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Lara Croft was based on my Bexleyheath supermarket colleague, says screenwriter who claims Eidos stole his idea

16:03 03 June 2013

Ben Treblicook

Ben Treblicook

Archant

Lara Croft is one of the most recognisable characters in video game history and the Tomb Raider movie based on one of her adventures, starring Angelina Jolie, grossed more than $274 million in 2001.

But according to one Bexley screenwriter, the idea behind the character was stolen from him by computer game company Eidos Interactive - and Lara Croft was based on a former colleague of his at a humble Safeway supermarket in Bexleyheath Broadway.

Ben Treblicook claims he came up with the idea for a “female Indiana Jones” in 1994 after being inspired by his Safeway colleague Lorna Mills-Knight,

“When I went to see the Tomb Raider movie I whispered to my dad ‘I made this character up. I’ve got a letter from the company telling me they didn’t want it.’

“It was quite a shock but I instantly knew this was my creation.”

Ben sent a five-page story and character outline to Core Design, game developer of Eidos, in 1995, a year before the first Lara Croft game was released.

When the 37-year-old found out about the existence of the computer game, he wrote to the company, who said similarities between Ben’s character and Lara Croft were merely coincidental.

The character has historically been credited as the creation of Core’s Toby Gard and they have strenuously denied copyright infringement over the past decade.

Remembering his inspiration, Ben said: “I adored Lorna. She became my subconscious teenage muse.

“I used to see Lorna walk down an aisle where I was working and pretend to shoot me with her two gun-fingers. One time she did it, before starting work, with a leather backpack on, coming from college, in beige shorts and a shirt.

“It’s funny how ideas come to you but I immediately jotted down an idea of a female Indiana Jones, who packed two guns and looked like Lorna. She’s the spit of Lara Croft.”

Ben, who now lives in Clapham and is currently working on a martial arts film called Knockout, has not yet issued a writ for breach of copyright due to cost, he says, but claims he has spent £70,000 on lawyers over the last 12 years - who he says all support his evidence.

But in a 2001 response to his letter, managing director of Core Design Jeremy Heath-Smith said he believed the company “independently came up with the idea. The first Tomb Raider computer game was already under development when you submitted your synopsis.”

Lorna, who now lives in Welling and works for Bexley Council, said she was delighted to be told she was the inspiration behind such an iconic figure.

The 37-year-old: “I was shocked when Ben told me the story behind Lara. I mean, what woman wouldn’t be flattered by that?

“But I knew anything was possible with him - he was always zany and crazy. I could see the similarities when Ben explained it to me.”

After it was announced that the Tomb Raider franchise is going to be revived with a new feature film being released, Ben said he might take his legal challenge further.

“Toby Gard has never been mentioned in any legal document to me and Eidos have never said directly to me who created the character.”

A spokesman for Square Enix, who bought Eidos in 2009, said: “Mr Trebilcook approached our company [Eidos] more than 10 years ago making these allegations.

“Following legal correspondence then, Mr Trebilcook did not pursue his allegations any further. The allegations were baseless 10 years ago and remain baseless today.”

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