Who’s that gal?

Meet the new Won­der Woman

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - FRONT PAGE -

It Isn’t easy to pin­point the ex­act mo­ment Gal Gadot first re­alised her pow­ers, but the time she de­cided not to win Miss Uni­verse seems as good a guess as any.

It was early 2004, a long time be­fore the Is­raeli ac­tress ca­reered into Hol­ly­wood with Fast&

Fu­ri­ous, and many moons be­fore‘ Won­der Woman’ would be­come her per­sonal ep­i­thet. the 18-year-old Gadot was mooching around a tel aviv shop­ping mall when a woman stopped her and sug­gested she en­ter the Miss Is­rael con­test. Beauty pageants are a big deal over there, so she thought, why not?

‘I had a few months off af­ter school and I reck­oned it would be some­thing cool to tell my grand­chil­dren one day, right? I mean, I knew I wasn’t go­ing to win...’ Gadot says. ‘But I did.’

a few months later, as is cus­tom­ary with these things, the new Miss Is­rael had to bat­tle the rest of the cos­mos – or at least the other most beau­ti­ful women on earth who en­tered – at the an­nual Miss Uni­verse con­test, held that year in Quito, ecuador. Gadot was al­ready sick of the at­ten­tion from the first round. to her, the idea of an­other crown sounded hellish. ‘It was all too much too fast. I was so young, and from a small town. I didn’t want to be “an am­bas­sador” of any­thing,’ she says, ‘I just wanted a nor­mal life.’

De­cid­ing self-sab­o­tage was the only op­tion, Ga dot‘ didn’ t obey any­thing’ asked of her in Quito. ev­ery morn­ing, for in­stance, con­tes­tants had to ap­pear at break­fast bright and early, fully made-up and wear­ing a ball­gown. Miss Is­rael, how­ever, would saunter down mid-morn­ing, wear­ing jeans or a track­suit. then, when thrust be­fore judges – whose over­lord, in­ci­den­tally, is now the 45th pres­i­dent of the United states – for the in­ter view round, Gadot shunned the usual spiel in favour of dry, one-word an­swers. Just to re­ally an­noy them.

‘and it worked !’ she says, giv­ing the air a mini-punch, ‘I could be free!’ In the end, Miss aus­tralia took the ti­tle, while Gadot lan­guished out­side the top 15. Mis­sion: ac­com­plished.

More than a decade on, Gadot – whose He­brew sur­name is pro­nounced with ah ard‘t ’, like

‘for­got’ – still en­joys telling that par­tic­u­lar story. Now more than ever, in fact, be­cause to those hy­po­thet­i­cal grand­chil­dren, the Miss Is­rael ti­tle will pale into in sig­nif­i­cance when Won­der

Woman, the first fe­male-led su­per­hero film in over a decade, is re­leased next week, with Gadot in the ti­tle role.

We meet on a warm March morn­ing in West Hol­ly­wood, in the res­tau­rant of the Chateau Mar­mont ho­tel. Heads turn at Gadot’s ar­rival, even here. She is a month from her 32nd birth­day, just shy of 6ft tall and al­most laugh­ably good-look­ing in the flesh. To­day she has lit­tle make-up on with her hair down, and wears a loose, off-white midi dress and san­dals. It’s an out­fit that al­most hides, but not quite, the fact she is nine months preg­nant.

‘I am due any day now, any day…’ she says, eas­ing her­self into a booth and im­me­di­ately or­der­ing a pain au cho­co­lat. Through­out our con­ver­sa­tion, she will swirl her hands over and around her bump, as if con­sult­ing a crys­tal ball. Oc­ca­sion­ally a kick will in­ter­rupt her mid-flow .( She was in­deed due any day – Maya, a healthy lit­tle girl, was born just two days af­ter our in­ter­view.)

Won­der Woman marks the first ever solo fea­ture film for a char­ac­ter fa­mil­iar to fans of DC Comics for over 70 years. It is a project that has been metic­u­lously built up in the way all mod­ern su­per­hero films are: from teas er trail­ers and teasers for teaser trail­ers to bill­board cam­paigns, mer­chan­dise and no short­age of on­line chat­ter, stretched over many months. Fans have been ask­ing for a Won­der Woman film for aeons, while Warner Bros and DC have talked about mak­ing one since at least the 1990s. Ev­ery­one, from An­gelina Jolie to Bey­oncé, had been ru­moured for the part over the years, yet it was Gadot, a rel­a­tively un­known ac­tress, who landed it .

