Category: Press

Press: Sofia Boutella calls her ‘Mummy’ character ‘the ultimate feminist’

LA TIMES – Actress Sofia Boutella embodies the titular character in the latest version of “The Mummy,” a reinterpretation of the 1932 Boris Karloff film and a reboot of Universal’s monster franchise. It shouldn’t be notable that Boutella’s furious ancient Egyptian villain is female, but it is.

 

“Why aren’t monsters being played by women?” Boutella muses, lying on a couch during an interview here. “If you piss off a woman she’s far more brutal than a man. How come they didn’t think about that before?”

 

Boutella, 35, has selected one of Dior’s “We Should All Be Feminists” shirts to wear while doing press for the movie, which opens Friday. She doesn’t mean it as a political statement, but more as a general comment on why it’s important to have equal representation on film. She’s just pleased to be part of one that doesn’t downgrade its female characters.

 

“Ahmanet is the ultimate feminist, I think,” Boutella says of her character, an Egyptian royal who is denied her shot at becoming pharaoh because she’s not a man, thus igniting her wrath. “What happened to her is something that’s always existed and, weirdly, still does, being prevented from ever becoming pharaoh because her father has a child and the child is a boy. She’s not OK with that. She doesn’t victimize herself. And the movie also does not victimize her.”

 

Boutella originally turned down the role in director Alex Kurtzman’s film; she didn’t want to play an angry monster, but a woman with real complexity and a back story. “But as much as I said no to begin with I’m so grateful I said yes,” Boutella says. “I feel lucky to be part of this film.”

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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: Actress Sofia Boutella opens up about taking a chance on tricky films

 

THE NATIONAL – Even at the highest ­level, acting is still about playing dress-up. “When I was little, I used to put costumes on,” explains Sofia Boutella, relaxing in her hotel suite holding a cup of honey and lemon. “I wore my mum’s stuff. I would wear big dresses and try to fit in her heels, and put a hat on that didn’t fit me. Stuff like that. It’s more fun when you can look the least like yourself as possible.”

 

If it’s a trick to help preserve her anonymity as she climbs the Hollywood ladder, the Algerian-born actress has managed that pretty well so far. She was the high-kicking, blade-footed assassin in Kingsman: The Secret Service and the white-faced alien scavenger Jaylah in last year’s Star Trek Beyond.

 

Now co-starring with Tom Cruise, she’s just as unrecognisable as the title character in Universal’s new horror reboot, The Mummy. Playing Princess Ahmanet, the mummified Egyptian royal who plans to wreak havoc on the world after her slumber is disturbed, it’s the perfect disguise. But Boutella has no desire to hide on screen – a former dancer for Madonna, she’s a total perfectionist.

 

“I was doing this training for The Mummy, and I filmed myself,” she says. “Watching it, it didn’t look right. I thought: ‘How can we fix that?’ And that’s what I do, when I watch the end result.”

 

Directed by Alex Kurtzman, a former screenwriter whose credits include Star Trek and Cruise’s Mission: Impossible III, The Mummy is the first in a planned series of horror movies reviving the classic Universal monsters of the past. The so-called Dark Universe will see the return of Van Helsing, The Wolfman, The Invisible Man, the Creature from the Black Lagoon and next, in 2019, the Bride of Frankenstein.

 

For The Mummy, Boutella admits it was an “exhausting” process – certainly compared to playing Jaylah in Star Trek Beyond. “The Mummy is something else. The stages where you see her, and meet her, and she regenerates – that requires research and tests, and that was quite tiring. I think it’s one of those films where you can always be one inch from being the worst film ever. It’s finding that fine line.” What does she mean exactly?

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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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