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.”