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.