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Welcome to Sofia Boutella Source, your ultimate resource for French-Algerian dancer, model, and actress. Sofia has shared the stage with Madonna and Rihanna and danced in many music videos, including starring in Micheal Jackson's Hollywood Tonight video. She shot to fame as Gazelle in Kingsman: The Secret Service, an alien warrior named Jaylah in Star Trek Beyond, and the main antagonist, Princess Ahmanet, in The Mummy. Also, she starred with Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde as Delphine Lasalle. She was named Best New Action Star of 2017 by GQ Magazine and Female Star of Tomorrow by CinemaCon. In 2018, she starred opposite Jodie Foster in Hotel Artemis and the film adaption of Ray Bradbury's book Fahrenheit 451. She is starring in the upcoming French movie, Climax.
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By AliKat • June 10, 2018 • Climax, Hotel Artemis, Interview, Star Trek Beyond

COLLIDER – With Hotel Artemis opening in theaters this weekend, I recently sat down with Sofia Boutella for an interview. During the wide-ranging conversation, she talked about getting to work with writer-director Drew Pearce, why she wanted to be part of the film, how excited she was to work with Jodie Foster and Jeff Goldblum, the action scenes, and more. In addition, she talked about making Gaspar Noé’s Climax and the positive reaction at Cannes, if she knows what’s up with future Star Trek movies and a lot more.

 

If you’re not familiar with Hotel Artemis, the film takes place in a near-future Los Angeles and revolves around a secret members-only hospital that caters to criminals. Run by The Nurse (Jodie Foster), the hospital has various rules (including no weapons and no murdering other patients) that are put into question when an object of great value enters its gates. The film also stars Sterling K. Brown as “Waikiki,” Dave Bautista as “Everest,” Sofia Boutella as “Nice,” Jeff Goldblum as “The Wolf King/Niagara,” Brian Tyree Henry as “Honolulu,” Jenny Slate as “Morgan,” Zachary Quinto as “Crosby,” and Charlie Day as “Acapulco.” Hotel Artemis arrives in U.S. theaters on June 8th.

 

Check out what Sofia Boutella had to say below.

 

Collider: How’re you doing today?

 

BOUTELLA: Good. You know, the day after the premiere.

 

(laughs). Yeah, so you guys showed it last night?

 

BOUTELLA: Yeah.

 

You did press all day, then you showed the movie, and now you’re back here today doing press all day.

 

BOUTELLA: Yeah. (laughs). You know the drill. As you know, you know, it’s my first premiere in LA. So, I invited a lot of friends, and that consisted of a lot of chatting and a lot of catching up because I don’t spend a lot of time here. It was just lovely to have people over and to do that kind of work and have friends around.

 

Yeah. Also, the movie was shot in LA.

 

BOUTELLA: The movie was shot in LA. What a fucking chance! (laughs). You know, for Drew to have his first movie about a love letter to LA and being able to shoot in LA, in downtown LA. Not just LA, but downtown LA.

 

Completely. You’ve done a lot of roles where you’re wearing makeup. When you meet with Drew about this movie was your first question, “Am I wearing makeup?”

 

BOUTELLA: No, luckily I had read the script and then we talked and I saw in the script it was no makeup, which I loved. Then, we talked and he described it to me. Everything was on the page. I kept saying yesterday, the writing is so incredible. He envisioned the hotel, the hospital, and the whole world was exactly on the page and when I stepped on set- his vision was completely translated. He was extremely specific with his idea of what he wanted and that’s what I think everybody fell in love with, the original world. It’s so refreshing to read something like that.

 

Completely. Also, what’s interesting about it is that it’s noir and futuristic. Can you talk a little bit about the world because it takes place in 2028. It has 3D printing for medical stuff, it has futuristic stuff, but it’s also still retro.

 

BOUTELLA: Yeah, it is. It’s sort of a potluck of all the stuff. All the genres that he loves. He’s such a film gore. He loves different kinds of movies and he has specific references, and that’s his mish mash of all these films.

 

It’s also his first time directing a feature. Did you ever feel on set that it was his first time?

 

BOUTELLA: Honestly, he had everything under control. It was the most peaceful set I’ve ever been on. There wasn’t one day that I arrived- there’s no chaos. We shot quite fast, which I wasn’t used to, also for a feature. Everybody kept saying we shot like TV because we only had 31 or 32 days of filming, which is insane. Drew is in such a good mood at all time, and not faking it. I just think he was well prepared, and even if he was nervous he didn’t put any stress on us for sure. He came from a genuine place of past sion and serenity with everything. He was so grateful to have everything he had, and he was also so helpful for us.

 

The other thing is, which I was surprised to realize, was this is Jodie’s first movie in like 5 years.

