Category: Interview

Press: ‘All Americans think they are Irish. Right?’

THE IRISH TIMESThe live-wire Algerian actor on dancing with Madonna and channelling Boris Karloff

 

 

“Ireland is beautiful. Though I suppose it rains all the time,” Sofia Boutella says. “I drove to Kerry on the wrong side of the road for the first time. I thought I was going to have an accident with the sheeps. I was terrified. Why the hell do sheeps go in the f***ing road like this? Aren’t they told?”

 

Today’s younger movie stars tend to be well-schooled. They know what to say and how to say it. But you don’t meet that many who swell with character and eccentricity. Boutella looks to be an exception. Born in 1982, the Algerian actor is, I suppose, not that young any more, but, after an initial career as a successful dancer, she is only now making louder noises in mainstream film. She was great as an alien scavenger in Star Trek Beyond. She was super in the recent Irish three-hander Tiger Raid. Now, opposite a breathless Tom Cruise, she plays the title character in Universal’s latest disinterment of The Mummy.

 

It’s a good role for an ex-dancer. There’s a lot of feline writhing and demonic glowering. Those hours hoofing with Madonna on the Confessions tour didn’t go to waste.

 

“Thank you. Yes, it was physical,” she says. “She’s never been pharaoh, but I think she’s carrying herself with some sort of pride that I wanted to find. I researched ancient mythology . . . ”

 

And she’s off. Boutella talks as if speaking is about to be abolished and she must enjoy the chatter while she can. She went back and watched the 1932 version of The Mummy with Boris Karloff to get a few tips. She initially turned down the role, but, after devising a more offbeat villain, talked herself back into it.

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Press: How Sofia Boutella Became the Mummy, in 4 Not-So-Easy Steps

 

VULTURE – “We constantly transform ourselves emotionally, so why not do it physically?” asks Sofia Boutella, who has been making a recent habit of blockbuster metamorphoses. After a big-screen breakthrough in 2015’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, where she popped as a henchwoman with blades for legs, Boutella slathered herself in striking white makeup for last year’s Star Trek Beyond to play the curious alien Jaylah. She made herself over once again this week for the new big-screen reboot of The Mummy, where the 35-year-old Algerian actress has the title role opposite Tom Cruise. “It’s a part of the job, and I’m embracing it,” Boutella told Vulture. Here’s how she made her mummy come to undead life.

 

Look for the connection

 

When The Mummy director Alex Kurztman first sent Boutella the script for his reboot, she wasn’t convinced. “I remember reading it and I thought, Uh, no, I’m not doing this,” laughs Boutella. “The first script I read was a work in progress, a template just to start off preproduction, and I was afraid to just play a monster who walks around town scaring people.”

 

After Kurtzman sat down with Boutella to talk over the role, it started to expand. No longer just a mostly mute bogeywoman, this version of the mummy has royal lineage and a dark backstory: Born Princess Ahmanet in ancient Egypt, the character is supposed to inherit an entire kingdom until her father sires a son. Robbed of what she feels is her birthright, Ahmanet pacts with the god Set to kill her family and, once unleashed in the present day, rain down even more destruction.

 

“I had to empathize with her, and I wanted to humanize her,” says Boutella. “The beauty of the original monster movies is that you were able to relate to every single character, or even to treat their monstrosity as an emotional metaphor.” So even though Ahmanet chooses an evil path, Boutella sees those supernatural enhancements more like a protective shell: “It’s about closing yourself off from the people who were supposed to love you,” she says. “If you’ve ever been hurt to that extent, it’s hard to come back from.”

 

Move like a mummy

 

A former dancer, Boutella spends a lot of time pondering her character’s movement. “I think people can tell you a lot about themselves before they even start talking, just by how they sit or how they walk,” she says. “Finding the physicality with Ahmanet was very important. I want to show her strength and power through her body.”

 

So yes, Ahmanet may move with the same sort of stiff purpose you’d associate with other big-screen renditions of the mummy, but Boutella gives that deliberate pace a more regal bearing: “She carries herself as royalty, even more so after she’s been denied.”

