I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Sofia Boutella who plays Gazelle in Kingsman: The Secret Service.
Andrew: So, thank you for allowing me to speak to you today.
Sofia: Of course.
Andrew: Would you like to tell me a little bit about your background and how you started off?
Sofia: So, I started dancing when I was five and I kept doing this pretty much until three years ago. In the meantime, when I was 16, I started acting. It kind of happened spontaneously. Somebody told me, “Oh, there’s this audition. Come along.” And I joined and I happily booked, to my surprise. And I learned on the spot, they taught me, but I truly completely loved it so I went after that and took classes and did few little minor projects in Paris.
But, then I stopped again acting, or trying to act when I was about 18 because I wanted to focus and stay focused with dancing because I wanted to be doing that a bit more. And I did, and after when I was 24 I joined a theatre again. So I kind of, like, everything kind of mitch matched for, mixed together for a little while, but at some point I stopped completely acting to focus on dancing and at some point I stopped completely dancing, which was three years ago, to focus finally on acting.
Andrew: So, you say you started dancing at five. Was that something you always wanted to do?
Sofia: Yeah, well I was a bit pigeon-toed when I was young and I think it’s good to put your kid into something, a sport or a discipline or a music instrument. I think it’s … parents do that naturally to … but … and so I went and did ballet and I could have completely stopped if I didn’t like it, but I liked it so I kept going.
Andrew: Excellent. And, obviously you talked about acting. What was your first acting role that you did and felt, “This is what I want to do.”?
Sofia: I don’t know if it was a role that made me feel like, “This is what I want to do,” but I know that the first film that I did, I couldn’t identify where I danced from, the place I danced from, and I felt like I was acting from the same place so it was very familiar to me, but yet being something completely different, being more eloquent and articulated in different ways and I found it challenging and I wanted to learn more and I did, but just by being at a theatre, by working on plays, by doing stuff like that essentially.
Andrew: Okay. So, let’s talk a little bit about Kingsman. Your character Gazelle is the henchwoman to Richmond Valentine. How did you get involved in the film?
Sofia: I auditioned in L.A. When I stopped dancing, I did not work for two years, but, don’t get me wrong, I auditioned all the time but that was an audition that came, like, many within those, throughout the two years. And, I, it went well, like it did sometimes, but I know, I knew at that point, I was a bit more detached, I knew you can do well, it’s not personal, move on. So I did okay, I did the audition and it went really well. My agent called me probably an hour after and said, “Casting call back. They’re really happy.” I said, “Great. I did my job. Happy.” I went home. Next day, woke up to, “You’re flying this afternoon to London to meet Matthew Vaughn and you have to read with him,” and I was like, “Whoa. That’s a new one.” And then I stayed.
Andrew: What sort of research did you do to get into character for Gazelle?
Sofia: I, well the research that I’ve done … Matthew gave me ‘femme fatale’ as something to stick to and I kind of looked at strong women in movies, or strong … I got inspired myself by strong women that I have around me. I don’t know anybody like Gazelle whatsoever. So we had to build that character. I think also working with the costume designer and the stunt team gave me the character more than going and fetching for it in a movie or as a reference or a personal reference. We, I’m lucky to have had a long time to develop this and so being in the room and doing all this tae-kwon-do, learning to play Gazelle kind of, like, really, I embodied the character because, and then I knew she’s tough, obviously, because she can fight like that and then seeing what we are doing with the costumes. She’s very feminine and, I mean I’m not wearing leather, but so that also gave me something else that I’ve never seen anywhere. It was like, “OK, I have to, it has to come from within.”
Andrew: And what sort of training did you have to do, because it’s quite an active part.
Sofia: Yeah, I did, like, a lot of fighting. I did a lot of boxing, some martial arts. But essentially, after, we used guns. I trained that as well. But you just want to use the blades, you know essentially, so and that’s what tae-kwon-do would essentially showcase.
Andrew: And what was it like working with Samuel L. Jackson?
Sofia: It was fantastic. He’s brilliant. And I truly, truly love him. He’s a fantastic man and a fantastic actor. And he’s great, truly. He was really here for me, he kind of like … he was like a father figure on set.
