Wonder Woman: How real-life athletes united to populate the film's badass Amazon nation
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As a Dutch supermodel, Victoria’s Secret Angel and trained horsewoman, Doutzen Kroes has had some pretty remarkable experiences throughout her career. But none of them have been quite as memorable as riding down an Italian beach on horseback, wearing full Amazonian armor and pretending to slit a man’s throat with a sword. “The challenge was that I had to ride with one hand and have the sword in the other hand and kill a person at the same time,” she explains, laughing. “Which sounds horrible, but it was so fun to do!”
Kroes was just one of the many accomplished women recruited to play Amazon warriors in Wonder Woman. From an Olympic bobsledder and a heptathlete to a police officer and the former Miss Greece, these real-life Amazons hailed from around the world and helped populate Diana’s home of Themyscira. Some of the Amazons, like Kroes, auditioned, while the filmmakers plucked others from the athletic world — Brooke Ence, an American Crossfit champion, and Madeleine Vall Beijner, a Swedish professional fighter, among them. “I got an e-mail asking if I could do fighting on film,” Beijner recalls. “I said, ‘Well, yes, I can fight, and I think I can fight in a movie. So yes, I’ll do it!’ ”
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Months before the cameras started rolling, the women gathered in London for weeks of training. Not only did they go through basic strength training to look properly Amazonian, but they also spent hours each day practicing swordplay, horseback riding and stunt choreography. “The trainers said they wanted us to look like the female version of 300,” Beijner says. For several of the athletes, many of whom compete in individual sports, it was a refreshing change of pace to feel like part of an all-female team. “It really is cool to see this whole training area, and there’s not one male figure in sight,” Ence adds. “It’s just women wrestling other women, kickboxing, doing pull-ups and practicing with spears — just a lot of stuff that in the real world is very male-dominated.”
Kroes plays Venelia, the right hand of Queen Hippolyta, while Beijner and Ence play Egeria and Penthesilea, respectively — two warriors under the command of General Antiope. Many of the women weren’t quite sure what to expect when they got on-set, especially as many of them had never worked on a Hollywood movie before, but they found themselves adapting quickly and bonding with their fellow Amazons. Still, it took a little adjustment. “I’ve been training for 12 years not to show anything, even how hard I get hit,” Beijner says. “They called me RoboCop because when we were training, they were like, ‘You’re supposed to show that it hurts!’ And I was like, ‘No, I don’t get hurt! I’m a fighter!’ ”
Once they all donned their Amazon armor and took to the beach for the big Themysciran battle scenes, Ence says she was surprised by how easy it was to tap into her inner warrior, especially when surrounded by a whole horde of fellow soldiers. “The first day we were on-set with all of our swords and shields, it felt like a different type of power,” she says. “And we looked awesome.” She wasn’t the only one who got swept up by all the swords and stunts: Kroes recalls a day when her young son visited her, and she greeted him in full battle regalia. “If I could just have that face framed as a picture on my wall,” she says. “I think I melted because he has never looked at me like that ever. He was just in full admiration of his mommy as a warrior.”