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Press: Hollywood’s Next Big Thing: ‘Mummy’ Star Once Danced With Madonna and Rihanna

 

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTERThe Algerian-born star, who appears opposite Tom Cruise in Universal’s high-stakes monster tentpole, danced professionally for years before scoring her breakout role in ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service.’

 

Sofia Boutella may not have been hidden for 2,000 years like the character she’s playing in Universal’s The Mummy (June 9), but the former professional dancer has re-incarnated herself as a leading actress.

 

Born in Algeria and raised in Paris by a musician father and architect mother, Boutella has been dancing since she was 5. In 2007, at 25, she was chosen as the face (and body) of a Nike campaign; starred in a slew of music videos for Rihanna, Usher, Ne-Yo and Madonna; and starred in two of Madonna’s tours. But when she turned her focus to acting, she gave up dancing for good — the last time she was onstage was at Madonna’s 2012 Super Bowl halftime show.

 

“I haven’t even taken a dance class,” she says. “I can’t mess with it. Dancing is too dear to me and I would want to perfect it. I really love acting and I feel like I should give it a proper go.”

 

That year, Boutella landed the lead in StreetDance 2; since then she has built up her career with a breakout role as Kingsman: The Secret Service’s blade-legged assassin and as alien Jaylah in Star Trek Beyond.

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Video: “The Mummy” Cast at AOL Build in NYC

Press: Introducing Sofia Boutella, Your Newest Mummy

 

VANITY FAIR – The Algerian actress, who plays the namesake character in the Tom Cruise remake of the Universal classic, is this season’s breakout action star.

 

AGE: 35.

 

PROVENANCE: Bab el Oued, Algeria.

 

ON POINT: “My family was artistic and encouraged me to express myself. I was a show-off, so they took me to ballet class.”

 

AU REVOIR: “Times were hard for my country when I was young. France had more opportunities, so we left.”

 

INTO THE GROOVE: In Paris, Boutella danced professionally—“it taught me discipline”—and, at 20, she was introduced to Madonna. “We worked together for 10 years. Being on tour is a unique dynamic because its pace is so intense and special. You grow up fast.”

 

BACKGROUND TO FOREGROUND: “Acting has always been a strong force in my life, but it was hard to change direction. I didn’t make a paycheck for two years.”

 

UNWRAPPED: After starring in Kingsman: The Secret Service and Star Trek Beyond, this summer Boutella plays the title role in The Mummy. “It was important that she was a strong female character who paid respect to the original 1932 film.” As for her co-star? “Tom Cruise is incredible! He loves moviemaking, so it was a pure joy to be on set.”

 

BOMBSHELL: In July, Boutella will continue her action streak, opposite Charlize Theron in David Leitch’s Atomic Blonde. “I love that I can say that I’m busy. Storytelling is important, so I keep exploring and reading, to see what may be out there.”

 

The other photos from the shoot are in the gallery.

Gallery Link:

  • Photoshoots > #064

Press: Sofia Boutella on breathing new life into a classic monster

She stars alongside Tom Cruise in the first instalment of Universal’s planned Dark Universe, revisiting the studio’s litany of iconic creatures of the night

 

INDEPENDENT – A monster is never just that, a monster.

 

Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man; whatever ghouls or goblins may stalk the pages of books or the edges of silver screens, they represent a nightmare far more primitive and deep-stirring than their initial frights.

 

The fear that death is only illusionary, the fear of science and the perils of playing God, or of the beast that dwells within all mankind; each of them distilled into mythical beings who give those terrors a name and a face.

 

“It’s not just a monster walking around,” Sofia Boutella states. “If you look at the original ones, they’re interesting, profound metaphors.” She plays the titular creature of Universal’s new take on The Mummy, now transformed from the lovesick priest Boris Karloff played in the 1932 original and into the vengeful princess Ahmanet, battling against Tom Cruise’s hero Nick Morton.

 

Boutella describes a distinctly cinephilic childhood, one that saw her readily absorb the original Mummy and other monster offerings, and her love for and knowledge of this world is deeply self-evident.

