By John Gaudiosi
(Reuters) - British actress Camilla Luddington has played a doctor, a fairy and Britain's Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, but in her latest role she portrays virtual gaming icon Lara Croft in one her most physically demanding roles.
Luddington, 29, known for her roles in U.S. television series "Grey's Anatomy" and "True Blood," spent three years portraying Croft in video game developer Crystal Dynamics' "Tom Raider" reboot, which was released this week by Square Enix.
Croft was brought to life for the first time in the franchise with performance-capture technology that tracked Luddington's movements and facial expressions.
The actress spoke to Reuters about playing a video game icon and working with the technology to make Croft more human.
Q: What was it like to have played "Tomb Raider" when you were younger and then later to portray Lara Croft?
A: It gave me instant street cred from my brothers. What was really cool for me is that because it was a redo, I felt like I wasn't stepping into anyone's shoes and I could have that conversation with Crystal Dynamics about scenes, where their vision was going and work with them to create something new ... it's almost like the rebirth of the character.
Q: The old Lara Croft was very well known for her Barbie-doll figure. Can you talk about how this reborn character is physically different?
A: In the previous games she looked disproportionate, if you want to put it that way. She was in these tiny little bootie shorts and she looked fantastic, but they wanted to make her a human being and realistic in this game. So her proportions are more normal now.
Q: What else is different with Croft this time around?
A: It almost seems like in the previous game that Lara was like a superhero and she couldn't get hurt. But in this game you very quickly see that Lara is bloody and covered in mud and bruised and stabbed, and that is completely different to any of the other games we've seen. We see her get hurt. We see her have self-doubt. We see her fear.
Q: What has made her such an enduring figure, not only in gaming but with Hollywood films?
A: There's something to be said about a beautiful woman kicking butt. There's something obviously attractive about that. She's lethal and she's gorgeous being lethal, but I also think that Crystal Dynamics has listened to what the new generation is wanting.
When you see the Batman reboot and the James Bond reboot, those heroes are less of a stereotype and they're more real and more human. That's what audiences are responding to right now, being able to recognize and adapt with that is something that keeps Lara standing. Lara has become part of pop culture. Even my grandma knows who Lara Croft is.
Q: What was the motion-capture process like?
A: I spent three years doing motion capture, in between any gig that I was doing. ... I spent hours upon hours really being beaten up. I'm not really exaggerating. ... She gets her butt kicked and so it was exhausting. It was emotionally exhausting too because this is just a young girl who has been put into some extraordinary circumstances.
Q: How was it to play the game after acting it all out?
A: I've never been a character that goes through such drastic, extreme, horrifying things, and to witness that and to hear myself and even see all my facial expressions, it's hard to play it and not get even more involved than I probably normally would. ... My friends tell me I need to relax when they see me playing this game. I get way too involved playing it, but maybe that's a good thing.
(Reporting By John Gaudiosi; Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy, Eric Kelsey and Leslie Adler)