The Tomb Raider franchise seems to have been a graveyard for oddly overqualified people. Angelina Jolie played the character of Lara Croft twice after winning an Oscar, and subsequently Alicia Vikander gave the English aristocrat-turned-global adventurer a go. Neither left much of a mark, which is why it is all the more surprising that Fleabag creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge is to write the scripts for a new Amazon series based on the popular video game.
It has been wryly observed that, despite her heroics in the forthcoming Indiana Jones film, Waller-Bridge herself is not expected to play Lara Croft. That’s a disappointment for those of us who would enjoy a mixture of arch smirks to the camera and jokes about kinky sex from the globe-trotting, shorts-clad daredevil.
Waller-Bridge has had a lucrative deal (said to be in “the mid-eight-figure range”) with Amazon for some time now, but little of any note has come from it. She was supposed to star opposite Donald Glover in a series based on the Jolie-Brad Pitt film Mr. and Mrs. Smith, but has pulled out of the project, and the announcement in March last year of a new show from the writer-star has come to nothing. With the announcement of a renewed three-year deal with Amazon has come a range of potential new series, including Tomb Raider and an adaptation of Claudia Lux’s novel Sign Here, which Waller-Bridge is expected to executive produce rather than write. Yet given how much the streaming giant has so far spent on its star, there has been little obvious return or reward.
From one perspective, this is a savvy exercise in playing the long game. For those of us who thought Fleabag, particularly in its blissful second series, approached high art, Waller-Bridge is clearly a talent. Amazon seems to believe she is worth investing in, even if the results have not yet borne out their cash. Yet it is also worrisome that the downside of this apparently generous deal is that the star has not been given the guidance that will result in another Fleabag. Her script-doctoring work on the most recent James Bond film, No Time To Die, was largely anonymous — I would have hoped she was responsible for the picture’s best character, Ana de Armas’s uproarious Paloma — and her involvement in the HBO series Run went largely unnoticed.
By far her highest-profile post-Fleabag role will be in Indiana Jones, and while we can hope that she brings a mixture of snark and wit to the project, we can hardly expect her to be the auteur of a film that will inevitably require a great deal of running, jumping and fighting. Still, at least she will not be required to be the now-80-year-old Harrison Ford’s love interest: her character is said to be his goddaughter.
I can’t help but wonder, though, if Waller-Bridge might be best suited to a collaboration with her partner, the writer and director Martin McDonagh, who is coming off the most lauded film of his career so far, The Banshees of Inisherin. Both of them share an amusingly warped sensibility, and a script co-written by the two could be a dark comic delight. Perhaps it’s time for Amazon to see what comes of it. If so, rather than various anonymous projects that may or may not see the light of day, we could be treated to a truly magnificent endeavor that really does deserve the mantle “from the creator of Fleabag.”