 

She recounts to me how early cinematic versions of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, namely the 1931 film starring Fredric March and its 1941 remake, saw the character’s ape-like transformation driven by an inability to consume his feelings towards the woman he loved due to the limitations of his era’s moralistic society. “Isn’t that brilliant?” she concludes with. “Every single one of them has an identity that’s special to them.”

 

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde make their return in 2017’s The Mummy, as played by Russell Crowe. He may no longer be lusting over unattainable women, but that primitive drive still remains; it’s a respect for the original material that Boutella, as a fan, was ardent to keep intact.

 

“When I sat down with Alex [Kurtzman, the film’s director], I told him, how are you going to do this? What are your feelings and thoughts? He wanted to give homage to the original ones, and still adapt it to modern times and adapt it to the technology we have now. That’s what made me fall the most in love with it, because I love the original ones.”

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Press: Meet Sofia Boutella: Bazaar’s June Cover Star

An intoxicating hybrid of strength, artfulness and femininity, Bazaar meets Sofia Boutella, one of the Arab world’s most enchanting exports

 

HARPER’S BAZAAR ARABIA – There’s a name that you should know. A face that you should recognise. But you’ll be forgiven for being unaware of either. They belong to Sofia Boutella, a 35-year-old Algerian artiste. An accomplished dancer, she’s worked with Michael Jackson and Rihanna, toured with Madonna, and appeared in Nike Women’s advertising campaigns; as an actor she’s landed parts in Kingsman: The Secret Service and Star Trek Beyond. In one way or another she has been performing since she was five, yet it is this month’s blockbuster, The Mummy, that will prove her most significant entrée. Top-billed against co-star Tom Cruise, Sofia claims the title role as Ahmanet, an ancient Egyptian princess whose ambitions of ruling are put aside in favour of a male heir. Hers is a dark and compelling performance. Her name is here to stay. Her face you won’t forget.

 

Rich olive skin, a razor-edged fringe that exaggerates sharp cheekbones, deep brown eyes framed by thick brows, and a mellifluous French accent… Sofia is an editorial dream – a beautiful blank canvas on which to play out fashion’s greatest fantasies. She wore Chanel haute couture to present at the Academy Awards in February and, reprising the moment for the cover shoot with Harper’s Bazaar Arabia in Los Angeles last month, she created a masterpiece of movement, a feminine fluidity that brought together her dancer’s dexterity with the theatricals of her artistry. Poetry in motion. There’s a delicacy to the imagery, but strength and power too. Sofia is all of these things and more. But to understand her present, one must scratch a little at her past.

 

Born in 1982 in the Bab El Oued district of Algiers, Sofia (whose surname Boutella translates as ‘the men of the mountain’) recalls a childhood filled with beautiful memories. “We were always in nature. In our family home we had a big, dishevelled garden, with deer, dogs, chickens and cats. There was a rundown old carriage that we would pretend had horses attached to it. I grew up in a very beautiful way, in a family that always encouraged me, and my calling to be artistic. We were raised to be open-minded, creative, to use our imaginations.” Raised by two artists – her father is a jazz musician, her mother an architect – she feels “blessed to be born into a family that allowed me to express myself, to be myself and let out all sorts of colours that were living in my imagination and in my heart.”

 

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Press: 2017 Hollywood Heroines

 

THE EDIT/NET-A-PORTER – Welcome to our annual Women in Hollywood portfolio. For 2017, one choice was a no-brainer: next month, Patty Jenkins becomes the first female director of a female-led superhero movie with Wonder Woman. It’s a big moment for Hollywood and gender equality, not to mention a must-see film. Joining her is producer Kimberly Steward, whose very first feature film project was an Oscar winner, and three actresses transitioning from under-the-radar talents to fully fledged stars, Sofia Boutella, Zoey Deutch and Sasha Lane, who have so much more than beauty to recommend them. Make a point of watching their work this year.

 

 

SOFIA BOUTELLA

 

After working as a dancer for Madonna, Hollywood beckoned for Algerian-born Boutella, 35, via action franchises like Kingsman and Star Trek. This year, she takes on The Mummy with Tom Cruise and David Leitch’s Atomic Blonde.

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