Rebel Moon

Sofia Boutella on being the intergalactic star of Zack Snyder’s latest sci-fi epic
By Ella Joyce | Film+TV | 15 December 2023

Zack Snyder is no stranger to building a mythological world of sci-fi extravagance and his latest offering Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire is a testament to years of honing his craft. Responsible for some of the most iconic DC movies of recent years, including Wonder Woman, Batman vs Superman and Aquaman, Rebel Moon is a departure from the franchise and a step into uncharted territory. Born from an idea which has been in the back of Snyder’s mind since his early days of film school, Rebel Moon follows the story of a mysterious stranger named Kora who has landed on a moon in the furthest reaches of the universe to begin a new life in a commune of humble farmers after battling a turbulent past.

When a threat by ruling tyrannical forces from the Motherworld intends to enforce mass destruction, Sofia Boutella’s character Kora steps up as Snyder’s heroine. As much a tale of lethal swordsmen, futuristic spaceships and fantastical creatures as it is an ode to heroism, revenge vs redemption and the human condition, Kora lies at the heart of it all. Following a body of work in which she has taken on a series of formidable female characters in the likes of Settlers, Atomic Blonde and The Mummy, Rebel Moon marks Boutella’s first leading role. In the conversation below, we sat down with the Algerian actor to discuss working with Snyder, the endless possibilities of sci-fi and what we can expect from Rebel Moon’s sequel.

Still, Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire by Zack Snyder, 2023

Ella Joyce: Rebel Moon is an epic movie, to say the least, when you first read the script what was it that drew you to the story? 
Sofia Boutella: It was impossible not to be drawn towards it, being given my first leading role and for it to be directed by such a wonderful, creative and talented director. I love that they wanted a woman to lead in this project but also being given circumstances in the story that are out of the box and things that weren’t simple to overcome. We find out something quite tumultuous about Kora in the second movie and I wonder how the audience will react to that. It took me a little bit to come to terms with Kora, it took me a while to understand her, forgive her and not judge her because I wanted it to come from a place of full compassion and forgiveness for the character. I think the vulnerability and shyness you see on screen, you can feel that about her energy and the little detail we find out in the second film comes from that detail.

EJ: You’re teasing us! [both laugh]
SB: I know! It’s so interesting. At first, I didn’t know how I was going to be able to do it because I didn’t understand her and the closer I got to coming to terms with her from that tiny detail, it gave me all the tonality I needed.

Still, Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire by Zack Snyder, 2023

“I just hope people have a good time and are transported to a magical world that they get to have fun with.”

EJ: Amazing. How would sum up Kora’s character?
SB: Kora is a mysterious stranger who lives in a village that doesn’t mix very well but she has such a beautiful connection with nature and the elements. You can feel that in the first scene when she’s rubbing the earth and that’s a sign of her gratitude towards life itself, to be alive and to be given a second chance. She proves she can defend herself and the entire village but she’s also very reluctant to go back and open the door she closed a long time ago. Even to my surprise, it’s so interesting to see how far she’s come and to see how much she wants to live, no matter how she feels about herself. I think that’s testimony to how life isn’t necessarily a straight road. She lives in a grey area and it allows so much space for learning about ourselves – allowing yourself to have a chance for an alternative.

EJ: I wanted to talk to you about the idea of being a heroine and what it means because so much of the film looks at why people do what they do and the humanity which exists in that grey area. The best heroes are the ones who aren’t entirely good and Kora exists within that. 
SB: You’re so right. Not only has she been part of the soldier world she was forced into but she wanted nothing to do with it and there was no chance she would open that door again, at all costs. You can see how she’s trying to escape it. I thought it was interesting to see a character who is completely against going back there and is doing everything she possibly can to resist it. It’s interesting to see the reluctance and inner turmoil in a hero.

EJ: It definitely adds to the rising tension. I read that the story has been in Zack Snyder’s mind for a good few decades, what was it like working with him and seeing that vision come to life?
SB: I remember him saying that one of his teachers in film school asked him if he was to do a movie what would it be and he said exactly this, which is super cool. Zack taught me some of the most valuable lessons ever. He’s someone who shows up on set extremely prepared, works really hard and is always on time, but it doesn’t feel like work, he comes with so much love and fun for the craft. He can’t wait to get to work and start a project, he draws, he creates and he writes, so by the time he comes to set he has created so much and is so well prepared that he’s fully able to let it go and have fun because everything is in his back pocket – it’s muscle memory. He surrounds himself with a group of people who are not only incredible people he loves spending time with but are also talented.

I remember coming to the set extremely nervous, I’m always terrified on the first day of filming and before each crucial scene, I was always nervous, but then I’d get to set and Zack would be having a blast, his enthusiasm was infectious. I absolutely love working with him, I feel so grateful.

