Category: Interview

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.

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  • 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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Wild at Heart

 

“That’s so dark!”

 

Sofia Boutella is riding shotgun in my car, perhaps the filthiest vehicle currently on the road in West Hollywood, when she spots a stroller sitting on the sidewalk, abandoned in the dazzling Los Angeles sun. We’re on our way to her dentist, running 20 minutes late for an appointment to get her teeth cleaned. “That’s so dark,” she repeats. “What a weird vision. What a weird sight. There are some things it feels like you’re not supposed to see.”

 

This is not how the afternoon was meant to go.

 

The plan was pretty standard: I would meet Boutella on the rooftop of a hip Hollywood hotel. We would sip cocktails and take in the view. I would ask her questions about working opposite Tom Cruise in The Mummy, in which she plays the title role, as well as her part alongside Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde, both of which release this summer. She would tell me some mild Hollywood gossip, repeat a bunch of platitudes about hard work and keeping her head on straight, and send me on my way to write A Celebrity Profile: a greased-lens look at her and her life, constructed in order to give the public a relatable Sofia Boutella character to imagine floating from rooftop to red carpet and set to set.

 

And in fact, though our time together was replete with lifestyle details—our French fries were sprinkled with truffle oil and Parmesan—it was also dotted with pedestrian inconveniences, the kind of humdrum low-key annoyances that are hallmarks of recognizably civilian life. For instance, the rooftop bar didn’t serve French fries, or any food for that matter, and we were both starving, so we ended up in the dark, loud downstairs restaurant instead. A series of scheduling snafus had accidentally sent Boutella to a different hotel before she met me, so we only had a brief window to eat and talk, which is how I ended up steering her through pre-rush hour traffic while I fired off questions and she finished the last of her fries in the passenger seat. It was an intense afternoon—not dreamy, not “relatable,” but mostly very ordinary: two slightly harried early-30s women trying to do their jobs. Which makes sense: Boutella has never been that into the glamorizing softness of a neatly turned narrative anyway.

 

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Algerian Actress Sofia Boutella on Her Meteoric Rise in Hollywood

 

Under a vanilla sky, in a dusty, open field, a small group of children no older than 10 kicks around a soccer ball. It’s a typical scene in Bab El Oued, a bustling neighborhood of Algiers. On closer inspection, however, the ball reveals itself to be nothing more than a big clump of sticky tape. It is bundled together and tossed around to the delight of the laughing girls and boys, oblivious to their underprivileged environment. “Those years in Algeria were some of the best of my life,” says Sofia Boutella from her home in Los Angeles. With two films scheduled for a summer release – The Mummy in June and Atomic Blonde in July – it’s difficult to imagine any one of the dancer-turned-actor’s 35 years to be anything short of extraordinary.

 

In a tone that is borderline blasé, Boutella tells me that she is gearing up to embark on her first international press tour for The Mummy, along with her co-stars Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe. The trailers for the film feature the usual explosion scenes and run-for-your-life sprints associated with action star Cruise. Boutella plays the headline role of the mummy, Princess Ahmanet. Thousands of years ago, the princess was chosen to be Egypt’s next queen – but her ambition got the better of her, and she was buried alive. Resurrected as “the mummy,” Boutella’s character is a tornado of fury. Her ghost roars through the wind, menacing entire cities; her athletic body breaks through chains; her eyes flicker with feral emotion – mostly hate and vengeance. In other words, don’t expect Boutella to play a lifeless prop in bandages. It’s not her first brush with Egyptian role-play, either: in 2012, she was a principal backup dancer for Madonna’s Cleopatra-themed Super Bowl halftime show. “I stopped dancing because I wanted to dedicate everything to acting,” says Boutella. Another reason, perhaps, is that she already twirled her way to the pinnacle of success as a dancer in the entertainment industry. With even Michael Jackson and Madonna reportedly fighting over her to perform in their respective tours, there were little to no challenges left for her to overcome.

 

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Meet Sofia Boutella, the new Mummy

‘It was important to me that this character had a backstory, you know?’

 

 

Trained as a dancer with a long résumé in music videos, actress Sofia Boutella has exploded on to the blockbuster scene in the last few years with scene-stealing roles in Kingsman: The Secret Service and Star Trek Beyond. Boutella’s got a pair of high-profile roles this summer. In Atomic Blonde, she shares a steamy scene with Charlize Theron. Expect less steam, and much more immortal terror, in The Mummy, the Universal reboot of its iconic undead monster. Boutella plays Princess Ahmanet – the first time that the 85-year-old franchise has featured a female character in the title role. The actress talked to EW for our Summer Movie Preview about the roots of Ahmanet’s rage and the research that went into the role.

 

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Can you tell us a little bit about your character’s backstory?
 

SOFIA BOUTELLA: I’m an Egyptian princess who is promised to become Pharaoh, and is deceived by her father. He removes that promise from her because he has a child, and the child is a son. Having nothing to lose, she summons the wrong god, in order to get what she wanted, that power that will give her what she was promised. She’s put aside for a very long time because she became dangerous. In modern times, she comes back, to go after what she was promised to receive, to begin with.

 

Given that motivation, her actions seem a little more justified than the typical monster-movie villain.
 

It was important to me that this character had a backstory, you know? It’s the first time that you see a female Mummy. She can’t be just a monster walking around scaring people. There needs to be something significant her shining through. To explore that psychology in her, what happened to her as a woman: Being deceived, because there’s a boy who comes into the picture all of a sudden.

 

So what’s it like to be buried in a coffin?

 

It felt very claustrophobic. I couldn’t move on my own. I had to be moved from the table where they were wrapping me to the coffin. I’d never felt like that before. It felt really real. It’s truly intimidating. It made me feel not that great, to be honest! [laughs] I couldn’t talk, too. Very oppressing!

 

What kind of research did you do for getting into the character? Did you watch the past Mummy movies?
 

I did watch the 1932 one. I’ve seen it in the past when I was little, but I wanted to see it again, to look at what Boris Karloff did. I researched a lot about Egyptian mythology and Egyptian civilization. I researched kings and queens: How they would carry themselves, how they were painted and portrayed. I needed to get inside of Ahmanet, and I needed to find that rhythm.

 

When you’re powerful like that, especially in the time, respect was approached differently. People used to respect royalty to an insane extent that doesn’t exist nowadays. These people never shouted. They never moved, really. Their effort was minimum. They were the most powerful people, but they were just calm.

 

The Mummy will introduce audiences to a new cinematic universe focused on the Universal monsters. I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, but would you want to explore this character further in another movie?

 

Yes, of course! I really love her. I enjoyed exploring every aspect of her. I think she’s a complex character. Her story, and where she comes from, is really interesting to play.

 

The Mummy is out June 9.

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