Nicole Sperling
May 18, 2017 AT 03:36 PM EDT

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One of the highlights of Wonder Woman is the budding relationship between Princess Diana (Gal Gadot) and Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), the American spy who crashes onto Themyscira and becomes the catalyst for Diana’s adventure abroad. Their relationship fills the heart of the movie and is far more modern than one might expect for a film set in 1918.

Artfully crafted by director Patty Jenkins, the scenes featuring the two of them toggle between Wonder Woman trying to understand the somewhat convoluted ways of modern human society and the two of them learning each other’s motives and ambitions. There is no power play and neither one is being rescued by the other. Some might call it equal, which to Gadot is what feminism is all about.

“Wonder Woman is a feminist, of course,” says Gadot. “I think people have a misconception about what feminism is. People think hairy armpits and women who burn bras and hate men. That’s not it. For me, feminism is all about equality and freedom and [women] choosing what we want to do. If it’s salaries, then we get paid equal to men. It’s not men vs. women or women vs. men.”

That outlook led Gadot to consider how she portrayed her iconic superhero on the screen. “It was important to me that my character would never come and preach about how men should treat women. Or how women should perceive themselves. It was more about playing oblivious to society’s rules. ‘What do you mean women can’t go into the Parliament? Why?,'” she asks.

“It’s just reminding everyone how things should be. I wanted to play the fish out of water, but I didn’t want to play her too silly.”

Pine’s character was also thought about a lot. He couldn’t be too powerful or powerless. “We didn’t want to make Steve the damsel in distress, and we wanted them to have a very equal relationship,” says Gadot. “If she falls in love with him, then he should be someone that every woman falls in love with.”

Adds Jenkins, “Steven Trevor is the perfect fantasy for any modern woman. ’I want to have the job I’ve always wanted. I want to be strong and powerful and all those things, but I want a really hot boyfriend that thinks that’s great and has a sense of humor about the whole thing.’”

To draw out that humor, Jenkins gave Pine and Gadot a lot of opportunity to improvise. In one scene, which debuted at WonderCon, the two share a boat ride back to man’s world where they reveal their initial chemistry — and provide a lot of hints to the overall tone of the film. Gadot and Pine ad-libbed the entire scene. Pine loved it, especially since it highlighted Gadot’s surprisingly good improv skills.

“She has to be the straight woman, that’s the harder part,” he says. “She’s delivering lines like ‘My father is Zeus’ — s— that is just so ridiculous. And she has to say it with a straight face, with a certain amount of innocence and earnestness. I get to react like any human being would to hearing something as ridiculous as that. So I had easy.”

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