"Bang! Bang! BANG!"
A gun hasn't gone off; it's just Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins encouraging Gal Gadot to punch the air with gusto. The actress follows her commands, energetically whipping her arms against an invisible enemy. In reality, she's running on a treadmill positioned in front of a green screen at Warner Bros. Studios in Leavesden, England, just outside London. Catch a glimpse at one of the countless monitors on set, however, and you see her charging across a battlefield, deflecting bullets and being the ultimate badass.
After several takes, Gadot slips off the treadmill and takes a break. She's wearing her character's iconic blue and red costume, with a notable difference: Wonder Woman wears tall wedged boots. Gadot is wearing sneakers underneath gold spat-like coverings. Isn't CGI beautiful?
Sneakers or not, it's a pinch-yourself moment to see this all in the flesh. It's also a pinch-yourself part for Gadot, a former Miss Israel and combat soldier who starred in the Fast and the Furious franchise before breaking through with 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. A year later, she's the lead in the first standalone film about the most famous female superhero in the world.
As it happens, Gadot didn't really grow up with the Wonder Woman/Diana Prince story, she admitted during Refinery29's visit to the film's London set last winter. It wasn't until she was cast in the role that she began watching reruns of the 1970s TV show starring Lynda Carter. Though she's now besotted with the character — "I really, really love Diana, I love everything about her," she shared — it was the opportunity to play a powerful female that first appealed to her.
"Women of all ages will want to be her, and men will want to be with her.”
"Somehow, I think that I always wished to play Wonder Woman without even knowing it myself," the 32-year-old star said. "Eight years ago when I became an actress I used to travel to Los Angeles and take general meetings with different producers, writers, and directors, and they kept on asking me the same question over and over again, ‘What’s your dream role?’ I kept on saying, ‘I’m open to all genres as long as the story is interesting enough, but if you really ask me, what would I like to do is to show the stronger side of women, because I feel that there’s not enough stories being told about strong women, independent women.' Little did I know that five years later I would land this part.”
It's perfect casting, according to Wonder Woman producer Charles Roven.
"She carries with her this amazing warmth, this amazing strength, and also has just that twinkle in her eye where she’s fearless in all ways but not in an overbearing way, in a way that you want to get next to, that you want to embrace," Roven told Refinery29 in a separate phone interview. "Really I think women of all ages will want to be her, and men will want to be with her.”
Gadot shared a similar sentiment.
"She has the heart of a human being, powers of a goddess, and a very wise brain, so she’s everything," she said.
"She has the heart of a human being, powers of a goddess, and a very wise brain, so she’s everything."
Of course, the role wasn't without its challenges. In addition to running on that treadmill for take after take, Gadot underwent intense physical training, including boxing, sword play, and mixed martial arts. She enjoyed the physicality, but jumping around on frigid London nights while "wearing a very short piece of rubber" was "less thrilling."
Fortunately, costar Chris Pine was there to offer some levity. On the day of our visit, the actor was off in scuba training to prepare for his role of Steve Trevor, but Gadot couldn't resist gushing about his work.
"He’s a great partner [and] funny, we have lots of laughs on set," she said. "I think that his character, compared to Diana’s character, they’re very much yin and yang. He’s this realistic guy who’s been through a lot and he knows what mankind is capable of doing, and Diana is this young idealist who thinks that the world is very pure, mankind is only good. Once they get to know each other he teaches her so much about reality and mankind, and she brings back hope to his life.”
But don't write this off as just your average love story. The Themysciran princess may appear naive, but she's undeniably the hero of this tale, much to Gadot's delight.
"It’s funny because I just had the conversation with my daughter," the mother of two told us. "I put her to bed and I was reading her a story and it was about princesses and Ariel the mermaid, whatever, and then she was talking about the prince. She said, ‘Yeah, the princes, they’re very strong,’ and I asked her, ‘What about the princesses?’ ‘They’re weak.’ [I asked] 'How do you think they should be, Alma?’ She said, ‘They should be strong.’
"I feel very proud that finally this movie is being made because all of the guys, all men, all boys, always had a figure to look up to. Whether it’s Superman or Batman or Spider-Man or whatever it is, they always had heroes to look up to, and for girls it’s always the princesses who are being saved, who are being passive. Finally, [there's] Wonder Woman. She’s fierce, she’s proactive, she believes in herself, she believes she can do everything, and that’s a true woman to me.”
Wonder Woman opens in cinemas June 1.