 

BOUTELLA: Yeah, right! What was her last film?

 

Elysium.

 

BOUTELLA: True.

 

I realized this and I was like, Wow! When I was watching her on screen I was like, “I haven’t seen her on screen in a little bit.” What was it like working with her and the rest of the cast? He put together a great cast for this.

 

BOUTELLA: Yeah, he did. They keep coming, huh? The movie, it’s incredible. I used to watch Jodie Foster in French television when I was a kid. I remember my mom telling me, “Look at how well she speaks French,” and me thinking, “She’s not French?” When I was super young, not knowing yet who she was, I think I was 10 years old. I still remember because she is incredible. She has zero accent. You rarely hear foreigners speaking French without an accent. I’ve always followed her after that. I remember watching her in The Accused and what an incredible performance. That’s aside from playing Clarice in Silence of the Lambs, and all the movies that we know her from. I just thought, what an honor to be on screen with her. I was nervous at first, but she’s very selfless and easy to work with, and lovely and gentle. Acting with her and seeing her on the big screen what she does is incredible. She’s such a phenomenal actress, widely intelligent, and I feel very privileged to be on the screen with her.

 

She’s also a director.

 

BOUTELLA: She’s also a director, yeah.

 

You had some great dialogue moments, and you also got to kick some ass. Do you prefer one or the other? The dialogue moments or the ass kicking?

 

BOUTELLA: The ass kicking is what I’ve done the most to be honest (laughs). I enjoy that very much. I find the dialogue more challenging because English not being my first language is still something that I’m learning; it’s still something that I am challenging. For me, it’s my soft spot in the sense that it’s still something that I feel like I have so much to learn, and keep learning no matter what. My fight scene, I keep learning about that but it’s not- the dialogue scenes are the scenes I’m having the most fun with at the moment because I have everything to learn.

 

Memorable moments from filming Hotel Artemis. What’s the day or two you will always remember?

 

BOUTELLA: That fight scene. That fight scene was truly incredible. It was intense. That one day was hard and it was nonstop all day, and I did everything. The stunt double only did one movement, which was a front flip, with another stunt guy. The only reason why they did it was because insurance wouldn’t allow it. I did every single shot of it. It was draining and we did it in sequence because I wanted to take hits, there was blood and continuity issues with that. We kept doing the beginning a few times and the rest of it but it was a lot of fun. That was quite something for me.

 

Then, being on set with Jeff Goldblum was pretty incredible. The first time I went to the movies here it was to see Jurassic Park. I love when he acts because his gesture is very lavish. He acts with his hands and I couldn’t wait to hear him talk and act with him. The one scene I had with him his hands were tied up (laughs). Then he made me sing Mona Lisa by Nat King Cole on set because he’s a jazz musician, and he sings. So that was a lot of fun and my first day on set with Jodie was pretty incredible.

 

What is it- because with Star Trek and with some of the other roles, you had a lot of makeup. Which means getting on set way early and staying late. What is it like not having that? Instead of having to spend 4 hours doing additional stuff, you can just roll up in an hour.

 

BOUTELLA: Yeah, it’s a joy to be honest. It’s a joy. For the character that I played with makeup, once you have the makeup on it’s nearly impossible to play the character without that feeling. People look at you differently, you feel differently in your skin, and that’s that. Even if it takes a long time there’s no way around it. You have to go through it. You use it for your character. It’s like putting on a different pair of shoes. You feel differently. That’s necessary, once you start playing those characters with the makeup. Yes, coming on set and having just an hour in the makeup trailer is a joy.

 

I can only imagine (laughs). I’ve spoken to a lot of actors and when they leave set, some people, when they leave set they take a piece of that person they’re playing home and it never leaves them until they are done with the film.

 

BOUTELLA: Sometimes it stays forever.

 

Totally. My question is, when you leave set with someone you’re playing, can you flip the switch and shut if off and become you again? Or is it always with you during the shoot?

 

BOUTELLA: So, when I leave set- it’s a good question because I just did a movie, a Gaspar Noe movie which was pretty intense-

 

Climax.

 

BOUTELLA: Climax, yes. It happened so fast, it filmed super quickly. 15 days of filming, which is incredibly intense. I would go home in a certain state of mind. In the moment I don’t think I’m still in character, I don’t think I’m aspects of my character, or I’m still in character. You just are. Once you’re away from it you remember how you were between takes, or how you were when you went home. You’re like, “Oh, I totally stayed with the character until now. When you’re away from it you realize how much time you have spent with it.

 

One of the things is with Climax, I think he’s surprised with how good the reviews were.