Ga dot has a light, Amer­i­can­ised He­brew ac­cent, and is warm and di­rect in con­ver­sa­tion. She and her hus­band, Yaron Versa no, a 38- yearold multi mil­lion­aire prop­erty de­vel­oper, had their first daugh­ter, Alma, in Tel Aviv five years ago. They’ve lived in Los Angeles for t he past three years, on and off, but the sched­ule will be a lit­tle dif­fer­ent for baby num­ber two.

‘I’ll have the baby, take about a month off, and then we’re go­ing to start the cir­cus,’ she says. ‘The stu­dio have been great. We’ll be trav­el­ling the world, all four of the fam­ily to­gether. It’s go­ing to be… fun.’

Won­der Woman is a part that’s con­sumed her life for the much of the past three years. She was orig­i­nally cast in 2014, and first ap­peared as a sup­port char­ac­ter in last year’s Bat­man v Su­per­man: Dawn of Jus­tice. As a leave-them-want­ing-more tac tic, it worked a treat: crit­ics and fans de­clared her eas­ily the best thing about the film.

Most au­di­ences will be aware of Won­der Woman al­ready, be it through the orig­i­nal DC

The out­fit is eas­ily recog­nis­able. Gadot wears a corset, knee-high boots and a leather skirt

Comics, in which she first ap­peared in 1941, or through the pop­u­lar 1970s tele­vi­sion se­ries star­ring Lynda Carter. As a char­ac­ter, she is a kind­hearted Ama­zo­nian war­rior princess known to civil­ians as Diana Prince. Born on the fic­tional is­land of The­myscira and be­stowed with su­per­hu­man pow­ers by the Greek gods, she is a freak­ishly good ath­lete, trained by her mother to use her tal­ents to help bring peace to the world, even if that means fisticuffs.

The out­fit is eas­ily recog­nis­able. Gadot’s 2017 it­er­a­tion wears a corset, with (bizarrely, heeled) knee-high boots and afu stan ella-style leather skirt. The look wasn’t some­thing she had much in­put into, but she loves it. ‘It was im­por­tant to be prac­ti­cal and com­fort­able. We changed the ma­te­rial from the first costume, made for Bat­man v

Su­per­man, which was much tighter and harder to move in. You can­not be un­com­fort­able in a corset and jump around and breathe.’

Her Won­der Woman also has all the old fight­ing ac­cou­trements: a tiara that dou­bles as a sort of throw­ing star, in­de­struc­tible bracelets, a sword and shield, and, of course, ‘t he lasso of truth’ – a weapon that ren­ders any­one it snares in­ca­pable of ly­ing. Right­eous­ness is a key theme in any Won­der Woman story line. In­deed, the man who dreamt up the char­ac­ter in the 1940s, Amer­i­can psy­chol­o­gist Wil­liam Moul­ton Marston, also helped in­vent the mod­ern poly­graph. He is said to have based Diana Prince on a mix­ture of his wife, his lover (they lived as a trio, no se­crets there) and sev­eral early fem­i­nist ac­tivists, in­clud­ing the pioneer of birth con­trol, Mar­garet Sanger.

In the new film, set at the time of World War I, the young Won­der Woman find san Amer­i­can pi­lot, Steve Trevor (played by Chris Pine), washed up on The­myscira. When he tells her about the war, she de­cides to go and do some­thing about the in­jus­tice of it all. This takes her on a com­ing-of-age jour­ney to Lon­don in or­der to fight against all man­ner of vil­lains –some his­tor­i­cally plau­si­ble, most very much comic-book nas­ties.

‘We didn’t want it to be a hero and dams el in dis­tress sort of thing, it isn’t about who’s in charge. It’s about two equal peo­ple who teach each other about their worlds. She is about hope and love, whereas he is more rea list ic. There’s so much peo­ple can en­joy, whether it’s the ac­tion, or the love story, or the old comic-book parts,’ Gadot says.

