From dancing teen to Star Trek and Hollywood star
Film fans may recognise the face – but not necessarily know the name of French-Algerian actress Sofia Boutella, who stars alongside Tom Cruise in this summer’s blockbuster The Mummy (screened in French cinemas from June 14).
But it surely will not be long before the in-demand Boutella is a household name.
She already has big-budget action film credits to her name.
She was the near-silent blade-running assassin and Samuel L. Jackson’s right-hand woman in sweary all-action spy comedy Kingsman: The Secret Service. And she played alien warrior Jaylah in Star Trek: Beyond, the third film in JJ Abrams’ reboot of the sci-fi franchise.
The buzz around Boutella is so loud that film industry bible IMDB named her alongside Oscar-winner Brie Larson, and Stranger Things stars Millie Bobby Brown and Natalia Dyer as one of the Top 10 Breakout Stars of 2016.
She was born in Bab El Oued, Algeria,
the daughter of a jazz musician father Safy Boutella and an architect mother. Her brothers and extended family are all involved in the visual arts, and Boutella developed a passion for dance at an early age, starting classical dance classes at the
age of just five.
When she was 10, she and her parents moved to France to escape the brewing civil war in her home country.
She has said that, only later, did she begin to understand the reasons for the family’s move to France.
Her dancing leaned towards sports, switching from classical dance to rhythmic gymnastics, and she joined the French national team when she was 18.
From the age of 17, the young dancer had been rehearsing with famous choreographer/director and actress Bianca Li. This helped secure minor appearances in films and commercials. Meanwhile, as she excelled in Hip Hop and street dance, she joined dance groups such as ‘The Vagabond Crew’ – later better known as the ‘Chienne de vie and Aphrodites’ crew.
Her breakthrough, however, came when she was chosen for a Nike commercial in 2007. The advert, choreographed by creative director and producer Jamie King, exposed her femininity and dancing skills to the world, opening doors to further her career.
She then danced alongside Madonna and Rihanna, and was invited to join Michael Jackson’s This Is It tour – but could not attend. However, she acted and danced in Michael Jackson’s Hollywood Tonight video.
But her dancing career hid a different ambition – to be a movie star. She moved to Los Angeles and took two years out to develop her acting skills, and started to land increasingly large roles in a range of films, though she seems drawn to all-action sci-fi and fantasy movies.
In 2012, she starred as Eva in Street Dance 2. Since then, she has acted in or signed up for eight Hollywood films, and is now regularly fielding offers rather than chasing them.
As well as The Mummy she will this year star alongside Charlize Theron and James McAvoy in the thriller Atomic Blonde, which is set around the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall and is based on a 2012 graphic novel. She is also slated to feature in the futuristic thriller Hotel Artemis alongside Jeff Goldblum and Jodie Foster.