‘Wonder’s’ warrior women
The movie’s Amazons talk battles, armor, and working on a mostly female set.
Wonder Woman may be the star of Warner Bros.’ blockbuster hopeful this weekend, but she did not get there on her own. This character’s iconic combination of justice, hope, love and serious combat moves comes from being raised on Themyscira, a fantasy island of warrior women called the Amazons.
To make that island and its inhabitants feel possible, the studio enlisted some real-world warriors, including professional fighter Madeleine Vall Beijner, CrossFit champion Brooke Ence and multi-title-holding professional boxer Anne Wolfe.
But the lead actors are equally ferocious. Robin Wright plays the no-nonsense General Antiope, deadly with a sword and capable of shooting not one but three arrows
at a time. Wearing the crown (and all the furs) of Queen Hippolyta is Connie Nielsen, and of course there is the youngest fighter of the clan, Gal Gadot, our newest Wonder Woman.
We brought these three together for an Amazonian council to talk about balletstyle battle moves, leather armor and what it’s like to work on a set made up mostly of women.
You spent a lot of time filming together on location. Did you form a bond? Did you feel like the Amazons when you were filming? Nielsen: I absolutely did. Wright: It was amazing, right? It was over 120 women.
Gadot: It was like one big celebration of women. The amazing thing about it is that all of us got along really, really, really well. We were all so happy for each other. I saw her take, I was like, ‘This was so good, Robin!’ Nielsen: A lot of support. Gadot: There was so much support and love. And it wasn’t fake.
Wright: It was like being on a professional football team … Nielsen: Of ladies. Gadot: Exactly. So there’s no envy. No tension.
Nielsen: And then we got to work out together as well. We got to do all of that training together as well.
Wright: So much easier than going in the gym alone.
What did it feel like to be on a set where women were the majority?
Nielsen: It was the opposite world. It was the men who were standing up by the park with the kids while we were down on the beach with the horses and the swords.
Gadot: It was a new-age kind of era. All of our husbands were walking around with the strollers while we were working on the beach.
Nielsen: But it was also sort of a really kid-friendly place, we did sit and talk about our kids. We all brought our kids to set and it was just sort of a freewheeling, very relaxed set.
Gadot: Yeah, we should do a movie like that again.
How often are you offered a part like this in Hollywood? You get to play an Amazonian queen or a general or Wonder Woman? How often do you see a role like this come along? Gadot: Never. Nielsen: Never. Wright: Never. Nielsen: What’s really amazing is the way in which it’s just completely natural throughout the film. They don’t make a big deal out of it. It just is. That’s what I think is different. We’re not trying to highlight it or raise the stakes for it. We just accept that authority.
Wright: It’s a unisex, nomadic tribe that they were born to fight to protect, yes, Themyscira and this culture, but also to bring what your character brings to the thematic message, which is let’s just build a future of human goodness. Let’s bring it back into the world.
Gadot: Once you don’t give attention to the gender thing, and you don’t talk about the fact that there’s strong women, it’s a nonissue.
Nielsen: That’s one of my favorite things.
Gadot: When Diana comes to the real world she’s completely oblivious about gender and society rules, that women are not equal to men. That’s the way to show it because, honestly, at the end of the day we’re all equal souls in this universe. And it doesn’t matter if we’re men or women.
Nielsen: I think the way Gal plays the scene, when she walks into the room full of generals, as if she’s absolutely unaware that it could be any other way, that she has the right to be there. I think if you really want to say something to your children it’s that all of us, everyone deserves to be in that room.
Talk more about the beach fight scene. Was that difficult to film or fun?
Wright: It was incredible.
Nielsen: It was physically hard to do those scenes over and over again in the sand. But it was incredible.
Wright: But then we’d always scream, “Can I get another take? No, I can do it better. I know I can wield my sword better.”
It was so great to see General Antiope flipping over attackers and shooting arrows at bad guys. What was it like watching those scenes when the film was done?
Gadot: I’ve never in my life seen a scene that is packed with beautiful, strong women that are just fighting together in such a beautiful harmony doing crazy, badass things. I’ve never in my life seen anything like that.
Wright: Yeah, it was a ballet.
Nielsen: It was almost like it was a new paradigm for action scenes. It’s not some kind of female version of a male action scene. It is a completely different thing. And that’s what I think is amazing; it’s really, really well-suited for women.
Wright: Designed for the way we move. We don’t move like men.
What did you think of Themyscira?
Nielsen: We were in real locations that were really beautiful — yes, [they] were heightened by CGI, but they were unbelievably beautiful, these sets.
Wright: We were in one of the oldest cities in Italy, Matera, I think it’s 9,000 years old.
Gadot: And you walk around and you actually see peacocks, it’s insane. It was magical.
Does that make you feel immortal? Your characters have lived for years and years. How did being inside an old city inform you as an actress?
Gadot: It complements our performance. In Matera, you feel like you’re back in the [old] days. I felt like I was in Jerusalem. I think that it was very important for Patty [Jenkins] that we shoot in real locations.
Nielsen: But also shooting on 35 mm you get that heightened experience and it’s very unusual for this type of film, it feels anchored in a reality.
Wright: I mean, imagine shooting all of those sequences in a room like this with a green backdrop. We got to be in the real place. And feeling the elements. Being outside and it was cold, freezing cold in the mornings in our little leather miniskirts.
Nielsen: And then by 3 o’ clock we were dying and wearing corsets.
What was it like the first time you tried on your costume?
Nielsen: I think that there’s something about being strapped into armor. Wright: Leather. Nielsen: It does kind of like do something. And there’s that fact of holding a sword in your hand. I don’t know if it’s just me, but it made me feel really powerful.
Wright: Mrs. Excalibur.
The film only briefly touches on the relationship between Queen Hippolyta and Diana. Are we going to see more of that in the future?
Gadot: Of course; the mother and daughter relationship is always a beautiful but complex relationship. I think that there’s a lot more to explore.
Nielsen: And [Wright and I] got to do more in “Justice League” as well. As sisters as well. We can’t say much, but ...
Wright: And more of the story, you get some of the history.
A lot of people grew up loving Wonder Woman. Was she big in Denmark, Connie? Was she big for the rest of you?
Nielsen: I knew very little about Wonder Woman. I’d seen a few pictures when I moved here, but I knew very little and in a way that was why it was such an incredible experience because I was discovering so much while I was doing it.
Gadot: I feel the same way because I knew of her, but I didn’t know much about her.
And now you are her.
Gadot: Who would believe?
CONNIE NIELSEN, left, Gal Gadot and Robin Wright say an easy bond developed among the three during filming.
GAL GADOT, left, gets direction from filmmaker Patty Jenkins on the “Wonder Woman” set, where women made up the majority.