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Patty Jenkins was 7 years old when Christopher Reeve first flew onto the big screen in 1978’s Superman and the moment was life-changing for the Wonder Woman director.
What the heroine stands for — core values like freedom and equality — aren’t too far removed from Superman’s principled pursuit of truth, justice, and the American Way, and it was Richard Donner’s landmark origin story that sealed Jenkins’ passion for superhero cinema. “It was my Star Wars,” she says.
Jenkins held that film close to her heart while she toiled away on Wonder Woman, ensuring that the spirit of Superman was felt in her superhero film. You’ll see it in some of the film’s smaller moments — like when Diana and Steve Trevor are cornered in a London alley, or the unabashed love affair the two main characters share in the piece.
Early on, Jenkins says she had two main objectives. One was to make sure star Gal Gadot fought like Wonder Woman. “She doesn’t punch people in the face. That’s not the most effective way to stop something from happening,” she says. “And she doesn’t stomp on somebody’s chest to get information. She’s not that kind of person.”
Secondly, she wanted to make sure Wonder Woman always looked attractive. Jenkins says the stunt coordinators would show her great moves that would neutralize an opponent immediately, but they involved hunched shoulders, and possibly even a grunt. “No,” Jenkins says. “That’s not my dream. That’s not my fantasy. I don’t want to make her into a man. I want her to keep her integrity and grace while she fights.”
Jenkins had never worked on a movie of this scale, but she quickly discovered that she needed to employ her own superpower: a hawk-eyed attention to the film’s script and tone if she was going to translate her specific vision to the screen. “I believe in the vigilance of that art,” she says. “To stay vigilant every single day for the entire time is what the job is. It’s tiring. You want to go home, but then you’re like, ‘Hey, can we work this weekend?’ Wait, who said that? ‘God damn it! It’s me.’”
Gadot, for one, deeply appreciated her unwavering commitment. “Patty has this amazing ability to pay attention to the smallest details at the same time, still not forgetting about the bigger picture and the broader message,” she says. “Working with her is working with someone who doesn’t give up, that doesn’t get exhausted at any time.”