The shoot took place in Lon­don, over four frigid win­ter months, dur­ing which Gadot, Ver­sano and Alma re lo­cated to Hamp­stead. Led by di­rec­tor Patty Jenkins, it was a close, high-spir­ited crew. It needed to be. ‘It was freez­ing ,’ Ga dot says, eyes widen­ing. ‘At some point you stop car­ing, but ever y day and night we

shot out­side, even when it was be­low zero. Chris would wear lots of clothes but I was in my leather. In the end they’d tease me about it. We’d get to the end of a take and the crew would shout, “Hooray for Gal, she’s so brave, what a Won­der Woman!”’

Pre­par­ing to bea su­per­hero started long be­fore a clap­per­board snapped. In or­der to com­plete as many of the stunts as pos­si­ble her­self, Gadot spent seven months train­ing for six hours a day – two hours of weights and car­dio in the gym, two of mar­tial-arts chore­og­ra­phy( sword and shield in hand, al­ways), then the oc­ca­sional horse-rid­ing or lasso prac­tice. ‘I re­ally fell in love with the horse rid­ing, and lasso came quite eas­ily ac­tu­ally, but train­ing to that level was in­sane. It was like be­ing at school, and com­pletely ex­haust­ing. Even though some of that stuff was in my back­ground, it was hard.’

Grow­ing up in Rosh Haayin, a city near Tel Aviv, Ga dot’ s en­gi­neer fa­ther and PE teacher mother rarely al­lowed the tele­vi­sion to be switched on, in­sist­ing she and her younger sis­ter play vol­ley­ball or bas­ket­ball out­side in­stead. Tall and rangy, Gadot ex­celled, and af­ter the foray into the world of beauty pageants, which led to a yea r mod­el­ling in Europe, she re­turned to com­plete two years’ mil­i­tary ser­vice with the Is­rael De­fense Forces–a manda­tory re­quire­ment for all ca­pa­ble Is­raelis. There she trained in Krav Maga, the Is­raeli army’s trade­mark mixed mar­tial art de­fence sys­tem, be­fore be­ing given the role of train­ing other sol­diers.

‘It was mostly men who were older than me, but they treated me well,’ she says. ‘There was never any ques­tion about do­ing my ser­vice, it is part of life back home. But I never fired a gun out­side of train­ing, and the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple in the army want to have peace and quiet in the re­gion. I guess it is what it is…’

Af­ter­wards, she en­rolled at law school, be­cause she’s ‘al­ways felt very right­eous’, and con­tin­ued mod­el­ling. She had never wanted to act. As a child she says she was a keen, at­ten­tion-seek­ing dancer, but in school plays she’d never dare speak. It wasn’t un­til she was 21, when her mod­el­ling agent forced her into au­di­tion­ing for the part of a Bond girl in Quan­tum of So­lace (Olga Kurylenko even­tu­ally pipped her to it), that she fell in love with drama .‘ It was like ,“Wow ,”’ she says, drag­ging the word out for a few sec­onds. ‘I loved the free­dom of get­ting into a char­ac­ter and chang­ing it to make it your own. I asked for more and more au­di­tions af­ter that.’

With re­newed fo­cus, she honed her craft on an Is­raeli soap opera, be­fore land­ing a part in the fourth of the Fast & Fu­ri­ous saga, join­ing a ‘big fam­ily’ of stars and get­ting a first taste of a mega-bud­get, ex­plo­sive block­buster fran­chise. More Hol­ly­wood roles fol­lowed, in­clud­ing the come­dies Date Night and Knight and Day and three more

Fast & Fu­ri­ous se­quels. By 2012, she and Ver­sano had been mar­ried for four years, Alma was a year old, and she was about ready to call it quits. ‘It’s hard, not know­ing where your next project might come from. There were so many“al­mosts ”, and we were go­ing back and forth from Is­rael for two or three months a year with the baby. I told my hus­band I didn’t know how I could do it any more.’

