What Made Wonder Woman Work? Image

The contenders are Zach Snyder and Patty Jenkins. Both charged with bringing a well-known, popular superhero to the big screen. One failed miserably…the guy. The other, the clear winner…the gal.

Variety’s Jenelle Riley hosted the Talking Pictures panel with director Patty Jenkins and star Gal Gadot following the Wonder Woman screening at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. Both reflected on the critical and fan success of their film as well as their love of the superhero genre.

“…his version of Superman made me want to aspire to make…a great film.”

Jenkins reminisced about the influence superhero films have on children, including a small Patty Jenkins.

Patty Jenkins: I experienced it myself as a kid when I saw Richard Donner’s Superman. It changed my life and had a huge impact on me. His version of Superman made me want to aspire to make Wonder Woman a great film.

We should be aiming absolutely high with every kind of film that we make. This is particularly true when you have the opportunity to reach not only the Wonder Woman fan base but such a huge swath of the general public. This includes all these little girls, and all these little boys, and people who you could actually touch with a movie like this.

Directors are always asked if they could foresee the success and popularity of their work. Jenkins was surprisingly honest about Wonder Woman’s success long before its premiere.

it’s funny because I did foresee Wonder Woman’s success but in a different version. People would say, “Who wants to go see a Wonder Woman film?” I said, “You can absolutely have a very successful Wonder Woman film.”

The reason why I loved directing it, was because I believed in the project. And then I believed that it could be a much better film than people realized.

Let’s talk about love. Let’s talk about different choices. Let’s talk about how a woman might be different. Or let’s talk about a woman being able to do all of these things. All of those things were incredible, and I was amazed the movie was embraced on this much deeper level than I expected.

“…I believe in a very certain version of Wonder Woman.”

Timing was also an issue with Wonder Woman ever being made. There were prior attempts by the studio, and early on Jenkins knew she wanted to be the one to make it. But everything had to be right.

Jenkins: Because of my love of Donner’s Superman and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, after I made Monster, people started asking me, “What do you want to do next?” I was like, “I can’t believe no one has done Wonder Woman. That’s my favorite super-hero. I want to do Wonder Woman.”

And so, I started talking to Warner Brothers about it back then, but it just wasn’t what they were doing at that time. Chris [Nolan] was making the Dark Knights, and the stars just didn’t line up.

Years later, they sent me a script and said, “We’d love for you to rewrite and direct this.” The problem was I was literally five months pregnant. I said, “I can’t do it now.” That’s so sad. Ships passing in the night. But that didn’t work.

A year before I actually ended up doing it, they came back and wanted to do a very different version. After my experience on other movies, I learned, “Make sure that you have a shared vision.” They wanted to do something at that moment that wasn’t quite for me. And so, that was again like, “Wow. This is really sad because I truly believe in this movie. But I believe in a very certain version of Wonder Woman.”

When I finally got to do Wonder Woman, it didn’t happen overnight. It was like a very long courtship. And I think that these movies should be done that way. Not a long courtship, but there should be a courtship, where you make sure you’re the right director for them, and they’re the right people for you. Because it’s trench warfare when you get into making any kind of movie, if you have a different vision from the studio, that makes for an extremely unpleasant experience. So, I was lucky. By the time I got to make it, the studio and I were pretty much, “Okay fine. Go. You’re making that.”

“Let’s go. Let’s clean all the clichés and all the cynicism…”

Gal Gadot contemplated on how important her relationship with Patty was on set. For all intent and purpose, Gal and Patty were the two prominent women on set while filming.

Gal Gadot: The biggest thing for both of us was understanding that we have this amazing vessel. We have this iconic character that everyone knows. And it’s going to be a tent-pole movie. How can we do something unique, and have an impact?

On our very first date, Patty and I had sushi and red wine. We talked about life, about politics, about our families, and about the Holocaust. We dove into so many different subjects that both of us cared about. The bottom line, after four hours of dinner, we were like, “It’s all about goodness. Let’s bring love.”

And it might sound naïve. I mean, I wasn’t an experienced actress. And this was Patty’s biggest film, budget-wise. We were ready. We wanted to bring something that we dared. Let’s be pure. Patty kept on saying, “Let’s do Donner’s version. Let’s go. Let’s clean all the clichés and all the cynicism. Let’s bring something that is clean, and pure, and straightforward good.”

And all the credit goes to Patty because she dared. And she fought to bring the purest version of this character and everything that’s good about it.

“…I was praying that no one’s going to find out that I’m not a real actress.”

Richard Donner’s Superman also shows how important it was to nail down the character perfectly, particularly in the eye of the fans and filmgoers. The importance of getting Wonder Woman right was not lost on Gal.

Gadot: At the beginning, I was praying that no one’s going to find out that I’m not a real actress. I felt like a little girl looking at the mountain asking, “How am I gonna climb it?”

But, I found out that most of the people I really admire said they were always fearful. And I’m always fearful when I come to set. As much as I have fun, and I enjoy the company of Patty, Chris, and everyone else, you never really figure it out. You do what you feel and very soon you become her. Just go for it.

Patty told me, “You know, it feels like … Just imagine all these moving walls with doors. And we’re just going to aim for the special moment where all the doors are aligned, so the light can go through. And then it’s like pow! And then it’s awesome.”

And Patty’s like, “Pow! It’s gonna be great.”

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