EJ: The production itself is vast, how was it navigating working between real-life sets and visual effects?
SB: We were in Santa Clarita in Los Angeles and Gower Studios. All the crop fields are real and I think you can see with the naked eye what would be CGI and what isn’t, Zack grew everything and it was nice to have it there for real. They taught us how to farm and it was nice to be on sets where we had an actual world built, it gives you the atmosphere and the feel. I personally also love working with a green screen, I enjoy it because I love using my imagination, I love walking on set and asking Zack, “What am I looking at? What is going on around me?” He’d then draw a scene and it was just like when you’re a child, imagining a whole world.

Still, Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire by Zack Snyder, 2023

EJ: You have so many intense fight scenes throughout the movie, what was it like prepping for the role?
SB: I trained a lot, and I wanted to start immediately. My character, a soldier who has trained from such a young age, meant I really wanted to train as much as possible. Some days I would go to training and just do conditioning, I wanted to learn how to really grab a gun and to make sure I wasn’t opening just one eye because real shooters open both eyes, your elbows are taught and your finger has to be flat on the gun if you’re not shooting. All these details were so important and I’ve never done anything like that before. There were days when it wouldn’t click but I believe in repetition and when you start to do things without thinking, that is when things click. Ideas start to come and you earn it because you’ve spent time with the character. I like to write a biography of the character, look at images and just train.

EJ: I like that you said you wrote a biography, are there any other elements that helped you switch into Kora’s character or helped to build the world around you?
SB: I use music a lot, I usually use songs with no lyrics so I don’t associate with any words. It could be a score or techno and it’s usually the same song over and over, which means I never listen to it again, and then that song belongs to a specific scene. I’d use songs as mantras in between takes to stay in character or I’d use a song for a specific fight scene as it would help me to step back into it and stay consistent, sometimes between takes your energy can go down and I couldn’t afford that.

EJ: The final fight scene between you and Admiral Atticus is so tense, what was that moment like to film?
SB: It was a lot, it was very taxing and it required a lot out of us but we were so lucky to have the best stunt team with us to make sure we were safe. My stunt double Mel [Jin] was incredible and so was Spider who doubled Ed [Skrein], I spent a lot of time with him because he was fighting me. They set up the shots for us a long time before we stepped into the picture and even though I do a lot of my own stunts, she was incredible at making sure I was safe and to make sure everything looked good for the camera. That particular scene was a lot because we just had to go for it, we started rehearsing that scene quite early on in the process before we started filming.

Still, Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire by Zack Snyder, 2023

“I think it’s interesting to see the reluctance and inner turmoil in a hero.”

EJ: It was incredible to watch. We end the film on a cliffhanger and I know you can’t tell me what’s going to happen, but in an ideal world what do you hope the outcome is for Kora in the sequel?
SB: I think it’s what she says at the end of the movie to Gunnar [played by Michiel Huisman], “I’ve never had a place to call home,” then she finally looks at Veldt and looks at it as her home. I think it comes from the fact she feels like she was able to redeem herself and to do something outside of herself, to do something for other people but for the right cause for the first time. For the first time she decided to allow herself to be accepted and to be loved. What I want the most for her is to have that home for herself and have a life that she’s never had.

EJ: You’ve portrayed some very powerful female characters in the past, is that something you actively seek out or is it just the way things fall sometimes?
SB: Of course, strong female characters are always a motivation and an inspiration but I also don’t think there is anything wrong with vulnerability. It’s interesting to see people emotionally naked and to see how people deal with that vulnerability because we all have that side. We aren’t all just walking through life feeling like we’ve got this, we all have moments of doubt and ups and downs. I think the beauty of film is to observe vulnerability and to see how people deal with their circumstances, how they overcome them and that doesn’t always resemble strength. The outcome may be one of strength but I love seeing a character on film going through something. When it’s relatable and it’s inspiring, that is when movies are truly magical, isn’t it?

EJ: Absolutely. Sci-fi as a genre can put those universal themes into a very abstract world.
SB: You’re right, sci-fi is the one genre that is able to incorporate every other genre, be it horror, comedy or drama. It’s also the genre where you’re able to say very controversial things or very pertinent things or very profound things or have very distinct and intricate metaphors. Star Trek, for example, was able to talk about really controversial topics and subjects, especially for the time it was made and pushed the boundaries and changed things and the temperature for movies and people in general. I think that was the power of that show. Everybody sees a movie and experiences a film depending on their own life experiences, even as an actor you want the audience to go and find a specific thing within themselves, but the truth is, everybody is going to see the movie through their own scope. It’s all based on how they are as a person, some people may think it’s funny and for some people, it may touch them deeply. Ultimately, I hope this movie can inspire people, I hope people have a good time and are transported to a magical world they get to have fun with.

Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire is out in selected cinemas now and streaming on Netflix from December 22nd.


Read Next