Andrew: So, you’ve got a new movie coming out here in May, Monsters: Dark Continent. Do you want to tell us about the film and also your role in the film?
Sofia: Yeah, I play Ara and, I don’t want to spoil the movie, you know what I mean. But you’ve seen the first one so there is that the aliens are the recurring character essentially. But my character arrives in the movie, I think, as a breather to unite a bit what’s … developing fighting and I think my character kind of, like, sets this and arrives at this arc, at the arc of the lead character, of his understanding of why he’s here and I think it’s … but you’ll see, it’s a bit dreamy, it’s a bit … I mean, I think the character is great, but, you’ll see, it’s very small. My character is very small in the movie.
Andrew: Well, hopefully, the next film will be bigger part for you. What else have you got coming up?
Sofia: I have a movie called Jet Trash which will come out in a few months. I don’t know exactly the date, a very independent, small-budget film. And another one called Tiger Raid, same, very independent, small-budget film with Brian Gleeson and Damien Maloney. And, I’m going to start shooting again in June, but I can’t talk about this yet.
Andrew: Good. What would be your ideal role? If you could have any role you wanted.
Sofia: I don’t know. I love creative characters, characters where I can … essentially, I would love at some point to just be a person in the film that don’t utilize any physicality. No dancing, or not even, no ethnicity, like I would love to just be someone for a story and the sake of relationship in the film and not … but that’s a challenge for me, which is great. I mean, I love what I’m able to do and I completely embrace it, but I know essentially, I mean those three independent movies, I’m not dancing or fighting at all in them, so I feel proud of myself, you know what I mean, because I’m not using my old tricks. I’m using essentially something that’s purer to the acting.
Something like Edward Scissorhands, would be, I would love to go and fetch a character far, far, completely created from scratch, that’s completely out of this planet. And I would love also to play a character, like, Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice, like very heartfelt and true to the history and I would love to play, I don’t know, I would love to do comedy. I mean, that’s why people ask me, “So what do you want to do?” It’s difficult in my position to tell people what I want to do at this stage because I haven’t done enough to be, like, “I’ve done this and this. Now I want to do that.” At this point, I think I’m up for anything. I’m, I think, you don’t get better at acting without acting so being on board with anything is a great chance and opportunity.
Andrew: Are you surprised at how popular the film was?
Sofia: Well, you know I trust Matthew completely and after I say the movie, I knew, I mean, people are going to love the film. And I think the word of mouth, kind of, did really well for the film because everybody that went to see the film couldn’t stop bragging about it. Literally, my friend come to see me, and he’s like, “Did you hear what he said?” We were at the supermarket and somebody was talking about Kingsman. Like, literally, people would, you hear random people talking about it, like whispering, if you’re out at a restaurant or something.
So, I think it has a huge impact, and I think people wanted a movie like that to come out, that’s highly entertaining, in terms of the action, that is cleverly written, that’s extremely funny, and that you can relate to. And all of a sudden it throws you in a completely different, imaginary sort of world where all these fights are completely over the top. It’s so fun to watch, you know. And I think people wanted that sort of film, that’s not all just action and too serious, or all just funny, but that has all these qualities. It’s really refreshing. And also Matthew is really clever, he doesn’t take, he takes his audience very seriously and considers them and does never, never, ever spoonfeed them. And I think people, in the end, ultimately, they truly appreciate that.
Andrew: And has it made you more recognizable in the street? Do more people come up to you because of Kingsman?
Sofia: Yeah, of course. I reading way more scripts and I’m auditioning more. Actually, now, I’m putting more pressure on myself when I’m auditioning because I know people have seen me in Kingsman and they probably are thinking, you know, “What can she do? How good is she? Is she reading, or something?” Whatever they say, but I mean I work extra, extra hard.
Andrew: In your own words, why should people watch Kingsman, if they haven’t seen it?
Sofia: Because they should.
Andrew: That’s fair.
Sofia: No, because they’ll have the time of their life. I mean I just think it’s so much fun and you come out of it very enthusiastic, I think.
Andrew: Excellent. Thank you very much for your time.
Sofia: Thank you. You’re welcome.
Kingsman: The Secret Service is out on Digital HD on May 24th and on Blu-ray and DVD on June 8th from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment