This is not a drill, people. More than 70 years after she made her comic book debut, and 40 years after she dazzled on TV, Wonder Woman is—at last—coming off the cinema sidelines. The anticipation among fans is palpable: At Comic-Con last July, nearly 7,000 people (myself included) were visibly restless, waiting to get a glimpse of the woman who would bring their beloved Amazon princess to celluloid life. Then Gal Gadot strode onstage to take her place alongside director Zack Snyder and castmates Ben Affleck (Batman), Henry Cavill (Superman), and Amy Adams (Lois Lane) in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. “I feel like I’ve been given such a huge opportunity to show the strong, beautiful side of women,” she said. “Finally.” The room roared. And on March 25, the revered comic book heroine will take to theaters.
It’s a career-making role for actress Gal Gadot (that’s “Gah-dote“), 30, a move she could never have imagined for herself as a kid from small-town Israel. She first dreamed of being a choreographer, then of studying law. Life took an unexpected turn when a pageant scout convinced her to compete in the 2004 Miss Israel contest, which she won and which launched a modeling career. But she slowed down on that in order to serve her two years in the Israeli army, earning a spot as a combat trainer after excelling in a grueling three-month boot camp. That physical prowess helped her portray the badass Gisele in Fast & Furious, her first Hollywood gig; she even did some of her own stunts in Furious 6. She’ll rely on that fierce strength again as Wonder Woman, a part she will inhabit for the foreseeable future. After Batman v Superman she’ll star in next year’s Wonder Woman—”Wonder Woman is getting the respect of having her own movie!” Gadot says—followed by (at least) two more spin-offs scheduled through 2019.
On an increasingly rare day off this winter, Gadot met me at a cafe in London, where she lives with her husband, businessman Yaron Versano, and their daughter, Alma, age four. It seems her days of showing up quietly to cafes are over: “Oh, my, it’s you,” our waiter stammers, as he trips over himself to bring Gadot a coffee and slice of carrot cake. In person she’s exceedingly open and warm (not many starlets offer to give you a lift back to your hotel or start scheming to set you up on a date), and she’s charmingly superstitious, knocking on wood repeatedly as she stresses how grateful she is for the twists and turns of fate that have brought her here. All right, Gal, let’s start from the very beginning.
GLAMOUR: We know so little about you. What kind of kid were you?
GAL GADOT: I really liked to perform. My mother always tells this story: I was five. They had a party, and they’d put me to bed. I heard everyone on the rooftop, and I went upstairs. No one paid any attention to me, so I took a hose and sprayed everyone. [Laughs.] Very elegant, right? “It’s meeeee! Look at me!” I loved the attention. But I never connected all the dots that maybe I should be an actress.
GLAMOUR: And yet here we are.
GG: If things had gone according to my plans, I’d be a lawyer. I never dreamt of being an actress. My mother was a teacher; my dad is an engineer. But at 18 I was approached to compete in Miss Israel. I thought, That would be a nice experience. I never thought I would win! I was shocked when they crowned me; when I went to Miss Universe, I rebelled. I was afraid I might get picked again. [Laughs.] I showed up late. I came without gowns. They tell you to come to breakfast in a gown. I was like, “No way am I having breakfast in a gown!” Who needs to wear an evening gown at 10:30 A.M.?
GLAMOUR: Did the other women hate you?
GG: No, they loved me because I wasn’t a threat. [Laughs.] I made friends with women from all over the world! And because of Miss Israel, I started modeling and traveling. It opened my mind to different possibilities.
GLAMOUR: Like all Israelis, you served two years in the Israeli army, the IDF. What was that like for you?
GG: Let me start by saying, I wish no country had the need for an army. But in Israel serving is part of being an Israeli. You’ve got to give back to the state. You give two or three years, and it’s not about you. You give your freedom away. You learn discipline and respect. [After the army] I started studying law at university. While I was there, a casting director for Quantum of Solace saw my modeling card on my agency’s wall, and I auditioned to be a Bond Girl.
GLAMOUR: You got pretty close to getting the part that ended up being played by Olga Kurylenko.
GG: It was always Olga’s. But I started going to an acting coach, then I got my first role, in an Israeli TV series. I had finished my first year in school, and I decided to stop working toward my degree when I got that project. Then that same Bond casting director cast me as Gisele in Fast & Furious—my first movie. Crazy! Whenever I met with producers, writers, or directors, I said I wanted to portray a strong, independent woman. Cut to Wonder Woman. [Laughs.]
GLAMOUR: What was your audition to play Wonder Woman like?
GG: I was in this weird career phase, going back and forth from Tel Aviv to Los Angeles for auditions. I kept getting pretty far—multiple callbacks, camera tests—then it would be a no. Over and over. I was like, “God, Yaron, maybe I should quit.” Then my agent called and said Warner Brothers wanted to audition me for something.
GLAMOUR: When did you learn it was for Batman v Superman?
GG: Zack [Snyder, the director] called before I met with Ben Affleck. He said, “I don’t know if you have this in Tel Aviv, but…have you ever heard of Wonder Woman?” My jaw dropped. I tried to sound nonchalant, like, “Oh yeah, Wonder Woman, sure.” [Laughs.]
