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Patty Jenkins was first a painter at New York’s Cooper Union school before becoming a director The assumption was she would follow the path of other New York filmmakers, and turn out small indie films for a living. And she did just that with her first feature, the 2003 movie Monster, which won Charlize Theron an Oscar. But after Monster, Jenkins had her sights on something bigger.
“When I made Monster and they asked me what I wanted to do [next], I immediately said, ‘I want to make Wonder Woman,” says Jenkins, during a break from production on the Leavesden set of her dream job. “Everybody knew I wanted to make a superhero movie.”
As is usually the case with Hollywood, things always take longer then initially planned. Jenkins was presented with a Wonder Woman script back in 2005 but she was pregnant with her son and the idea of leaving a newborn for a year to make a movie wasn’t in her game plan.
“The second I had a child, I knew,” she says. “When I’m on a movie, I’m unavailable, everyday for a year and a half. You can’t do that with a little baby. Somebody might be able to do it, but not me.”
Jenkins soon transitioned into television, working on a variety of shows including Arrested Development, Entourage and The Killing. It wasn’t until 2006, when Marvel offered her Thor 2 , that she attempted her return to features. But after a drawn-out development process, Jenkins — who would have been the first woman to direct one of Marvel’s massive tent pole films — departed the project over “creative differences.” (Game of Thrones vet Alan Taylor ultimately directed the 2013 film.)
“I’m still so grateful to those guys for hiring a woman to direct f—ng Thor,” Jenkins says of Team Marvel. “Why would you do that? You don’t have to do that.”
Still, Jenkins was always a contender for the Wonder Woman job — but initially the studio chose another Game of Thrones alum Michelle MacLaren, who is perhaps best known for her work on Breaking Bad. But MacLaren would exit the film six months later, in a circumstance that seemed to echo Jenkins experience on Thor. Jenkins quickly replaced her last April, but was very cautious about those conversations considering her prior experience.
“There was a period of time when we had two very different visions and I wanted them to find the right director for the job,” she says. “It turned out we had a shared vision after all.”
That vision? To tell a straight-forward origin tale, framed by a love story between Wonder Woman (star Gal Gadot) and Steven Trevor (played by Chris Pine) .
“I didn’t want to do anything more complicated,” Jenkins says. “From my point of view, this was the movie I was talking to them about for about eight or nine years. I’ve met with 10 different people at Warner Bros and then it all came together in this one moment.”
Now Jenkins is in post-production on next summer’s highly-anticipated juggernaut, and despite the long, cold hours on set and the extended time away from her family, she wouldn’t want it any other way.
“Part of the reason I’m in such a good mood is this is the movie I’ve wanted to make my entire life,” she says. “I feel so grateful that I get to be able to do this.”