As Princess Ahmanet, Sofia Boutella brings feminine power to a classic monster in The Mummy.
If audiences weren’t already familiar with French-Algerian dancer Sofia Boutella from her dynamic physical performances in Star Trek Beyond and Kingsman: The Secret Service, then there’s no excuse today.
As well as starring in the title role of The Mummy, opposite Russell Crowe and Tom Cruise, she lends her street-smart style to Atomic Blonde’s Delphine, an ingenue double agent.
Her Atomic Blonde co-star Charlize Theron is certainly smitten with Boutella, even holding hands at this year’s annual CinemaCon event in Las Vegas – and after meeting with Boutella, 35, on the backlot of Universal Studios in Hollywood last month, STACK confesses to a bit of a girl crush too.
Boutella, of course, learned all her moves touring the world with Madonna and Rihanna also featuring in videos for Take That, Chris Brown, Ne-Yo and Usher as well as for Madge.
Just five years old when she began training in ballet, five years later she moved with her family to Paris where she began rhythmic gymnastics and joined the French national team, aged 18.
Boutella is nobody’s fool and relishes in her feminine power, her Mummy bringing Cruise and Crowe to their knees.
“Women are emotional beings and I think that whenever you really wound a woman, you attack her pride and the reaction can be worse than what a man would do,” she muses. “In Ancient Egypt especially, women were full of this pride, which is what motivates my character. When she was young, her father promised her that she’d become pharaoh but she was deceived. All she knows is honour and respect – even if that means killing her father who is in the way.
“I did a lot of research about royalty at the time and how someone who commands respect doesn’t raise their voice beyond a certain level. It took a while but the character came to me. You can’t force it. You’ve just got to get into the right headspace and then one day you wake up and think, ‘Whoa, there’s something happening’. I love feeling that shift.“
The difference was significant. “Once I found my power, Tom [Cruise] told me, ‘You command the room’.”
Interestingly, Boutella had no interest in taking The Mummy role when it was first offered. “I turned it down because I had just finished making Star Trek which involved so much make-up,” says the actress, who portrayed Jaylah in Star Trek Beyond.
But director Alex Kurtzman sold her on delving into the psychology of the role first made famous by Boris Karloff, although now completely transformed by Boutella’s Princess Ahmanet.
She didn’t complain when it turned out that The Mummy took even more time in the make-up chair than Jaylah. “It took 24 screen tests to find the character in every single aspect of the movie, because the tattoos evolve from when we first meet her in Ancient Egypt to her regeneration and then her final form. The longest make-up days took six hours in the chair.”
Although she has just one scene with Crowe, she remains enamored of Australia’s finest. “I was frustrated because we didn’t even exchange any dialogue in our one scene but, even so, he was around and we still stay in touch. He’s such a normal cool dude and I love that about him. I remember the first time he was on set, I whispered to the director, ‘Can I stick around?’ because I was dying to see Russell act. His voice transports me. I could listen to him read the phone book.”
Check out this behind the scenes footage