GLAMOUR: Were there certain things that you felt were particularly important in portraying Wonder Woman?
GG: For BvS it was important for me that we show how independent she is. She is not relying on a man, and she’s not there because of a love story. She’s not there to serve someone else.
GLAMOUR: It’s pretty clear she doesn’t need help from anybody!
GG: She has so many strengths and powers, but at the end of the day she’s a woman with a lot of emotional intelligence. She’s loving.
GLAMOUR: We don’t really tend to think about superheroes’ hearts.
GG: And it’s all her heart—that’s her strength. I think women are amazing for being able to show what they feel. I admire women who do. I think it’s a mistake when women cover their emotions to look tough. I say let’s own who we are and use it as a strength.
GLAMOUR: Amy Adams seems like she’d be a good woman to have on set with you.
GG: We became friends. Real friends. All the Fast movies, I was surrounded by so many men—
GLAMOUR: Not men, dudes.
GG: Yes, dudes, exactly. I love them all. Vin [Diesel] is a great friend. But working with women is just good, you know? Both Amy and I are mothers; we went through similar things.
GLAMOUR: Does your daughter have any idea what’s happening?
GG: A little bit. If you ask her, “Where’s Mommy?” she’ll cross her wrists and say, “Wonder Woman!” And she’s seen the costume. She wanted to know why I wear a tiara and what it means for her: “Mommy, am I a princess?” [Laughs.]
GLAMOUR: What changed for you when you had Alma?
GG: Priorities. I started to choose my battles better. The Jewish guilt I feel about being a working mom is the hardest thing.
GLAMOUR: Is that something you still struggle with?
GG: I’ve gotten better. When Alma was around two, I was really anxious about how to travel with a child, moving her from one country to the other, all the different languages. It was my husband who told me: “Gal, think about what kind of a role model you want to be. If you want to show Alma that she can follow her dreams, that’s what you should do, and we will figure out the logistics.”
GLAMOUR: You married well.
GG: Oh, he’s the best man. [Knocks on wood.] We met nearly 10 years ago through mutual friends at this very strange party in the Israeli desert. It was all about yoga, chakras, and eating healthy—we didn’t exactly find ourselves there, but we found each other.
GLAMOUR: Did you know he was the one right away?
GG: I think I did, but I was too young to get it. He did! He’s 10 years older than me. He told me on our second date he was serious and wasn’t going to wait more than two years to ask me to marry him. Fast-forward two years; he proposed. We were married in 2008.
GLAMOUR: It should always be so easy.
GG: Both of us said, “No games. Let’s just be honest and keep it simple.” I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without him. Family still has to be the first priority. I have to do what’s good for my child.
GLAMOUR: And your daughter is going to grow up thinking, My mom is actually Wonder Woman!
GG: I can’t even think about it. When I saw myself in the mirror wearing the Wonder Woman costume for the first time, I was like, Oh my God. Who would have thought me, Gal, from this tiny part of the world, would be here in this room in the States in this role?
GLAMOUR: Wonder Woman fights and rides horses and wields swords and shields. What did you do to train for the role?
GG: A lot. Since I’ve started, I’ve gained about 17 pounds, and it’s all muscle. I feel so much better now. When you feel strong, it changes everything—your posture, the way you walk. I look at photos from five years ago and think, Whoa, I was too skinny. It’s not cool.
GLAMOUR: Fans are paying close attention to every detail about the movie. Do you read their Internet comments or try to shut that out?
GG: I did in the beginning. You want people to be happy! There were a lot of comments about the size of my breasts.
GLAMOUR: Did they want them bigger or smaller?
GG: Uh, what do you think? [Laughs.] I realized we can’t please everyone. In one interview I did say, “If you want it to really be true to the origin story, the [myth goes that] Amazons had only one breast; otherwise it would get in the way of the bow and arrow.” So!
GLAMOUR: Good for you! Does portraying one of the most iconic feminist figures change your own personal feelings on feminism?
GG: There are such misconceptions as to what a feminist is. Feminism is about equality. I want all people to have the same opportunities and to get the same salaries for the same jobs. I realize I’m doing what I want to do because of the women before me who laid the groundwork. Without them I wouldn’t be an educated working mother who is following her dreams; I wouldn’t be here.
GLAMOUR: At Comic-Con we both saw this traditionally male fan base embrace a female superhero, which is great.
GG: Amen! It should have happened a long time ago! Now people are looking for [a superheroine], waiting for one, and I’m so happy and grateful to be the one who is actually doing it.
GLAMOUR: Do you feel those expectations?
GG: I do. I do. But not in a bad way. I feel like, Yes, I can do it—like any man can do Superman or Captain America.
GLAMOUR: It’s pretty far from where you thought you’d be.
GG: Nothing I planned happened. But whenever opportunity arose, I was prepared and positive. And all those things I didn’t get, all those “almosts”—if I got them, I wouldn’t be Wonder Woman. What’s mine is mine, and what’s not mine was never meant to be.
—by Sara Vilkomerson, a senior writer at* Entertainment Weekly