When Sofia Boutella met HFPA journalist Anke Hofmann at the Four Seasons hotel, she told how her childhood in Algeria shaped her. “I grew up during a civil war. And the way you grow when there is any sort of war, and I can't imagine what it's like now for kids in Syria, but it is different. Our war was not as intense, but, it was a civil war that was pretty present in our lives. We had a curfew at 7 PM for example, and we had water only once a week for about an hour. And I remember not having water. I remember butter not being around. I remember not having fruit because there was no produce in the market.”
She and her mother moved to France when Sofia was ten years old. There she saw Jodie Foster, her future co-star in Hotel Artemis, for the first time on TV. “Her French was so incredible. That's how I was introduced to Jodie Foster. And then after I remember her in The Accused and thinking how incredible she was as an actress. I loved her also in Silence of the Lambs and in Contact. So I was a bit intimidated at first because she's who she is and because she represents what she represents and she's wildly intelligent and she's truly a woman I look up to.”
In France, Boutella continued dancing and she began rhythmic gymnastics at age 10, joining the French national team at age 18. A few years later Nike cast her in a series of commercials for their NikeWomen line. Madonna noticed her talent and hired her as a dancer for her tour. “She taught me to work hard for what I want and if I get anything too fast and too quickly it will go as quickly.”
After a while, she knew she wanted to concentrate on acting. She told the news to Madonna before her Super Bowl performance in 2012. “I asked her if I could see her before rehearsal. I told her I'm going to commit to acting and I'm going to just do that. And she said, okay and asked, what if there is no movie in the next eight months? I said to her, I think that even if it takes two years, I have to do that and I have to start as soon as possible. She wished me the best of luck. She remains in my life, we talk often and I look up to her. She's very encouraging and supportive.”
It took her that two years before she got cast to her first big Hollywood movie, Kingsman: The Secret Service. After that, she has built her resume with movies like Star Trek: Beyond, Atomic Blonde, The Mummy, HBO's Fahrenheit 451 and Climax, which won an Art Cinema award at the Cannes Film Festival.
In this podcast Boutella talks also about being a curious child, what it was like living in France with her mother, what Madonna had to do with the fact she moved to Los Angeles, what she did in those two years she stopped dancing and got her first role in Hollywood, what does 50/50 by 2020 movement mean to her, why she is designing her own jewelry and much more.
Listen to the conversation here or, for immediate access to all of our podcasts, subscribe to HFPA in Conversation on iTunes.