Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life director Jan de Bont explains why the video game adaptation led him to quit directing years ago.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life director Jan de Bont explains why the video game adaptation led him to quit directing. Following the immense success of the Tomb Raider video games, Hollywood sought to translate that into box office gold. Angelina Jolie became the first actress to play archeologist/adventurer Lara Croft on the big screen, starting with 2001’s Tomb Raider: Lara Croft. Despite receiving poor reviews, Jolie’s performance was praised, and Tomb Raider made enough money to warrant a sequel. The Cradle of Life arrived two years later, and this time, Speed and Twister director de Bont signed on to helm the project.
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Much like the first Tomb Raider, The Cradle of Life was met with largely negative reviews. This installment saw Lara embark on a quest to find Pandora’s Box and keep it out of the hands of an evil scientist and a Chinese criminal gang. The Cradle of Life wasn’t as big of a financial success as Tomb Raider, but there were still plans for Jolie to return for a Tomb Raider 3. However, they eventually fell apart when Jolie indicated she didn’t want to play Lara again.
De Bont hasn’t directed a film since The Cradle of Life, and he’s elaborated on why that is in a new interview with UPROXX. Anyone familiar with major studio films won’t be surprised to hear de Bont was displeased with how Paramount chose to interfere in the production. De Bont explained that he wasn’t prepared to have the studio and the makers of the Tomb Raider games be so involved in the process, particularly when the former told him he needed to cut the budget down by $12 million on the very first day. De Bont went on to say this:
And then basically you say, wait a second, every movie’s going to be like this? Where the studio has a say in what will be done, what scenes have to be in, and even what kind of shirts somebody has to wear at one point? They didn’t like the buttons on one shirt! I still remember, I got a call, “I didn’t like the buttons on the shirt.” I don’t even remember. What was the guy’s name? The male lead in that movie? Man, I forgot his name. But then, “Wait a second. You’re calling me because you don’t like the buttons on the shirt?” That was so absurd. Really. And then also having to really constantly deal with budget issues.
Ultimately, de Bont said, the threat of studio influence proved to be too frustrating. “Because I felt this wasn’t a traditional period, where studios were taking a much bigger part in the making of the movie. And it became… that’s not worth it. You know?” de Bont explained. Therefore, he walked away from directing after The Cradle of Life. However, by the end of the interview, de Bont did hint he’s interested in working in streaming, so perhaps he’ll find his way back to films in the future. It’s clear, though, that he won’t be returning to major studio movies.
Many directors have spoken about having their movies suffer because of studio interference, from David Ayer with 2016’s Suicide Squad to Josh Trank with 2015’s Fantastic Four. When it comes to established brands like Tomb Raider, studios will do all they can to make it a success, and that includes pushing their ideas and notes on the director. Whether this strategy actually pays off isn’t quite clear, though since it leads to a trail of dissatisfied directors, it doesn’t seem like a smart move. Hopefully, as Warner Bros. moves forward with their Tomb Raider 2, they’ll learn from the mistakes Paramount made with The Cradle of Life and will support their director instead of frustrate.
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