Category: Interview

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Press: Iris Covet Book Interview

IRIS COVET BOOK – Positioned to take the main stage with two summer flicks set to be box office smashes, playing opposite Tom Cruise in The Mummy and alongside Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde, Sofia Boutella is ready for her close-up.

 

 

Photography by Ellen Von Unwerth | Styling by Deborah Afshani | Art Direction by Louis Liu | Editor Marc Sifuentes | Interview by Dustin Mansyur | Dress by J GERARD

 

Sofia Boutella is about to blow out the candle on a chocolate lava cake served up graciously by the pastry team at Chateau Marmont. Glasses of champagne are lined up across a low wooden table, ready to serve. Swarthy and saturnine, Boutella sweeps her dark locks to one side and leans over the cake, pausing momentarily as she closes her eyes to make a wish, before extinguishing the flame with a flash of her infectious smile. “Bravo!” everyone cheers while Sofia flits a bashful round of thanks. The celebration is actually impromptu during a lunch break, and Sofia is on-set for a photoshoot with Ellen Von Unwerth at the famed West Hollywood hotel. Birthday or no birthday, embodying a femme fatale for a crème-de-la-femme celebrity photographer is all in a day’s work for Boutella, who’s poised to unleash her prowess with two movies in this summer’s highly-anticipated release of Alex Kurtzman’s latest installment of The Mummy and David Leitch’s spy thriller, Atomic Blonde. Maintaining her coquettish sensuality while kicking ass is a razor wire that Boutella jetes upon with ease, even if it involves otherworldly makeup or taking a punch on set.

 

Hailing from Algiers, the ingénue actress is actually a multi-faceted artist who began her career as an internationally-acclaimed dancer, enrolling in classical dance education at the age of 5. Later, when her family moved to France, Sofia continued dancing, adding rhythmic gymnastics to her education, and joining the French national team by the age of 18. In 2006, with her dance troupe The Vagabond Crew, Boutella went on to win the World Championship Hip Hop Battle, making her an undeniable force in the world of dance. With several smaller film and commercial appearances already under her belt, she made a breakout appearance in a series of iconic Nike campaigns choreographed by legendary choreographer and creative director, Jamie King. Quickly garnering the interest of several high-profile musicians, Boutella found herself dancing for Madonna, Michael Jackson, Rihanna, Usher and many others. Breaking out on the big screen, her most recent film appearances include Justin Lin’s Star Trek Beyond co-starring Zoe Saldana, Chris Pine, and Zachary Quinto and Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, alongside Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson.

 

Here IRIS Covet Book shares a conversation with the blockbuster beauty about lesbian love scenes and mystic monsters with heart.

 

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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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