Home Featured Shelley Blond – Interview With The Original Lara Croft
Shelley Blond – Interview With The Original Lara Croft

Shelley Blond – Interview With The Original Lara Croft

As we have now entered October, Tomb Raider 20 Year Anniversary celebrations are in full swing. I was lucky enough to chat to the first Lara Croft herself, Shelley Blond, who provided the voice of the now iconic character for the original Tomb Raider, which was first released in 1996.
Brian – Hi Shelley. Thanks for taking some time to chat about your work on Tomb Raider. You are the original voice actress for Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. Can you run through how you got this role?
lara-croftShelley: Hi..Its my pleasure.
Yes absolutely… I auditioned via tape. It was cassette tape back in those days! I sent it off and apparently they liked what they heard..And then I had to do a conference call with several people at Core Design and Eidos including Nathan McCree. Then I was informed I had the part of Lara.
I understood from my voice over agent that they had been searching for months for the right voice for the character, so I was thrilled that the voice they were looking for was mine.
B – Had you any experience in voice acting before being cast?
Shelley Blond interviewing Robbie WilliamsS – Yes, I had been working for about a year or so by that time so I was very used to the audition process and developing voices for different characters. My main work before Tomb Raider consisted of voicing on all sorts of channels like Disney, Discovery, Trouble TV ( as well as hosting my own shows on there) Blockbuster, ITV etc. I used to act as well at the time, so I was also performing on stage at night in West End shows and filming commercials or presenting kids/teen programmes by day.
B – How did you approach the role of Lara? Was there much direction, backstory, concept art or even gameplay given to you before you took the role?
S – I was shown a rough sketch at the audition stage of how she would look and then at the recording for the voice in the studio I was presented with a more detailed drawing to help with delivering the voice.
Direction wise I was asked to do a very monosyllabic ‘female James Bond‘. My voice is naturally very expressive and I was continually reminded to be monosyllabic and ‘play’ her in a straight way. That was the only direction given really..I think I had only one picture of her to go by if I remember correctly. I wanted to make her voice sexier and more expressive but they insisted.. And that was my job.. To perform as directed and to deliver the voice that they specifically wanted for the character.
B – How long did it take to record Lara’s dialogue and where did you do the recording?
S – I cant actually remember which studio we recorded in.. You’ll have to ask Nathan that question. But I do remember that it took a total of 5 hours. 5 hours of screaming, falling off cliffs and fighting. It was fun. I had no voice left by the end of it!!
B – Tomb Raider was a fairly groundbreaking game for it’s time, combining a 3D world to explore, great gameplay, fantastic music and voice acting. Did you know then, that ye were making something special?
S – We had no idea how well the game would do. I remember being told they had no idea if it would be a success or not but that all their games for children had been successful and that they were hoping for the same with Tomb Raider. I think even Core and Eidos were surprised with the level of success it generated.
B – How was your time working with Core Design/Eidos? Was there a good relationship there and did you get to be involved in any other way other than voice acting?
S – I only worked with them for that 5 hour booking to record her voice. There was no relationship other than a working one between artiste and creatives and I was only involved in the voicing process. I have absolutely no knowledge in anything technical so I would be no use whatsoever in any other capacity!
Core Design
B – Tomb Raider and Lara in particular, became a huge success both financially and throughout the world of pop culture. Lara became a strong female icon gracing the pages of magazines, spearheading ad campaigns and idolised by both men and women. How did this feel, knowing you were involved with something, that may have seemed small when making it, becoming a massive brand?
S – Oh it was wonderful to see and to watch grow. I had to do many interviews for newspapers including the USA and had to voice a commercial for it. It was great to have friends buying the game and freaking out as the voice was mine!
B – You didn’t return for the inevitable sequel. Was there any reason for this or were you even asked to return?
S – I was asked to voice Lara for the next game, of course. They very much wanted to keep the same formula including the voice.  Lara’s voice was described by a New York Herald journalist as ‘sexy as Jessica Rabbit‘. That was amazing to read!
Unfortunately by the time the second game came around, I was contracted for other work and we couldn’t make our dates work. I did, however, give my permission for my soundbites, grunts and groans from the original game and recording session to be used in the second and third games. Judith Gibbins voiced the main character but with all my established sounds from the first game.
