It was in a video campaign for Nike that the world started to pay attention to Sofia Boutella: her fierceness, her athleticism, and dance moves that could knock your face off. Now, she’s a legitimate movie star, with roles in Stark Trek and most recently, The Mummy, starring as the first female to play the role of the Mummy in the movie franchise. While she was in Australia, we caught up with her to talk training, transformations, and what it was like to beat up Tom Cruise.
InStyle: This must have been a fun role for you.
Sofia: Yes. I saw the film for the first time [at the Australian premiere], and I had a lot of fun watching it and I had a lot of fun making it. I thought it was such an honour. I grew up watching the movies and I love the Boris Karloff film The Mummy [released in 1932] and I loved it. I watched it again when I was given this role. I felt a bit pressured because I tend to do that. And walking in Boris Karloff’s footsteps over 80 years after the first Mummy was quite an honour.
Do you do your own stunts?
Yes, and I had to for this movie. I’ve done all my stunts for all the movies I’ve been in.
So that bit where you’re climbing up the chain upside down, that’s all you?
Yes. And you know, even though I dance so much, I don’t like being upside down. All the blood flowing to my brain made me feel uneasy, it felt a bit like car sickness. And we rehearsed it so many times. And it was an important scene. I had to hit the chain like a spider, very daintily with sharp movements.
What sort of physical training did you have to do?
I did a lot of pilates and boxing to condition myself, but I also did a lot of stick fighting. But it’s so important to be healthy. When you’re on set, and even in your preparation, it requires so much from you.
How long did makeup take for this character?
There were several different ones. One took six hours, but the shortest was four. They’re very meticulous, even the Egyptian one with the blue and turquoise underneath the eyes. They were wigs. Egyptians actually always wore wigs because they shaved their heads. So that’s what we did for the whole film. It was quite a long process. We did 24 screen tests. It was important to nail the look of the Mummy.
What was it like beating up Tom Cruise in that fight scene?
It was fun [laughs]. He’s so good at this, I thought “I have to nail this the way he does.” I had to bring myself to do it at the level he was doing it. He did all his stunts over three days before me, which was great because I got to observe him. Then I did my stunts and he made sure I was hooked in properly, he made sure I was safe. He looked after me massively. And then I had to find this anger to slap him around, which was hard because I adore the man [laughs]. I’m also not an aggressive person in real life, so having to find that anger, I had to search deep, deep within myself to find those colours.
Going on your characters in Kingsman and Star Trek, would it be fair to say you prefer physical roles?
Matthew Vaughn gave me an incredible opportunity with Kingsman, because I had never done any stunts before; I used to be a dancer. And he saw in me that I could learn. So I trained two months for that, doing taekwondo and kickboxing. I had never done any stunts in my life. I think Gazelle is an iconic character and Matthew made her that way. People who saw the movie after that thought I was good at this. I think a lot of great roles have come to me since that movie. It’s not that I prefer them exactly, I’ve just been lucky to have read scripts that are so good in that genre. As an actress, I am open to anything, it depends on the material I read. It just so happens that everything I’ve read has been so good.
The Mummy is out now on DVD.