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10 Facts about Tomb Raider that put Cambodia on the Map

| Words by Ellena Johnstone |

10 Facts about the Film That Put Cambodia on the Map

When Lara Croft burst onto our screens in 2001, viewers fell in love with the mysterious vine-clad temple used as a location in the film. The film made Ta Prohm – the temple in question - famous, and it’s now one of the most popular temples for visitors to UNESCO world heritage site Angkor Wat.

Not only was the film hugely popular - grossing $47,000 in its opening weekend alone – but it had a profound impact on Cambodia itself, with many seeing the film as marking Cambodia’s meteoric rise in popularity as a destination.

Here’s 10 fun facts you might not know about the filming of this iconic movie:

1. Cambodia’s film industry at the time was virtually non-existent; 30 trucks of film equipment had to be brought in from Thailand, and the convoy often had to stop while soldiers repaired the roads and bridges ahead! The journeys from the Thai border normally takes three hours, but the 30 trucks took two days to reach the filming site.

2. Filming in Cambodia almost never happened at all! Initially, film makers envisioned the scenes taking place at the Great Wall of China, but filming schedules did not allow for this so they chose the ruins of Ta Prohm instead.

Ta Phrom Temples

3. At the time of filming, there were only two international hotels in Siem Reap, the town closest to the temples. The cast and crew filled both of them, and they were still short of space!

4. The film was good news for the preservation of Angkor Wat. Cambodian authorities were charged $10,000 a day to film there, all of which went back towards repairing and preserving the temples themselves.

Angkor Wat at dawn

5. Not only did Paramount insist on a Cambodia crew, but over four hundred local Cambodian people played extras in the film, including one hundred genuine Buddhist monks!

6. The film marked the first time in over three decades that a Hollywood production was filmed in Cambodia.

7. The last film to be shot in Cambodia was Lord Jim in 1965.

8. In bars all over Siem Reap, you will find the popular Tomb Raider cocktail – a blend of Cointreau, soda and lime said to be Angelina Jolie’s favorite drink during filming.

Bayon Temple

9. Although filming took place over just two weeks, the film had a profound impact on Angelina Jolie. She said at a press conference “being here in this country has changed my life. It makes me feel different about everything: my life, work, what we can all do. It's the most amazing place I've ever been to in my life."

10. While Ta Prohm is the most recognized temple used as a location for the film, it is far from the only temple used. Other scenes also take place at Phnom Bakheng, the hill overlooking Angkor Wat, and Bayon.

Inspired to explore the temples of Angkor yourself? Check out our popular range of Cambodia small group journeys, or our range of private travel options.