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Rhona in FHM (October 1997)

For Him Magazine is, obviously, a man magazine. Not like Playboy but still a man magazine.
In the November issue, they feature none other than Rhona Mitra.

Actress, singer and the delectable human form of Tomb Raider's Lara Croft, the awesome Rhona Mitra is not to be messed with. She runs, she swims, she shoots and she's here. Our game girl in the flesh...
Interview Ed Halliwell, Photography Willy Camden

Sex and video games don't usually mix too well. Indeed, the popular view is that men who play them have such poor complexions and social skills that they've been forced to replace pleasures of the flesh with bashing the hell out of pixellated monsters. In short, successful users of the chat-up line "I've top-scored on Story Of Thor 2" are few and far between.

Rhona Mitra

However, there is one exception to the rule. In November 1996, Tomb Raider appeared, featuring the adventures of Lara Croft. The premise of the game was that Lara, the daughter of an English aristocrat, had decided to forego her inheritance in favour of travelling round the world in search of ancient artefacts. As with most adventure games, this involved plenty of running, jumping, swimming and shooting. But unlike other games, its central character became the computer world's first sex symbol, and Lara Croft quickly catapulted Tomb Raider to the top of the games charts. With her ample chest and powerful thighs, Lara was created as the gamer's ultimate female fantasy figure, and the strategy worked.

Now, for the imminent release of the sequel, Tomb Raider 2, Lara is made flesh. And fortunately for us, it's in the form of 22-year-old actress Rhona Mitra, a woman sexy enough to equal the charms of the video character. As well as appearing in the press campaign for Tomb Raider 2, Rhona has recorded an album as Lara (produced by ex-Eurythmics guitarist Dave Stewart), from which a single, Getting Naked, is to be released next month. There is even talk of a Tomb Raider movie, for which Rhona ought to be a shoe-in for the lead role - a heady jump from her last big part, playing a teenage seductress in Jilly Cooper's The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous.

So, to celebrate the arrival of the new sexiest woman in Britain, what did we do? Take lots of fantastic pictures of her? Of course. Ask her a shedload of questions about what it's like to play a character invented to satisfy the libido of a twenty-something programmer? Certainly. But first, we took her to London's Trocadero centre to see if she could cut the mustard in the original gaming arena - an amusement arcade.

The truth is, she's pretty adept. She powers past three (male) opponents on the arm-wrestling machine, gives a creditable display at dynamo-hockey and is equally at ease bombing about on the virtual skateboards. Her strongest suit, though, is the bowling range. After a slow start, three spares in a row see her powering into the lead as FHM skew yet another ball into the gutter. Only two consecutive (and highly suspicious) zero scores in the last two rounds barred the way to victory. And, perhaps not surprisingly for a woman who's beaten stiff competition to play the most lusted after computer game character of all time, she doesn't accept second place for long. "I let you win, you know," she smiles triumphantly.

Rhona Mitra Games fans are notoriously obsessive. Are you ready to cope with being pursued by blokes thinking you really are Lara Croft?

After The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous I had a lot of bizarre fan mail. I remember receiving a beautifully typed letter from 12 boys in Exeter asking if I'd marry them all. Apparently I was supposed to be shared on some kind of weekly rota system. I was thinking, "Hmm, two a day. How am I supposed to manage that?" And I've already had people post notes on the Lara Croft websites thanking me for improving their sex lives.

And how exactly have you done that?

They get their girlfriends to dress up as Lara, like I do. Apparently, it works wonders for them - maybe it's the rubber outfit.

Do you think it's scary that there are men out there fantasising over a computer-generated character?

No, because men will fantasise about anything. Compared to sheep or whatever, I think Lara's quite a healthy fantasy. What's wrong with wanting to sleep with a computer-generated character? She's got a perfect figure, after all.

Talking of creating perfect figures, there was a story in one of the tabloids about you having a breast enlargement operation performed by your dad...

That was rubbish. My dad is a surgeon and he does do some cosmetic surgery, but he doesn't perform breast operations. I don't think he was too bothered about it, though - apparently a load of people phoned up the hospital where he works, the next day asking for tits like Rhona Mitra.

But you have had your breasts enlarged.

Yes, but my dad had nothing to do with it.

Where does the name Mitra come from?

It's Indian - my dad is from Calcutta. But I'm also part Irish. It's a confusing heritage. I never know if I want to be running across the fields with no clothes on or sitting in the pub drinking Guinness.

The Lara Croft single is called Getting Naked. When was the last time you were naked in a public place?

I don't think going starkers in a public place is especially commendable. You can go to Stringfellow's for that. Although they don't even get it all off there, do they? The song is really about one night stands and a woman saying that she'll go so far but not the whole hog. Why does all frolicking have to end in penetration?

Does Lara have sex, then?

I should bloody well hope so. I'm sure she wouldn't be the woman she is unless she did.

You recorded half of the album sailing down the Amazon in Dave Stewart's boat. If the boat had run aground, would you have been prepared to eat him in order to survive?

