What’s a nice Academy Award winner like you doing in an action blockbuster like this? It’s asked as a joke and Alicia Vikander smiles in response, but you’re immediately aware that you’re not being nearly as clever as you think you are and that she’s just being really polite. She’s been down this avenue of questioning before in regards to her reboot of Tomb Raider, but the good thing is that she doesn’t seem bothered by it at all.

Alicia, who took home that Oscar for 2016’s The Danish Girl, actually sees it as a natural progression. “Any actor comes in thinking that if we’re going to get the next job, whatever it may be, we’re happy,” she tells Life & Style. “I love these kind of action films and to be given the chance to be part of making one has been extremely wonderful. We kind of step into the cinema to immerse yourself in an adventure. Also, I’ve always loved making roles, or characters, that come from different genres and are different from anything I’ve done before. My friends always say ‘Oh my God, to get the chance to play an action hero would be friggin’ amazing.’ I just never thought I would be able to have that chance.”

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(Photo Credit: Warner Bros)

It’s definitely something she’s earned. Born Oct. 3, 1988 in Sweden, Alicia trained as a ballet dancer when she was younger. Her acting career began in short films and Swedish television shows, but she really came to the attention of people during the two years she spent from 2008-10 on the Swedish series Andra Avenyn. Her feature film debut was in 2010’s Pure, followed two years later by the adaptation of Anna Karenina and the Danish film, A Royal Affair. Diverse roles continued in 2014’s Testament of Youth, which saw her cast as a World War I activist; the 2015 sci-fi film Ex Machina as a humanoid robot, and as painter Gerda Wegener in that same year’s The Danish Girl, for which she took home the Oscar in the category of Best Supporting Actress. Now, of course, she is bringing video game character Lara Croft, the Tomb Raider, to life, reimagining the role first played by Angelina Jolie. The interesting thing is that Alicia really doesn’t see a tremendous difference between all of these films she’s made.

“You end up coming to set and it’s not 60 people there, but 350,” she compares independent films to something the size of Tomb Raider. “The other feeling that comes to you is that it’s such a huge machiner, and that you’re really creating another world. Everything was kind of built sets. We didn’t have that much green screen, which I thought was extremely thrilling, because you got to actually step into that kind of universe, which was pretty magical. But the biggest challenge, I think, is to create films that have both artistic depth and value, and still are able to become the big adventure and ride that they’re supposed to be. And be successfully commercially as well. To combine that is really tough, because there’s so many people that need to come together and work together.”

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(Photo Credit: Warner Bros)

In Tomb Raider, Lara Craft goes in search of her father who mysteriously disappeared years earlier, which leads her to a fabled tomb on a mythical island, where the stakes are raised to a planetary scale. Of course, anyone who has played one of the Tomb Raider games or has seen the previous films, knows full well that Indiana Jones has nothing over Lara in terms of action. And getting in shape to handle it was probably Alicia’s biggest challenge. Helping her to meet it was trainer Magnus Lygdback, who comments, “There is no one tougher than a ballerina. Coming into the project, I had high hopes for Alicia and she delivered. She built the perfect Lara Croft.”

Alicia’s answer to that? “Ballet is a hardcore sport,” she says. “There were definitely some similarities to how I trained then and what I did for Tomb Raider. When you meet Lara in the beginning of the film, she’s a regular girl living in East London, but we wanted the audience to know she is a physical being. You see her sparring with her friends at an MMA gym, and she’s a bike courier who loves to go out and race in the street. She’s a strong girl, and the story sets that tone right away. Later, we see her climbing, fighting, going underwater. I don’t know when in life I would have been exposed to try so many new things if it wasn’t for this role. I found it very empowering. For someone petite and not very tall to gain five kilos in muscle, well, it’s quite a big percentage of my body weight, yet I felt extremely feminine.”

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(Photo Credit: Warner Bros)

Magnus points out that through it all he remained impressed with Alicia’s determination to become Lara Croft. “People always ask me, is it 50/50 nutrition and training?” he notes. “In reality, especially for a role like this, it’s 100 percent and 100 percet. And Alicia took it even further; she was truly dedicated. If I told her to do 15 reps, she was going to do 16. If I said 20, she did at least 21.”

“Magnus is so passionate about what he does,” she adds, “but it’s all about integrating things into a normal life as well. What we did for this job was for a limited time and to create a very specific body, but you could modify it for everyday life, too.”

Check out this routine: for exercise, Alicia trained for 45 minutes to an hour every morning before heading to set, working in a customized gym that was built within a truck. Her diet consisted of slow carb and lean protein. Complex carbs included brown rice, quinoa and rice noodles, while her main source of protein consisted mainly of salmon, tuna and eggs. Her favorites were runny eggs, poke and Asian fusion combinations, prepared with healthy oils and spices to tingle her palette. She ate five times a day at three-hour intervals.

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(Photo Credit: Warner Bros)

The amazing thing is that you won’t hear Alicia complaining about any of it. “Seriously,” she laughs. “It’s kind of a gift that someone just tells you, ‘Do you know what? Your full time job for the next four months even leading up to the shoot is gonna be to immerse yourself in everything from MMA training to bicycling to climbing.’ I really wanted to change my body to have this, because in the film I love that it’s put within the story that she’s a girl who trains in MMA in her free time. She’s a physical being. And because she doesn’t know what lies ahead in the beginning of the film, when she actually ends up on this assignment and has to become a survivor, you will find it plausible that she would have the strength to find the tools that she probably has within her to conquer and survive.”

Tomb Raider opens in theaters on March 16th.