B – Lara went on to have several great actresses voicing the role and even playing her in live action movies. Each brought their own style and flair to Lara. Did you enjoy their take on Lara and did you know or were in contact with any of the actresses afterwards?
S – To be honest I am not familiar with all the voices.. I don’t play computer games.. Even ones I have voiced! But I am very close to one of the voice actresses, Jonell Elliot. Jonell and I used to perform on the West End stage together in musicals and we were friendly way before the Tomb Raider games saw the light of day. I only know Keeley Hawes from what I see of her on the television and she has a gorgeous voice and tone.
A friend of mine was an actor on the Angelina Jolie Tomb Raider movie and she told him that she listened to my voice over and over to practise. That may have made my day!!
B – After the release of Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness, Core Design lost development duties and production moved to the US to Crystal Dynamics. Were you ever approached to return to the role of Lara, especially for Tomb Raider: Anniversary (which was a remake of the original Tomb Raider) they produced?
S – Yes, I was asked to come back.. And it was for the game that Keeley ended up voicing (not sure which game that is even!)
They were in two minds whether to go back to the original or to have a celebrity voice. They took a while to debate and in the end they went with Keeley.
B – Would you ever return to the role if asked?
S – If asked and my schedule could work with it, of course I would. It’s an absolute honor to be the original voice of such an iconic character.
Lara Croft through the years
B – Are you in contact with any of the staff/voice cast who worked on Tomb Raider or it’s sequels?
S – well it was a very long time ago now, so I dont really remember anyone from my time on the game. Nathan McCree and I have made contact again through twitter and that has been lovely. And as I said before I am good friends with Jonell.
B – Tomb Raider is celebrating it’s 20th anniversary this year. Are you surprised Tomb Raider and Lara is still relevant in today’s world?
shelley-blond-lara-croftS – I think its wonderful. I see all the comments and tweets on twitter and have checked out many websites since being asked for interviews and it is incredible to see the amount of fans of the game and love for Lara. I am honestly so proud to be part of the games history. To be the original of something with such world-wide acclaim is amazing.
B – Nathan McCree, composer of the first three TR games, is revisiting his work on TR later this year. He is releasing an album called the Tomb Raider Suite and will have his new music showcased at a live concert with a live orchestra on December 18th in London. Are you doing any or attending Tomb Raider related events over the year?
S – It is wonderful that Nathan is putting on such a magnificent show this year. Such a tribute to the game and a real treat for the fans.
There are many events happening this year in celebration of Tomb Raider and the 20th Anniversary and if my schedule allows it, I would like to attend as many events as possible.
B – What are you currently working on and where can people find out more information about you?
S – I wake every day and am so grateful for the career I have, for the job I do. It’s my passion as well as my career and hobby and I am blessed that every day I get to go to different studios, work for fabulous companies and brilliant people and do silly, funny and character voices. I work at Disney, Discovery, ITV, Nat Geo, Virgin Media, Talk Talk as well as Heart radio voicing jingles and promos. I also voice commercials and documentaries and cartoons. I was also about 15 different voices on the computer game Black and White.  I love every aspect of my work.
It’s a dream job and I realise how very lucky I am.
Wikipedia will let you know more of what I have done work wise from TV and film to comedy, stage work, presenting and commercials and you can also follow me on twitter @blondshelley
B – Is there any other tidbits you would like to share about your work on Tomb Raider or any words for The Arcade/Irish fans
S – I would like to thank The Arcade and Irish fans for taking the time to read this interview, for supporting the games so much and to let them know that their support is greatly appreciated.
Shelley Blond
B – Thanks for your time. It was a pleasure chatting with you.
S – Thanks for having me!! Lovely to chat..x
I have to say it was absolutely fantastic getting to chat to Shelley. I never thought that 20 years on from playing Tomb Raider on my PlayStation,  I would be talking to the voice behind Lara herself. Many actresses have played the part since, but it is a true testament to Shelley and those at Core/Eidos who chose her to take on the role and that role to be still known today. I actually still have some original voice clips from Tomb Raider still on my phone after all these years.
Tomb Raider celebrates its 20 year anniversary this October 2016 and may it have many more years ahead of it. With the release Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration on October 11th and a new movie adaption in the works, no doubt the future is bright for this franchise.