Gal Gadot, the 31-year old former combat trainer in the Israeli army, is in the middle of reprising her role as Diana Prince, a.k.a. Wonder Woman. It’s the second time she dons the Amazonian warrior’s skimpy armor, but this time rather than as a bit player in the larger ensemble of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice she will headline the comic book hero’s first solo movie in her 75-year history. So to say there is a lot riding on Gadot’s impressively muscular shoulders is an understatement. But none of that seems to phase the generous, even-keeled actress director Patty Jenkins calls “the natural spirit of Wonder Woman.”
Even during a blustery shoot in March at Leavesden Studios, located on the outskirts of London, the actress doesn’t seem fazed by the extremely frigid conditions she must perform in. Rather, during a break in the physically daunting production, Gadot sits down in front of a heater with a black cape draped over her costume to chat about the thrills and challenges of playing the ultimate feminist icon.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What did it feel like the first time you put the Wonder Woman costume on?
GAL GADOT: I tried it the first time after they cast me for Batman v Superman for Wonder Woman. It was over the top for me. They told me I got the part and two days later I found myself in Michigan, in the cold, again, doing the fittings for the suit and it was overwhelming. It felt like this beautiful dream. And it was very exciting and I was very, very happy and it felt right. It felt like even with the surrealness of it, it felt normal.
Is that because you connected so much to this character?
I love her. I do.
I feel like Diana is really accessible. It’s very easy to relate to her. She has the heart of a human so she can be emotional, she’s curious, she’s compassionate, she loves people. And then she has the powers of a goddess. She’s all for good, she fights for good, she believes in great. I want to be her. And in Wonder Woman, she has this naiveté in her. It isn’t stupid, it’s magical. I would want to be naïve like that again.
And that naiveté stems from her upbringing?
She’s a young idealist who’s been taught that the world is very simple: it’s black or white, bad or good. It’s how she was raised. It’s what she believes in and there is something charming about the simplistic way in which she sees the world. But once she falls in love and starts her journey with Steven Trevor (Chris Pine), he educates her about the complexity of mankind. There is no such thing as only good and bad, black or white. It’s complicated.
How important was it for you that a woman direct this movie?
I think it’s important. It’s a story about a girl becoming a woman. I think only a woman, who has been a girl, can be able to tell the story in the right way.
How do you describe your collaboration with director Patty Jenkins?
All my life I’ve been working with male directors which I’ve really enjoyed. And I’m lucky in that I’ve worked with men who have a lot of respect for women. But working with a woman is a different experience. It feels like the communication is different. We talk about emotions. With Patty, it’s a thing now, we communicate with our eyes. She doesn’t need to say a thing. If I’m hurt, she feels the pain. It’s a whole different connection that I have with her. She’s also brilliant, she’s bright, she’s fierce, she’s sharp. She knows exactly what she wants Wonder Woman to be.
For a long time, people didn’t know how to approach the story. When Patty and I had our creative conversations about the character, we realized that Diana can still be a normal woman, one with very high values, but still a woman. She can be sensitive. She is smart and independent and emotional. She can be confused. She can lose her confidence. She can have confidence. She is everything. She has a human heart.
This has been quite a physical undertaking for you as well. What can you do now physically that you couldn’t do before you started training for the part?
I’ve been very active all my life. I was a combat instructor in the Israeli Army. [Laughs] See, everything [in my life] has led to me being Wonder Woman. I gained a lot of body mass after I was first cast in the role. I danced for 12 years and I played a lot team sports: basketball, volleyball. But now I lift a lot of weights. That’s new. I feel much stronger then I was. I feel it on my posture and the way I hold my body. I feel good. I started out very, very skinny and because I gained body mass, I really enjoy the way my body looks… better then I did before. I enjoy the curves. I enjoy the strength, the back, the guns. Now I’m aware of my muscles. And I like it.
Does this undertaking feel like a big responsibility?
It is a big responsibility. We knew we wanted to tell a story that would inspire people: women, men, boys, and girls. And we didn’t want to just show a generic story of a superhero coming of age. We wanted her to be full and whole. This is the first time we are telling this story and I feel like for so many boys, they have great role models to work with. They have Superman and Batman and Spiderman and the list goes on and on. And they are strong and almighty and they are positive and active and proactive.
For girls, I just had a conversation with my daughter, Alma, and she was saying something about the prince she saw in Sleeping Beauty and she was saying he’s brave and he’s strong. And I said what about the princess and she said, she’s weak. And I said, what do you think of that. And she’s 4, my daughter. And she said, she shouldn’t be weak. And I said why do you think she’s weak, and she said, she’s sleeping the entire movie and the prince comes and kisses her and saves her. She didn’t do anything.
I feel that I’ve got the opportunity to set a great role model for girls to look up to a strong, active, compassionate, loving, positive woman and I think it’s so important. It’s about time that somebody will do that and I’m very privileged and honored to be the one.