Gal Gadot: Ex-Miss Israel, mother of two, Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot plays Amazonian warrior princess Diana Prince in Wonder Woman.
Gal Gadot plays Amazonian warrior princess Diana Prince in Wonder Woman.PHOTO: WARNER BROS PICTURES

Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot is upbeat in the face of trying days on set and a back injury

She was not on-screen for long, but Gal Gadot's scene-stealing turn as Wonder Woman in last year's Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice clearly heralded the arrival of a bona fide star.

And as she headlines the character's first standalone live-action film, Wonder Woman, which opens here today, the 32-year-old is more than ready for her close-up.

In person, the former model and 2004 Miss Israel is just as magnetic, wielding an effortless charisma that makes you instantly warm up to her. At a recent Los Angeles press event for the film, she is in good spirits, despite a back injury that forces her to remain standing for a full day of interviews ("I just did a sharp, wrong movement," she explains apologetically).

Earlier in the day, director Patty Jenkins revealed that the actress was just as upbeat on set, even on the most trying days they spent filming.

"We got somebody who plays Wonder Woman on- and offscreen," says the film-maker. "She's not delicate and fragile, she's so kind and funny and fun and so open and inclusive."

Gadot admits it was a struggle at times though - especially given the sheer physicality of the role and the demanding action scenes.

 

I felt such a responsibility because she's such an iconic, powerful character and strength is something you just can't fake - if you look like you're weak, it's not going to read (on-screen). So it was totally worth it.

WONDER WOMAN ACTRESS GAL GADOT, who had to endure filming in winter while not wearing much clothing

"I was prepping for five to six months before the shoot. I did two hours of gym work, two hours of martial arts and then an hour-anda-half of horseback riding every day.

"I was miserable and it was exhausting - I would go home for six hours and then have to come back," says the actress, who is married to Israeli real estate developer Yaron Varsano, 42. They have two daughters, one aged five and the other just two months old.

"As far as the stunts go, it was hard - we shot part of the movie in England in the winter, I was not wearing much and it was very cold. And in Italy, I stepped on a sea urchin while doing the sword stuff," she recalls with a grimace.

"But I felt such a responsibility because she's such an iconic, powerful character and strength is something you just can't fake - if you look like you're weak, it's not going to read (on-screen). So it was totally worth it."

There were times when the enormity of the reported US$120-million (S$167-million) production struck the actress, who had a small role in four of the Fast & Furious blockbusters (2009 to 2015).

"I had a few moments when it was like, wow, you feel it's bigger than you, and that it's not about me at all - I'm just a vessel."

One such moment came when shooting the first big battle scene. "We shot it in one take and it felt very empowering."

Another was the first time she put on the costume. She had to fly to Michigan to try it on after finding out she had landed the part of Wonder Woman for Batman V Superman.

"It wasn't made for my size, obviously. I don't know who they sized it for, it was very tight. But I didn't say anything because I was so thrilled. I was, like, 'That's okay!'

"But it was like an out-of-body experience. It's weird - one minute ago I was just Gal, and all of a sudden, they dress you like Wonder Woman and you become Wonder Woman. It's crazy."

The star says the significance of the film strikes her even more as a mother of two girls.

"I think it's crazy that this iconic character has been around for 76 years and we never got to see her origin story before. Men and boys growing up had Superman, Batman and Spider-Man to look up to, and it's so important that we're finally going to have a strong female figure to look up to - and not only for girls, but also for boys."

She adds: "I think you can't empower women without educating men, you need to be inclusive. So being a mother of two, I'm just thrilled that it's finally happening, and hoping there will be more and more (of these movies)."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2017, with the headline 'Tough on- and off-screen'. Print Edition | Subscribe