OUR INTERVIEW WITH SOFIA BOUTELLA
By Crash redaction
Photo : James Mountford
Climbing the stairs at Cannes is a familiar exercise for Sofia Boutella. Though still little known among French audiences, the young Franco-Algerian actress is already a star across the pond after starring in several American blockbusters. Eighteen years after the first remake of The Mummy, the new version with Tom Cruise will hit French theaters on June 14. From hip-hop music videos for Rihanna, Chris Brown, Ne-YO, and Usher, to her lead role as Eva in Street Dance 2, we take a look back on the multitalented young actress’s career.
Tell us a bit about yourself and where you come from…
I was born in Algeria, then moved to Paris when I was 10, and to Los Angeles when I was 24.
You grew up in France… What can you tell us about your experience in this country? How did you end up going to the USA?
I spent my whole adolescence in France and danced a lot there. It was in Paris that I switched from ballet to hip hop, so it represents quite a significant part of my life. When I came to the US, I was on tour with Madonna (Confessions Tour) in Tokyo and had been on the road for almost the entire year. When they asked me where I wanted to go back after the tour, I still had two months left on my US visa since we had rehearsed for the tour in LA. So that’s where I said I wanted to go. It was kind of a dare, maybe just for myself, but once I was there I really loved it and decided to stay.
You are first and foremost a dancer. You even got invited to dance on tour with Madonna. How did that happen?
It was all through Jaime King, really. When I met Jaime, he had been Madonna’s stage director for 8 or 9 years, but he was the one who first booked me for Nike. Then, Madonna was releasing Confessions on a Dance Floor and getting ready for the tour for that, so he introduced me to her and they ended up booking me for the tour as well. It was the first time I had ever danced in heels, but she told me, “There’s a first time for everything.”
How did you start acting?
I started acting when I was 17. I went innocently to an audition my friend had told me was happening in Paris. It was for a movie called Dance Challenge, or Le défi in French. I ended up booking it and played the love interest of the lead guy. It was a musical and I had to dance a lot in it, but I really enjoyed filming and ended up taking classes from there.
For your first three productions you interpreted dancer roles. But then from 2014 you started interpreting different characters, like the villain Gazelle in Kingsman: The Secret Service or Jaylah in Star Trek Beyond… Is it something you want to develop more than dance? Or do you find a way to do both?
I stopped dancing five years ago and haven’t danced professionally since. Right now I’m really committed to acting and want to focus on that. I may come back to dance eventually, but for now I have stopped.
What does cinema bring you exactly? And what do you want to bring to others?
I think movies have the power to inspire people, to change people’s lives, or send a message. But also the power to just entertain people and give them a window toward another world, a sense of imagination and a way to exit their everyday lives. Movies have a lot of strong powers.
Tell us about your upcoming projects for 2017: first Atomic Blonde, directed by David Leitch and also starring Charlize Theron… Things get hot between you and Charlize! We want all the details about filming that scene…
I loved filming the movie. I think Charlize is phenomenal in the film and it’s a great spy film. I think it’s very cool to see a strong woman kicking ass the way she does in the film. I appreciated that the director David Leitch, who comes from the stunt world, didn’t see me as a go-to stunt girl. Charlize is such a pro. We were very comfortable with each other and we just really went for it. But it was all much more technical than it looks.
You will also star in The Mummy, directed by Alex Kurtzman, opposite Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe where you portray princess Ahmanet…
Yes, I play Ahmanet, an ancient Egyptian princess who is promised to become Pharaoh. But then something happens and it is taken away from her. So she summons the gods, but makes a deal with the wrong god. When she comes back in modern day as The Mummy, she unleashes a terrifying force upon the world, driven by her revenge and bitter fury. But it was important to me that there be a psychology to her. A reason why she does what she does. I also did research on ancient Egypt and the country’s mythology, on the kings and queens and how they carried themselves. I found it very interesting that many of these people didn’t move faster or exert any more effort than they needed to. They never raised their voice and commanded from something far deeper than what meets the eye.
In all your roles you’re always very dressed up… I think fashion forms an integral part of a character. Is it as much important in your private life?
I wouldn’t say it’s important, but I have fun with it. I wake up feeling different every day, and have different styles in my back pocket that I like to try out and experiment with. I dress differently depending on how I feel when I wake up.
What are you plans for the future? What would you like to do next?
I’m really trying to take it one day at a time. I have a very busy summer on tour for The Mummy and promoting Atomic Blonde. But I’m also going to shoot a movie with Jodie Foster called Hotel Artemis that I’m really excited about. Ultimately I’m just looking for interesting and creative projects to explore.
Interview by Anna Ceravolo.