Weeks later, Zack Sny­der, the di­rec­tor of Bat­man

v Su­per­man and pro­ducer of Won­der Woman, asked her to come in for an au­dit ion. A not her, wit h Ben A ff leck (who played Bat­man ), fol­lowed. Even­tu­ally Sny­der asked if she’d ever heard of Won­der Woman. ‘I tried to be cool, but it was crazy. Of course I knew her. It was like look­ing up at the Hi­malayas, won­der­ing how I’d do it, but I re­mem­ber think­ing how the uni­verse was guid­ing me. I liked per­form­ing, I was al­ways ac­tive, I was al­ways right­eous… and then I get Won

der Woman. I truly be­lieve if you are pos­i­tive and work hard, life is so dy­namic that it will work out.’

When Gadot’s cast­ing was an­nounced, not ev­ery­body was happy. Some (mostly male, cer­tainly sin­gle) comic-book fans took to in­ter­net fo­rums and ex­pressed the opin­ion that she didn’t have the req­ui­site fig­ure to match the hero­ine of their fer­vid imag­i­na­tions. She was too slim, too tall, too Miss Uni­versey. ‘I found that de­press­ing,’ she says, able to laugh about it now. ‘All the bad com­ments were about my body, which is com­pletely ir­rel­e­vant to such an iconic char­ac­ter.’

She says the Is­raeli trait of ‘chutz­pah’ has meant she has never been afraid to say what she thinks when con­fronted with sex­ism, but nor does she lis­ten any more. Her Won­der Woman is a def­i­nite fem­i­nist, she says, not that it’s a la­bel the char­ac­ter would even recog­nise. ‘When we were talk­ing about dig­ging deeper into her story, we re­alised she wouldn’t be clichéd or preachy, she’d be com­pletely obliv­i­ous to gen­der pol­i­tics. And it’s so re­fresh­ing. Fem­i­nism is about choos­ing what to do with your body or ca­reer, with­out car­ing what’s be­tween your legs,’ Gadot says. ‘Diana doesn’t un­der­stand the con­cept of women not do­ing some­thing be­cause t hey ’re women. She’s a per­son of con­tra­dic­tions, who is cu­ri­ous, and fear­ful, and in se­cure, and con­fused, and pas­sion­ate, and joy­ful, and right­eous… Just like all women are. Just like all peo­ple are. None of us are strong all the time.’

The re­sult is a hero­ine she hopes all girls will look up to, es­pe­cially her own daugh­ters .‘ Boys have had many heroes for so long. I want this to mean more women drive films. In mu­sic there are lots of idols – my daugh­ter loves Adele and Amy Wine house, and I had Madonna – but in movies we’ re only just get­ting to a place where the balance is com­ing in. I feel very priv­i­leged[ in that re­gard]. I’ve had so many draw­ings and videos sent tome from lit­tle girls dressed as Won­der Woman. It’s an amaz­ing feel­ing, but it’s not about me. I’m just the ves­sel to tell her story.’

Ga dot shot an­other Won­der Woman out­ing,

Jus­tice League (an en­sem­ble with other classic DC char­ac­ters, such as Bat­man, Su­per­man, Aqua­man and The Flash, to be re­leased later this year) straight af­ter the pre­vi­ous two movies. She be­came preg­nant in the last month of film­ing – the tim­ing was per­fect. If this film is well-re­ceived, she may well be back in the corset. ‘We’ll have to wait and see how the world re­acts now,’ she says. ‘I do want to re­turn to the train­ing again, though. The char­ac­ter is in my blood now.’

She glance sat her phone. Even at ninemonths preg­nant, she still sees her per­sonal trainer al­most daily – al­beit with a pared-down rou­tine now – and has a ses­sion start­ing in seven min­utes. Be­sides, she al­ready knows what I will write. In the early stages of this press tour, she tells me, a pat­tern has emerged: jour­nal­ists hear her story, then de­clare that she re­ally is Won­der Woman. It’s cer­tainly a tempt­ing con­clu­sion, I say. She just rolls her eyes. ‘Yeah, I know. And you know what my line is in re­turn? I say, “No,

ever y woman is Won­der Woman.” And I re­ally be­lieve that, you know. Be­cause it’s true.’

Won­der Woman is re­leased on 3 June

‘Fem­i­nism is about choos­ing what to do with your body, with­out car­ing what’s be­tween your legs’

Be­low Gadot armed with tiara and shield in the ti­tle role of the new Won­der Woman movie

Top Tak­ing part in Miss Uni­verse in 2004. Above With her hus­band, Yaron Ver­sano

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