It's scary playing a monster
Algeria-born actress Sofia Boutella outshines co-star Tom Cruise in The Mummy
Even US actor Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible-type antics won't distract you from the best thing about The Mummy reboot - Sofia Boutella.
The Algeria-born actress outshines her co-star Cruise, and is both as charismatic and terrifying as the titular monster.
The movie, opening here tomorrow, tells of how Cruise's character Nick stumbles upon the hidden crypt of ancient Egyptian princess Ahmanet (Boutella) and unwittingly unleashes her vengeful spirit.
Meeting the media in Taipei recently on a press tour for the movie, Boutella said she treated her fight sequences with Cruise like "choreography", which is no surprise considering her dance background. She has even danced in music videos for Madonna and Michael Jackson before moving into film.
"It was important for me to show her as elegant but powerful at the same time," said Boutella.
The Mummy director Alex Kurtzman, 43, said casting her was a no-brainer.
"She is an Olympic athlete in dancing, but more than that, Sofia carries her soul in her eyes.
"No matter how many prosthetics or (visual effects) were used in the movie, you can feel her performance coming through and connect with her character," said Kurtzman.
"It was important for me to show her as elegant but powerful at the same time."
Sofia Boutella on playing Ahmanet
After an advance screening of the movie in Taipei, impressed reporters were busy Googling Boutella, ooh-ing when they realised she was Gazelle in Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015).
At 35, Boutella is finally breaking into the big time with The Mummy, which is meant to kick-start Universal's monster franchise.
The Dark Universe, as the franchise has been named, is the studio's counter to the Marvel and DC superhero films.
It will feature the classic "Universal Monsters" from the last century - Frankenstein's monster (Javier Bardem), The Invisible Man (Johnny Depp), and the Creature From The Black Lagoon to name a few.
Actor Russell Crowe is Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, in a Nick Fury-type role that will see him appear in every story as the head of an organisation dealing with these monsters.
Boutella is the first female mummy in a series of remakes since the 1932 original with Boris Karloff. She initially turned down the role.
"I was terrified to play a monster," said Boutella.
She was eventually convinced and even helped in persuading Cruise, 54, to come on board.
"There wasn't even a character (for me) at first... but then Alex sent a photo of Sofia as the mummy and I stopped and I went 'wow'," said Cruise.
Kurtzman revealed Boutella was "the only one" wanted for the role and said she is likely to reprise the character in future monster movies.
That means more days with eight hours in the make-up chair and more bruises from fight scenes, but Boutella is ready.
"It is such an honour to be among, literally, monster actors," she said.
Upstaging Tom Cruise with her sass
Who's the blonde actress giving Tom Cruise sass in The Mummy reboot?
Perhaps you recognise her from critically-acclaimed TV shows The Tudors and Peaky Blinders?
Or from the many pictures Mail Online has published of her walking next to Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, her supposed boyfriend? No matter.
English actress Annabelle Wallis, 32, will soon be a household name, if not for her turn as a feisty Egyptologist in The Mummy, then for the offbeat humour she has shown on the press tour to promote the movie.
Joking with media on the Taipei stop of The Mummy's world tour, she said she was cast in the role for her "amazing intelligence, obviously".
At the press conference, she fought the notoriously chatty Cruise to tell the best on-set anecdotes, a feat she repeated on UK TV show The Graham Norton Show recently, prompting Cruise to plead with the audience: "There's the truth, and there's Annabelle's truth."
"I'm competitive," Wallis said. "I grew up as a tomboy, and I've always dreamed of doing a Tom Cruise movie, so when this opportunity came, I thought it was time to prove myself in this space."
Fittingly, she brings up 1980s films like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Romancing the Stone in describing the adventure-comedy tone of The Mummy, which gets a boost from Wallis' natural cheekiness.
She even threw in a joke to deflect The New Paper's question about her private life. "Hmm, what could you mean?" she asked in exaggerated wonder.
She moved swiftly away from any more questions about Martin to one about whether she'd work with Asian directors.
"I love Lee Ang," she said, referring to the director of Brokeback Mountain. "Tell him I'm cheaper than Tom Cruise."