Gal Gadot walked into her casting session with director Zack Snyder with no idea she was auditioning to play an icon. “I knew [the role] was big and it was for one of the franchises,” the 30-year-old Israeli actress says. After she read a scene from Pulp Fiction, the director let her in on the secret. “He said, ‘Well, I don’t know how big she is in Israel…’ and my jaw just dropped. There are so many expectations for this character, it’s impossible not to be a little nervous about it.”
Since the release of Iron Man in 2008, there have been more than 20 mainstream comic-book adaptations with a man in the title role. The number with women? Exactly zero, a statistic that will remain unchanged until the 2017 release of Wonder Woman, with Gadot carrying the golden lasso. Audiences will get their first glimpse of her in action as the Amazonian warrior in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. “She plays a super-important part,” Snyder says. “In a lot of ways, she’s the gateway drug to the rest of the Justice League.”
Gadot began acting at 18, after winning the 2004 Miss Israel pageant. She then served two years in the national army, after which she enrolled in law school with no intention of pursuing a career in the public eye—not even when a casting director asked her to fly to London to audition for Quantum of Solace to play a Bond girl. “I said, ‘There’s no way I’m going to go; it’s all in English, I’m not an actress, and I’m in school,’ ” she says. “So I didn’t go.” Her agent persuaded her to change her mind, and though she lost that part, three months later she was hired to join the Fast & Furious franchise.
Despite her background in action films, there was still plenty for her to learn during the six months of training for Batman v Superman. She knew how to handle a gun from her army days, but a sword? That was new. “I love doing the swordplay stuff,” she says. “It’s another skill to add to my collection.” As for that lasso, though, she says, “I’m still working on that.”