When Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice released the reaction was a resounding meh. Until it came to Wonder Woman. Comic fans cheered her appearance as the best thing about the dark and twisty movie. I know I got chills when she jumped into the fight with that fierce theme music.
With the new Wonder Woman film out in theaters now (which I’m sure you know is the first female-led superhero movie), DC and director Patty Jenkins have vaulted Wonder Woman into the 21st century. And they couldn’t have chosen a better woman to represent the ultimate superhero than Israeli actress Gal Gadot.
Just looking at Gadot, you can tell there’s something different. To say she’s beautiful seems diminishing. It’s more about a genuine joie de vivre and magnetic air of relaxed confidence. And she is funny. Trust me. Google some of her interviews. This woman isn’t a feminist icon because of who she’s playing on screen, but because of who she is off screen.
She’s long wanted to inspire women
Gadot grew up after the age of Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman series, so her knowledge of the character was more cultural than personal. Still, when she began acting — a fluke career that came her way through a series of fortunate events — she knew she wanted to play strong women. Things started clicking for her when she went public with her wish, telling agents, “I wanted to be able to show the stronger side of women. I didn’t want to do the obvious role that you see in Hollywood most of the time, which is the heartbroken girl who’s waiting to be rescued by the guy, blah, blah, blah. I wanted to do something different. Little did I know that I would land Wonder Woman not long after.”
That goal became even more real when she became a mom. On the Ellen show, Gadot revealed that her daughter’s attitude toward princesses inspired her during the grueling training and freezing-cold location shoot. Maya, now 4 years old, told her mom princes were brave and strong and cool, but princesses? They just fall asleep and wait around to be rescued. Gadot is hoping this Amazonian princess will be one all little girls cheer for.
She didn’t want to be Miss Universe
Just after high school, a pageant scout talked Gadot into entering the 2004 Miss Israel pageant, which she won. That led to modeling opportunities and also required her to compete in the Miss Universe pageant held in Ecuador. She threw the pageant. “I really didn’t want to win the Miss Universe pageant. It was too much being Miss Israel. I was 19. I wasn’t that type of girl. I rebelled. I came down late. I showed up late to everything. They make you wear evening gowns for breakfast. I didn’t wear evening gowns to breakfast. I didn’t wear my makeup. I remember Paula Abdul was part of the judges and she was asking me a question and I just said I don’t understand. And I successfully didn’t win.”
Fist-bump, girl! Breakfast is for bedhead and jammies.
She’s a real-life warrior
Gadot speaks with much more pride about her time representing Israel in uniform as a member of the Army. Shortly after high school, she reported for her two-year stint, a requirement for all Israeli citizens. She performed well enough to become a weapons trainer and eventually instructed higher-ranking personnel.
Fellow Israeli model Bar Refaeli made the news in 2007 when she was alleged to have dodged her military service. But Gadot said she was glad for the experience. She told Glamour, “Let me start by saying, I wish no country had the need for an army. But in Israel serving is part of being an Israeli. You’ve got to give back to the state. You give two or three years, and it’s not about you. You give your freedom away. You learn discipline and respect. [After the army] I started studying law at university. While I was there, a casting director for Quantum of Solace saw my modeling card on my agency’s wall, and I auditioned to be a Bond Girl.”
She didn’t win the role, but the casting director sent her info to director Justin Lin. Impressed by her military background he cast her in Fast and Furious, rewrote her character as a former Mossad agent and let her do her own stunts.
She shuts down shamers
When Gadot was announced as Wonder Woman there was surprising criticism. Some people didn’t want a non-American in a role so strongly identified with U.S. “patriotism” (by which they mean what? The outfit?) More people complained that she was too skinny.
Gadot laughed off the criticism, especially how much attention was paid to her small chest. She told an Israeli news show, “they asked me here, in Israel, if I have eating disorders and why am I so skinny — they said my head was too big and my body was like a broomstick — I can take anything. It’s just empty talk. I understand that part of what I’m doing means being exposed. And part of being exposed is being under fire. When I was younger, I would take criticism really hard. But now, it mostly amuses me. The true Amazons had one boob so it wouldn’t bother them in their archery. So it’s not going to be like real Amazons. We always try to make everyone happy, but we can’t.” She defined herself as “the Wonder Woman of the new world.”
On Jimmy Kimmel’s show for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, she took over the segment when she asked Kimmel’s opinion on her breasts.
The nine-month training regimen for her appearance in Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice added 17 pounds and a lot of muscle to her frame. She loves it. ““I feel so much better now. When you feel strong, it changes everything — your posture, the way you walk. I look at photos from five years ago and think, ‘Whoa, I was too skinny. It’s not cool.’”
Speaking at the celebration when Wonder Woman was made an honorary UN ambassador (the character was later dropped because of criticism), Gadot told the crowd, “Wonder Woman seeks to promote strength, wisdom, leadership, justice and love — qualities that, combined, make us the very best that we can be. Wonder Woman is a fighter, better than most, but it’s what she fights for that is important. It’s her vision of a future of peace and acceptance that makes her the right ambassador for everyone.”