Hmm, he hasn't really got enough fat on him... That beard could have been a bit tough to chew as well. Maybe you could have stuck it on your face when you'd finished eating the rest of him. I would have worn the beard proudly. It's a fine feature. You were expelled from two boarding schools. Naughty girl, were you? No, I had just had a problem complying with rules. I went to a convent school and it was totally ridiculous. We weren't even allowed to go into town at the weekend. So we used to nick holy wine from the church and drink it in the potato patch at the back of the school. I remember one time me and a few girls ended up dancing in the garden at four in the morning, wearing nothing but Wellington boots.

Is that why they kicked you out?

No, that was for taking a sixth-former's car and driving it down to the local boys' school. I was only 14. I left stuffing under my bedsheets but one of my friends told on me and the headmistress tracked me down. They put me in this room with bars on the windows to punish me. I was stuck in there for a whole week with just a rosary for comfort, having my dinner brought in on trays. The only time I got out was to say confession to the school priest. After that, they booted me out. Then at the next school the other girls used to blame me whenever they got caught for something, so all the parents wrote in and said they didn't want me at the school. I crammed my exams in London and did fine.

You recently said that Lara represents the woman of the future. So what is the woman of the future going to be like?

She'll be more robust. In order to be strong in the mind, women are going to have to build up their bodies. Having a big arse will be alright, having a big pair of breasts will be alright, as long as they exercise as well.

We had a discussion in the office about men of the future, and we reckon that evolution will make their heads and penises bigger.

Sounds good to me.

Rhona Mitra Okay. Let's test out your credentials for playing Lara Croft. To start with, when was the last time you raided a tomb?

Er, I haven't. I only raid my friends' wardrobes. And my dad's drinks cabinet when I was a kid.

Would you take on a bear unarmed?

I'd probably try and cuddle and sweet-talk it. I've charmed men worse than bears.

Can you handle yourself in a fight?

Absolutely. I had the whole Swiss Army after me once. I was ski-ing with friends and we were getting hassled by some guys who wanted us to dance. They ended up calling us dykes and then turned nasty. I kicked one in the ribcage. It turned out that he was with a load of Swiss army guys and they chased us up the road. We ran faster than them, though.

Some Tomb Raider websites feature a nude Lara Croft. Would you ever emulate them and do Playboy?

I'd never say never. But not right now. It's not even negotiable.

What about the weird orgasmic noises Lara makes when she bumps into walls? Have you been perfecting those?

Oh yes, of course. Listen. [Makes weird orgasmic noise not unlike "Uuh!"].

Lara spends most of her time in caves full of gun-wielding nutters. What's the most dangerous situation you've been in.

I got buried under the sand in Tunisia. I've just shot a film there called A Kid In The Arabian Knights. We were supposed to be mocking up this sandstorm and I was buried right up past my head, but I couldn't breathe because the sand was so heavy. I had to breathe through a bamboo straw for about 20 minutes. The crew were setting their cameras up and I was screaming, "Hurry the fuck up, I'm dying under here."

Did you use to play computer games when you were growing up? I remember getting hooked on Jet Set Willy on the ZX Spectrum.

I had an Atari. I used to play that tennis game where you had two bats at either end of the screen and you had to try and keep the ball in play.

You mean Pong!

That's the one. But I used to do a lot of weird things to entertain myself. Do you remember those portable tape recorders that had flat speakers on the top? I used to put a piece of cellophane on top of the speaker and crumble biscuits on top of it. I'd then play Super Trouper by Abba at full volume and watch the crumbs jump up and down with the vibrations.

Blimey. You were easily pleased.

That's not all. I loved pouring yoghurt all over my dog and watching him lick it off himself. And when my parents had dinner parties I'd chop up his dog food into chunks, put cocktail sticks in it and then walk around the living room in a sari asking if anyone wanted hors d'oeuvres.

The guests must have loved you. Have you carried any bizarre habits or phobias into adulthood?

I can't sit still. That's why I'm very difficult in a relationship. Men get jealous of me travelling - they don't understand that just because I disappear on my own doesn't mean I'm going to shag someone else.

Have you always been faithful?

Always. But I can appreciate why people wouldn't be. It's like ice-cream - you can really love vanilla, but you still want to try some other flavours just to make sure that you really do love the vanilla best. I haven't actually been out with that many men. I've been in two relationships which have taken up five years of my life. The second one of those has recently ended and since then I've concentrated on my work.

What kind of man do you go for?

I like healthy-looking guys with good, clean skin. And I like men who have brains but are still very childish. Immature guys.

Are you actually any good at Tomb Raider?

Yeah. I finished it in about two weeks.

I heard that Bruce Willis has bought the rights to the Tomb Raider movie and that Demi Moore is pencilled in to play Lara. Could you have her?

Oh yeah, of course.

Be careful. After filming GI Jane, she's quite buff these days.

So am I. And I'm younger than her. The whole idea of her playing Lara is sacrilege. She has to be an posh English girl with a stiff upper lip.

Finally, elsewhere in this issue we discuss the phenomenon of lesbianism. Have you ever been tempted by the charms of another girl?

Any woman who says she hasn't isn't truly a woman. Even if you don't go as far as doing something physical, you should be able to appreciate the female form. Men are beautiful too, though.

Tomb Raider 2 will be released by Eidos at the end of November, and Rhona's single Getting Naked is out from Naked Records on November 10.

Article and pictures taken from the November 1997 issue of For Him Magazine. 1997, Emap Metro Limited. FHM. The Croft Times.