Putting twists, not kinks, in su­per­hero’s ori­gin

Di­rec­tor fought to take time on polyamorous love story of Won­der Wo­man’s cre­ator


The most ex­plicit sex scene in Pro­fes­sor Marston & the Won­der Women, open­ing Oct. 13, in­volves three clothed peo­ple and a lie de­tec­tor.

Writer-di­rec­tor An­gela Robin­son’s drama about the de­voted, polyamorous trio whose re­la­tion­ship in­spired fem­i­nist su­per­hero Won­der Wo­man, in­cludes sev­eral three-way sex scenes.

With the story start­ing in the 1920s, Luke Evans ( Beauty and the Beast) plays Wil­liam Moul­ton Marston, the Har­vard psy­chol­o­gist and in­ven­tor of the lie de­tec­tor, who was in­spired to cre­ate the comic-book char­ac­ter by the two bril­liant lovers and muses: his Har­vard psy­chol­o­gist wife El­iz­a­beth (played by Chris­tine’s Re­becca Hall) and psy­chol­ogy stu­dent Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote of Fifty Shades Darker).

Robin­son said their most pas­sion­ate on­screen en­coun­ters in­volve thoughts, not deeds, es­pe­cially as Olive helps test Marston’s lie de­tec­tor and ad­mits to feel­ings for both Wil­liam and El­iz­a­beth.

Robin­son didn’t want her char­ac­ters to “ap­pear kinky or weird,” although she ad­mit­ted with a chuckle, “the film’s not for ev­ery­body at all.

“But I do think what I tried to do as a film­maker (was) to try to tell a very sim­ple and ro­man­tic love story,” she added.

“I’m al­ways more in­ter­ested (in) and find more erotic, frankly, what peo­ple are think­ing about each other as op­posed to what they’re do­ing to each other,” said Robin­son, who char­ac­ter­ized the love scenes in her film as be­ing about “fan­tasy and free­dom.”

The writer-di­rec­tor-pro­ducer on True Blood and The L Word, said it’s “an ac­ci­dent of his­tory” at work rather than the ex­quis­ite tim­ing she’s be­ing praised for as the film ar­rives in the­atres. It opens as Patty Jenk­ins’ Won­der Wo­man proved to be an in­dus­try su­per­hero, las­so­ing $819 mil­lion at the in­ter­na­tional box of­fice.

It for­tu­itously comes out at “this con­ver­gence of in­ter­est” in Won­der Wo­man, said Robin­son, who was “triple hy­drat­ing” the morn­ing af­ter en­thu­si­as­ti­cally cel­e­brat­ing the drama’s world pre­miere at the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val in Septem­ber.

Robin­son had no way of know­ing Won­der Wo­man was go­ing to be ev­ery­where in 2017. A long­time fan of the su­per­hero, she’d stum­bled on the char­ac­ter’s fas­ci­nat­ing ori­gin story and spent eight years writ­ing and pitch­ing the drama about the un­usual ro­mance among three peo­ple that in­spired Marston to cre­ate the comic-book char­ac­ter in 1941.

She knows she’s not alone in iden­ti­fy­ing with the Ama­zon su­per­hero mo­ti­vated to do good by love and car­ing for hu­man­ity.

“I feel there’s been many gen­er­a­tions of women who grew up on Won­der Wo­man and I’m so happy she’s be­ing re-em­braced,” Robin­son said.

Jenk­ins’ block­buster about the su­per­hero sav­ing lives on the First World War bat­tle­field was a box­of­fice ti­tan in a lack­lus­tre sum­mer. And Robin­son is puz­zled why it took so long for Jenk­ins to be an­nounced as di­rec­tor on the se­quel. “It should have hap­pened overnight,” she ob­served. With her Won­der Wo­man 2 deal, Jenk­ins achieves a new bench­mark for women di­rec­tors, earn­ing $7-$9 mil­lion. About time, Robin­son said, adding she doesn’t take is­sue with be­ing de­scribed as a fe­male di­rec­tor, “be­cause I think it’s im­por­tant to rep­re­sent in any way pos­si­ble. You al­ways long for the time it doesn’t mat­ter any­more, but we’re not there yet.”

As for the trio pro­filed in her film, they’d been hid­den from his­tory for a long time. “And they had to be. It was il­le­gal,” Robin­son said of El­iz­a­beth, Olive and Wil­liam, who qui­etly lived to­gether as a lov­ing fam­ily. Chil­dren were born to both women.

The first third of the film is set in the 1920s and cen­tres on Har­vard class­rooms and sci­ence labs as Marston lec­tures on his DISC the­ory — dom­i­nance, in­duce­ment, sub­mis­sion and com­pli­ance — all of which were later em­ployed by Won­der Wo­man to save the day. Marston be­lieved peo­ple are hap­pi­est when sub­mit­ting to a lov­ing author­ity.

That sub­mis­sion in his per­sonal life, fre­quently in­volv­ing ropes, chains, bondage and pun­ish­ment, got him — and Won­der Wo­man — into trou­ble with cen­sors.

“Marston was very de­lib­er­ate about th­ese ideas of this sub­mis­sion to love in Won­der Wo­man,” Robin­son said.

The film­maker fought with the stu­dio to in­clude the begin­nings of the throu­ple’s re­la­tion­ship, rather than jump­ing di­rectly to the 1940s and Won­der Wo­man’s birth.

“I had a lot of bat­tles (with the stu­dio) early on be­cause it was re­ally im­por­tant to me to spend a lot of time with them in the ’20s and to re­ally take the time to ex­plore how they came to­gether and also the invention of the lie de­tec­tor and . . . how big a deal it was what they were do­ing,” she said.

Know­ing their story pro­vides a cru­cial piece in the Won­der Wo­man time­line for fans, Robin­son said.

“I feel like now is the per­fect time to hon­our and ex­plore the lives of the peo­ple whose ideas lit­er­ally cre­ated Won­der Wo­man,” she said, “and I think she is a suc­cess be­cause of what Marston and El­iz­a­beth and Olive have brought to her.”


Ac­tor Re­becca Hall, left, with di­rec­tor An­gela Robin­son on the set of Pro­fes­sor Marston & the Won­der Women, about the trio who in­spired the comic’s hero.

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