Hollywood’s New Secret Weapon
An Interview with Sofia Boutella
Words By James Elizabeth Arnett
Photographer & Creative Director Viktorija Pashuta
Executive Producer Jackson Chong
Line Producer Tanya Quenko
Contributing Fashion Editor & Stylist Jennifer Mazur
MUA Kate Synnott
Hairstylist Castillo Bataille using Oribe
Manicurist Xuan Bui
Video Sebastian & Victor at Finedying.com
Photo Assistant Pepe Manzano
Art Director Roberta Hall
Interns Layall Dagher, Monica Samuel
Special Thank You to San Gabriel Valley Airport, Karena Xie at Golden Eagle Aviation Group, Gabe Lopez, Enrique M. Curioso, Robert Travis, Bruce Bush
Once a famed dancer for superstars like Madonna and brands like Nike, Sofia Boutella has made quite a jump to the big screen. From fight scenes to love stories, she gives James Bond a run for his money. We sat down with Boutella to discuss travel, her love of acting and top-secret tattoos.
“We were always encouraged to express ourselves and be creative and allow our imagination to flourish in any way, shape or form,” says Boutella.
The Algerian actress and former dancer has starred in some of the largest blockbusters of the past few years, including Atomic Blonde, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Star Trek: Beyond, and The Mummy. “I remember I had a section of the house that my mom gave me to draw [on],” she says of her mother’s artistic encouragement. “I was happy with it. It was not in the middle of the house. It was more of the back part of the house. But I thought it was cool to have done that and that I was allowed to do that.”
Growing up with a composer for a father and an architect mother, she couldn’t imagine being anything else but an artist. It would be a long journey before she took to the big screen. Fleeing Algeria at the outbreak of the Algerian Civil War, Boutella was only ten years old when her family relocated to France. “It was quite interesting because I remember going to school that morning and then I came back, the house was empty. Everything was different and it was a bit of a sensitive time. And when we left, my parents could not tell me that we were leaving because we had to leave quite quickly and discreetly. So, I came back to the house, we went to the airport, and then here I am on a plane on my way to France with my mom.”
Her travels didn’t end once she arrived in Paris. With a background in classical dance, she flew all over the world for her career. “Some of my favorite places were in South America. I love Brazil a lot. Italy is amazing. I remember dancing in Saint Petersburg, Russia, which was magical. France is quite amazing because it holds a very engaging audience.” After booking a dance audition that turned out to be a movie, she began thinking of transitioning to acting. But it would take almost another decade to entirely make the switch.
“I reached maybe 27 or 26. I started wondering what I would do, or what I was doing, whether I was hiding behind the fact that I was essentially a dancer, and a pretty successful dancer. I was very lucky and I was always busy and working. But I made the jump, and it was a tough time because it took me about, like, three years to make up my mind. And I didn’t make up my mind based on practicality or based on anything else, but what I truly had in my heart. I remember waking up one morning and having this deep feeling that I was just going to act, and it came to me that way. But I had questioned it for a very long time before I actually made the leap.”
And what keeps her acting?
“All that I care about is that I love stories. I love the relationships in them and various aspects of stories that I pay attention to or am attracted to. And they don’t really belong to a genre or style. And it’s not about the money. It’s more about the story that you’re telling.”
Boutella has made a career on roles once played solely by men. From a deadly assassin to a godlike mummy, she’s only scratched the surface of how far she is willing to go. “I think every actor sort of enjoys transforming to that extent. I definitely love transforming. I love pushing my limits, and I love becoming the character. To go as far away as I possibly can from myself. I mean, I think that’s what I’m looking for now when I read a script. The more I can transform, the more I can get away from myself, the more fun it is.”
When asked if she became intimidated with any of her costars, Boutella said, “If anything, it pushed me to work harder, and it pushed me to be the best I could possibly be for the role, you know? But it’s not about me or about myself, it’s about the character. So even if I have the person that I admire the most in front of me, it’s about the character and that’s what I have to think of. But I was definitely humbled many times with the actors, incredible actors, that I’ve [had] the chance to share the screen with.”
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