Page last updated at 11:34 GMT, Thursday, 20 November 2008

The Laras: a look back in danger

Tomb Raider promotion ECTS 1996
Katie Price (far right) makes her one and only appearance as Lara Croft
The latest instalment in Lara Croft's adventures - Tomb Raider: Underworld - has gone on sale.

Developed by US firm Crystal Dynamics, the game picks up from where the previous edition - Tomb Raider: Legend - left off.

From the outset, the series has had a human face promoting the game.

The concept of a real life Lara started in 1996, when Tomb Raider made its debut at the now defunct European Computer Trade Show (ECTS).

Back then, the concept of a female lead character in a video game was groundbreaking. Gamers had been fed a diet of macho gun-toting heroes, such as Duke Nukem or "lone space marine" and there many who felt the idea of Lara Croft would fall flat.

Four girls were picked (including one Katie Price, better known today as Jordan) to promote the game at the show, in the hope that an attractive girl with a gun would appeal to gamers and game journalists alike. It did.

Nathalie Cook as Lara Croft 1996

It was UK games magazine PC Zone - rather than the games publisher Eidos - who married Lara Croft with her real life counterpart.

Nathalie Cook - one of the Laras first seen at ECTS - was splashed all over the magazine's 1996 Christmas issue and she, or rather Lara, opened a department store in Birmingham.

After Lara, Ms Cook faded from the public eye and little is known about her today.

RHONA MITRA 1997 - 1998
Rhona Mitra as Lara Croft in 1996

The next Lara Croft, chosen this time by Eidos, is considered as being the first "true" Lara.

Rhona Mitra was a British-born actress who had a few small film parts prior to becoming the face of Lara Croft.

But to play the role of Lara, she took method acting to a whole new level.

Ms Mitra had cosmetic surgery to make her figure look more like Lara's and she also took media training courses to help her deal with publicity and press interviews.

During her time as Lara, Ms Mitra did numerous publicity shoots, media interviews and even made a single - produced by former Eurythmic Dave Stewart- called Getting Naked. However, it failed to make the Top 40 and was Lara's first and last foray into the music industry.

But for Rhona Mitra, her time as Lara Croft was the springboard to bigger things. Her modelling career continued and she has since appeared in more than 25 movies, including Get Carter and Ali G Indahouse.

NELL McANDREW 1998 - 1999
Nell McAndrew in 2008

The next - and arguably the most famous - Lara was Nell McAndrew.

Like her predecessor, Ms McAndrew also had surgery to make her look more like Lara.

But while she was promoting Tomb Raider 3, Eidos sacked Ms McAndrew for appearing on the front cover of Playboy magazine.

She went on to have a successful career as a glamour model and now helps raise money for charity.

LARA WELLER 1999 - 2000
Lara Weller as Lara Croft

The next Lara was - coincidentally- also a Lara.

Lara Weller started her modelling career in the Netherlands after being spotted by a photographer. The 24-year-old donned trademark shorts, top and pistols for what Eidos claimed was Lara's last outing in The Last Revelation.

In an interview with BBC News, she said that she didn't quite know what to expect playing Lara, but looking back it was a fantastic year of her life.

"It was very sad when it all finished. You got to know all the team you work with and when it stopped, it was a little bit of a shock, even though we all knew it had to end.

"Since playing Lara, I've done some more modelling, but now I run and manage events and I'm also training to be a yoga teacher," she said.

"And as for the future? I'm going to go travelling and maybe I'll start a family."

LUCY CLARKSON 2000 - 2002
Lucy Clarkson

Next up was Lucy Clarkson, the youngest Lara to date. Discovered by Vivenne Westwood when she was 15, she was promoting Tomb Raider just two years later.

Talking to BBC News, she said that although at the time she was already a successful model, being Lara gave her career a real boost.

"The first few years were amazing, because all the doors open for you as you become a celeb overnight," she said.

"Everything was happening for me and it became much easier to do stuff in the public eye, because it's a big stepping stone.

"Life after Lara was, and still is, very interesting. I'm writing my autobiography about life as a model, launching an underwear range next year, and have just published a calendar in aid of Help the Heroes."

JILL DE JONG 2002 - 2006
Jil de Jon as Lara Croft

Like previous Laras, Jill de Jong had already worked as a model, although at more than six feet tall she holds the record as the tallest to date.

Ms de Jong was the second Dutch woman to play Lara Croft and she went on to model for Ralph Lauren and Escada. She now lives in the United States pursuing a career in acting.

KARIMA ADEBIBE 2006 - 2008
Karima Adebibe as Lara Croft

For the next Lara, Eidos did things a bit differently.

Rather than picking an established model, the firm took on a complete novice. Karima Adebibe worked as a sales assistant in Topshop before she was discovered by Eidos.

Adebibe retired as Lara in early 2008 and has continued modelling.


Stepping into Ms Croft's boots is the current Lara, Alison Carroll.

Alison Carroll as Lara Croft

Like Adebibe she was a newcomer to the modelling world but she was no stranger to the limelight, having represented Great Britain as a professional display gymnast and helped coach the winning junior team at the British National Gymnastics Championships.

The 23-year-old will appear at press and promotion events in character, and the developers also plan to have her playing the lead in a forthcoming TV commercial.

Angelina jolie in the Tomb Raider movie

Of course, there is one Lara who is probably the most famous of them all, despite never actually promoting the video game.

Angelina Jolie's role in the Tomb Raider film put the game firmly in the media spotlight and to date is the most successful movie adaptation of a video game, grossing in excess of $300m (200m).

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