THE TRUTH BEHIND THE LASSO
The story of Wonder Woman is explored in writer-director Angela Robinson’s kinky new biopic
AS A LIFELONG Wonder Woman fan, writer-producer-director Angela Robinson ( Herbie: Fully Loaded, The L Word) began working on what she believed was a straightforward biopic of her creator, psychologist William Moulton Marston, over eight years ago. The story she ended up with in Professor Marston And The Wonder Women — how a secret polyamorous relationship in 1940s America led to the creation of one of the most iconic comic-book characters in history — turned out rather differently.
“He lived in this unconventional relationship with his wife [Elizabeth] and their student
[Olive],” Robinson says. But any presumption that Marston (played by Luke Evans) was in a having-his-cake-and-eating-it relationship with his wife and mistress was quickly pivoted by her early research. “There was this one detail,” Robinson recalls of a book she was reading of his life. “‘Olive and Elizabeth stayed together for 38 years after Marston died,’ and that just blew my mind. I was like, ‘Wait a second here! Hold on.’”
Robinson’s shifting interpretation of the nature of their relationship was only reinforced when she discovered Elizabeth (played here by Rebecca Hall) named her only daughter after Olive (Bella Heathcote). “The emotional math [didn’t seem to] add up,” she says. Her film explores a new narrative — that of three people in an equal, polyamorous, sexually adventurous relationship (with hints of bondage which nod to Wonder Woman’s aesthetic and characterisation), though Robinson is keen to stress that “this film is definitely my interpretation”.
Story locked, it was still a long process to screen for Robinson. She spent four years writing the script on evenings and weekends (while she worked in television) and then spent another four years getting it made. What undoubtedly helped in those latter four years — that she could never have foreseen — was the re-emergence of Wonder Woman, culminating in Patty Jenkins’ huge critical and commercial hit this summer. Not only did it bring her character to the forefront of culture once more, but it also allowed, she believes, for a “reintegrating of the Marstons into the Wonder Woman narrative”.
Robinson stresses the blending of facts and fiction and, though the Marstons do have surviving family, she chose not to reach out to them during the making of the film. “There are a lot of controversial themes throughout the story,” she says. “And I really wanted the freedom to explore that and come to my own interpretation as an artist as to what the story was.” What she firmly believes, though, is that it’s their story, reclaimed, and “ultimately a love story to the Marstons”.
Rebecca Hall’s Elizabeth Marston and Bella Heathcote’s Olive Byrne; Luke Evans (as Dr William Marston) with Hall and Heathcote on set; Hall and director Angela Robinson between takes.