 

BOUTELLA: Yeah, I saw him at the after party. He’s so cute- I adore him. He’s incredible. He’s different, he’s an incredible human being and insanely talented. He’s so funny, at the after party he came up to me and said, “Oh, the reviews are incredible! They’re so good,” and I said, “That’s great!” and he said “No, I don’t know what to do!” (laughs). “I don’t know how to behave and how to be when everything is so good.”

 

Well, it’s funny because I saw an interview or I saw some video of it. He literally is freaked by it.

 

BOUTELLA: He genuinely is.

 

When you were making it, did you have a feeling of this might play well?

 

BOUTELLA: I tend not to care, when I’m filming, about how the movie is going to do because my whole dedication is to the character and to the arc of the character. I was dead sober throughout the whole film because I needed my head on my shoulders. Not an ounce of substance to make me feel in anyway shape or form like how the character may feel because it was- I had to have my head on my shoulders in order to know where we were going, because we worked with 5 pages of script. 5 pages treatment. Everyday Gaspar and I, and everyone else, were to rehearse for 4 hours and then shoot like 14-17 takes. He really grabbed the camera on his shoulders. It’s like 8-10 minutes sequences- shots. That’s why we rehearse for 4 hours. Then we would shoot 13, 14, 17 takes. Every single day. It was long hours, long preparation and were do we go with the story. I would go back and forth with Gaspar constantly- what we could do and what I could do, what do you want to do tomorrow? We did not know. At the same time, how do you create an arc for a character that is so hard to be vigilant. I brought on board Nina McNeelly because when I met with Gaspar he told me about his process, what he wanted to do, and I knew Nina from being an incredible choreographer and what she understood and the depths from which she choreographs, I knew she would immediately get along with Gaspar and his vision. So, she choreographed the film and luckily we had an amazing choreographer. It was an incredible experience. I’ve never worked that way. I’m usually over prepared. I usually like to study and do a lot of research and none of that was possible in the film. I gained something else from it- thinking on my feet and sort of using my instrument that way, and improvising that way. I absolutely loved working with him, and I’m so grateful that there are directors like that out there.

 

The other thing is arguably it took you out of your comfort zone, which hopefully you can apply to other things.

 

BOUTELLA: Yes, I hope so. I mean this last film I shot, and I can’t wait to have my next project and be on set and see what happens, having gained that experience. I’m grateful for him. At the end of the day, even if he was criticized, even if you don’t like his movies, you’re watching something and you can feel something.

 

Totally, he’s a unique artist. So Fahrenheit 451 recently premiered. Do you feel like you’re in a moment right now between everything that’s going on?

 

BOUTELLA: You realize it more once you’re doing the promo for something, I suppose. Once you’re filming, you’re isolated- I mean I was lucky enough to be filming project by project and not being dispersed but once they come out its another story. You deal with them sometimes at the same time. Yesterday, I had to do press for this for the first time and I thought- wait, what movie are we talking about? For a second yesterday somebody was like, “So, tell me who you’re playing,” and all the characters blended together, Climax, Farenheit came in my head- no, no it’s Hotel Artemis. I’ve only stopped dancing 5 years ago, and I really wanted to focus on acting. I just want to work. I just want to work my instrument. I don’t want to take time off. I want to film and I enjoy being on set. Everything is so condensed and compact.

 

A lot of actors…it’s the publicity that drains them. Not the filming the movies.

 

BOUTELLA: Publicity is a lot, but I think I’ve learned early on, and somebody told me you cannot hate the publicity side of it. If you loved filming, and even if you don’t love the publicity, because it is draining to repeat the same answers over and over and talk to different people answering the same questions over and over. You know what, I understand it now. You have to defend something you believe in, something you loved making. We’re not learning to love talking about it, not liking the publicity side of it, it goes against the purpose of wanting to act, period.

 

People really dug your character in Star Trek Beyond. Is there any talk of more of that?

 

BOUTELLA: I think so, but I can’t say anything about it because I don’t have any specific information myself. Everything’s secretive until it comes out because it belongs to such an important franchise. Right now, I think they’re working on things but I haven’t heard anything about my character yet but for the next film, I’m more than happy to be back with everybody, the boys, and Zoe. I absolutely loved filming that and this movie means a lot to me.

 

My last thing for you. What’s coming up for you next? Do you know some of the other projects you might be doing?

 

BOUTELLA: There are some talks, but nothing I can talk about specifically at the moment, I promise. Otherwise I would. Right now, it’s just the release of Climax, which just got bought my A24.

 

Great company.

 

BOUTELLA: Yeah, I love them and I trust every movie they take on board. I’m always thrilled to watch anything that they work on. Everything after that unfolded. Every country bought it. So, I’m excited to see where that goes.

 

On that note I have to stop. Congrats on the movie and pleasure to see you again.

 

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