As a former soldier and beauty queen, Gal Gadot’s past already reads much like a superhero backstory.
It’s fitting then that the Israeli beauty has been chosen to play Wonder Woman in Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, out on March 25, and will go on in 2017 to star in her very own feature.
Real life superhero or not, it’s clear that Gadot, who started her two mandatory years in the Israeli Defense Force in 2004, the same year she was crowned Miss Israel, is happy to use the skills she learned in her time with the IDF in her quest to “play independent women and not go after sexy or obvious kinds of roles,”.
Gadot achieved her movie break as Gisele in Justin Lin’s Fast and Furious franchise, eventually appearing in four films over the course of six years. Having confessed to The Forward in 2011 that a large part of her character’s story arc came about due to Lin’s appreciation of the fact that she was in the military and his desire to use her
“knowledge of weapons”, Gadot’s past remains important to her portrayal of “stronger female roles”.
Now, having signed up to portray Wonder Woman in Snyder’s hotly anticipated picture, a Justice League sequel and a standalone film that is due to hit cinemas next year, Gadot has the chance to call upon all her skills in order to play the archetypal female super heroine.
“She’s the ultimate symbol of a strong, smart and serious woman,” says Gadot. “She represents the kind of woman who is independent and highly capable and I see it as a huge responsibility to play this kind of iconic figure, who is an inspiration for all women.”
She’s also attracted her share of criticism from die-hard Wonder Woman fans who seem to doubt Gadot’s ability to portray the Amazonian warrior queen. While it’s true that Gadot’s slim physique is a step away from the more traditional depiction of a muscle-bound Wonder Woman, the new incumbent of that iconic red and gold outfit is determined to prove the naysayers wrong.
“The military gave me good training for Hollywood,” Gadot told The Daily Mail . “To become a fight training instructor in the Israeli Defense Forces, I did a fourmonth boot camp where I had to go for seven-mile runs every morning.” Although it’s fair to say that the vast majority of the shooting Gadot will be encountering in her new career path will involve a camera rather than a rifle, her militaristic background may well be the origin of what Dawn of Justice director Snyder describes as Gadot’s “magical quality”.
It has certainly given her a head start in terms of her preparations for Wonder Woman – the training for which, Gadot told Israeli news programme Good Evening with Gai Pines, is “a very serious regime”. Having been instructed in elements of Kung fu, kickboxing, ju-jitsu and Brazilian martial arts, Gadot has “had to train very intensively for six months” in order to become the first actress to portray Wonder Woman in a feature film.
Ultimately, however, while Gadot’s time in the IDF can lead us to draw comparisons between the actress and her latest and most iconic character in that they are both “independent and highly capable” and don’t “need to rely on a man to rescue her”, there were a couple of techniques Gadot was less well versed in, such as “how to handle a sword and a lasso” – skills that even the Israeli military deems unnecessary!
For Gadot, taking on such an epochal female role for the first time since the enduringly popular Lynda Carter in the mid to late Seventies isn’t just a case of solely revisiting her martial arts training – she feels like she was born to take on the training necessary to portray Wonder Woman. While the army gave Gadot “a good background in the kind of techniques that are the basis for all martial arts work”, she maintains that even before her compulsory service she was “very active and physically fit”.
In high school Gadot participated in a variety of activities including basketball, dodgeball, volleyball and dancing, whereas nowadays the 30-year-old is more likely to be seen paddle boarding or doing ‘TRX’ – a form of suspension training designed to develop core strength, balance and flexibility.
All in all, it’s abundantly clear that Gadot doesn’t fit your typical “damsel in distress” stereotype, and that’s exactly the kind of typecasting she’s hoping to avoid by taking on such physically demanding roles. She attributes this desire to resist being pigeon-holed to the influence of her parents, who raised both Gadot and her sister to be “very capable and independent women” – Gadot has even referred to her mother as her “own idea of a real Wonder Woman”.
Snyder’s decision to recruit her seems more and more like “destiny” with every passing trailer. Gadot’s vision of a new independent Wonder Woman, regardless of her
femininity, has only been strengthened by the fact that the stand-alone film will be directed by Patty Jenkins – the first time a woman has taken the directorial helm of a superhero movie since the universally panned Punisher: War Zone in 2008.
Gadot’s tough streak, running like a vein of silver through an enchanting exterior, seems to be the perfect antidote to the volley of unfounded criticism levelled at her by a small minority of the dyed-in-the-wool DC fan base.
In a world where so much coverage is given to male stars who are expected to pile on the pounds in order to realistically portray superheroes on screen, hopefully Gadot’s willingness to take on the physical demands of portraying Wonder Woman will not only put paid to the questions raised over Snyder’s decision to cast her, but also inspire a new generation of female superheroes who aren’t afraid to mix it with the boys.