Who is Sofia Boutella, the lead star of Zack Snyder's 'Rebel Moon'?

The Algerian actress is set to play a woman with a mysterious past tasked with raising an army in the sci-fi film

Sofia Boutella at the 71st Cannes Film Festival for the film 'Fahrenheit 451'. Reuters
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Algerian-born actress Sofia Boutella, 39, will take the lead in Zack Snyder’s Netflix latest Rebel Moon, making her one of the biggest global stars to emerge from the Arab world in recent years.

Rebel Moon will be the first movie to release under Snyder’s new long-term deal with the streaming giant, and was announced following the success of his Netflix debut, the zombie-heist thriller Army of the Dead, and its prequel Army of Thieves.

Limited details are known about Rebel Moon, save that DC Universe lynchpin Snyder will co-write and co-produce as well as direct the film. Boutella will play a woman with a mysterious past who is tasked with raising an army to defend a peaceful intergalactic colony from an invading alien force led by the tyrannical Balisarius.

Deadline reported that Boutella “wowed” the director during the audition process to land her the role, while The Hollywood Reporter claimed the script is heavily based on an idea Snyder sent to Lucasfilm at least a decade ago as an idea for a Star Wars film.

Who is Sofia Boutella?

Boutella was born in the Bab El Oued district in Algiers in 1982. Her father is renowned jazz musician Safy Boutella, who, as well as being a prolific live performer and studio artist, has scored more than 70 films encompassing Algerian, French, English and Italian cinema in his long and successful career.

She entered into classical dance training in Algiers aged 5. However, with the outbreak of the Algerian Civil War in 1991, opportunities in Algeria became limited and the family moved to France the following year.

This move proved formative for the fledgling star. In France of the 1990s, Boutella discovered new forms of music and dance including hip hop and street dance. By the age of 18 she had established herself as a member of the French national rhythmic gymnastics team and would also go on to join breakdance team Vagabond Crew, who picked up the international Battle of the Year prize in 2006.

Boutella’s growing profile as a dancer led to her being picked up for a 2007 Nike ad campaign, as well as extensive live and video work with musicians including Madonna and Rihanna. In a 2017 Time interview, Boutella credited her touring work with Madonna for helping her learn English.

It was also Boutella's dancing prowess that led to her first movie role as the lead, Eva, in the 2012 sequel Streetdance 2, and the acting bug appears to have bitten since.

In 2015, she landed her first role in a bona fide blockbuster, playing the unforgettable, razor-sharp-legged henchwoman Gazelle in Matthew Vaughan’s spy yarn Kingsman: The Secret Service.

But it’s probably her next major role that audiences will remember her best for – even though the actress was largely unrecognisable under a mountain of prosthetics as Jaylah in 2016’s Star Trek: Beyond. That film was the talk of the town when it was shot extensively in Dubai, turning much of DIFC into a spaceship crash landing site.

Boutella’s star has been on the rise ever since. Memorable roles include the likeable but incompetent French agent Delphine, foil to Charlize Theron’s Atomic Blonde, in David Leitch’s 2017 spy thriller of the same name, and the rebel Clarisse in Ramin Bahrani’s 2018 adaptation of the dystopian classic Fahrenheit 451.

Although Boutella has lived in France since she was a child, she has always remained proud of her Algerian roots. In 2017, she told Harper’s Bazaar: “Algeria is a country that is dear to me because it's where I'm from, where my family is from, it's my home. That will never leave me. I feel very worldly. But leaving a place like that when you're so young doesn't come without missing a sense of identity and belonging to one place.

"I think I've been blessed with the ability to travel because I'm fearless to go anywhere, but I miss a sense of home, which was originally Algeria. But I feel Algerian, I'm proud to be Algerian and I carry that with me wherever I go.”

Rebel Moon is reportedly scheduled to go into production in the first quarter of 2022, so given Boutella’s career success it should come as no surprise that we’ll see her in at least one more major production before Snyder brings her to Netflix. Last month, Boutella completed shooting SAS: Rogue Heroes, a BBC spy drama from Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight.

The miniseries has been confirmed for a 2022 release on the BBC in the UK, with international release details yet to be confirmed. Boutella will line up in Rogue Heroes alongside stars from The Crown, Skins, Game of Thrones and The Wire, which should more than whet the appetite for her debut collaboration with Snyder and Netflix, expected to release in 2023.

Updated: November 13, 2021, 6:31 AM