repeat.) as a hardcore super-soldier teaching Tom Cruise how to not die so much. That’s the action star we need. But also check out the level of drained desperation she exudes through the second half of Looper. The character’s been emotionally beaten down the same way Lara must be before… you know, rising.

Hailee Steinfeld (Berlin Film Festival 2011) (cropped)

4. Hailee Steinfeld

Hey, if you’re looking to launch a new franchise with an open-ended contract that can bring in the video game fans as well as some elusive tween-to-teen demographics, the smart business maneuver is to go young and go quality. In that scenario, Oscar-nominated Steinfeld is your gal. Though only nineteen, she has proven to be a real stunner in the Coen-helmed True Grit opposite some intimidating costars. Sure, she’s American, but so was Jolie. And Steinfeld’s British accent in 2013’s Romeo and Juliet was given a wide seal of approval.

Steinfeld’s take on Croft would undoubtedly be a more introspective one. This is a good thing; Lara should be out of her element initially, and uncertain of her actions. But if Steinfeld’s physical work in Ender’s Game and Barely Lethal are any indication, an action-packed Tomb Raider will definitely rise and stay for several films.

5. Nathalie Emmanuel

I know, I’m abusing my “Game of Thrones” casting privileges with her, and she’s still quite a small character on the show as Missandei. But Emmanuel has also broken out and shown some action franchise bona fides as a hacktivist character in Furious 7 as well as one of the “Group B” survivors in The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials.

Within her work on “GoT,” she has somehow maintained a very submissive character (slave-turned-royal advisor) and imbued her with a defiant, assertive demeanor. Her uncertain affection with Grey Worm and her simultaneous fear and respect of Daenerys would be great for playing Lara. We’d get a Croft we’ve never really had before, who demonstrates complicated feelings about and interactions with other people.

And if you’re going to translate Tomb Raider into a film, you’ll need some other characters for Lara to interact with. Unless it’s a Cast Away-style affair.

Agree? Disagree? Did you end up liking the Tomb Raider reboot and/or Rise of the Tomb Raider? Let us know in the comments!


About the author

Daniel Epstein
Father, filmmaker, and writer. Once he won an Emmy, but it wasn't for being a father or writing.