BY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC Wonder Woman has always been a feminist icon, but director Patty Jenkins resurrected the fearless and Amazon just when the world needed her most. The first film hit in 2017 and establishing this new take on the character while the seeds of Trumpism were just starting to take root in America. Now three years later, Jenkins has brought Diana back and transported her to the go-go 1980s where she does battle with Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), an Art of the Deal pyramid scheming business tycoon, complete with a blonde cowlick. Maxwell Lord’s superpower is bending the very fabric of reality through deception, which eventually lands him in the Whitehouse. Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
I’ve been excited about Wonder Woman 1984 since I first caught this trailer that celebrated all things ‘80s to the tune of New Order’s “Blue Monday.” Given our current sociopoliticaI mood I thought the ‘80s would be a rich playground for Diana Prince and her no nonsense brand of feminism and having seen it, I’m here to tell you I was not mistaken. A few weeks ago I got the opportunity to virtually sit down with Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot for a few moments on Zoom in advance of the film’s HBOMAX release.Enjoy.
PHAWKER: Patty, first of all, congratulations. Thank you so much for giving people this film that is so full of hope, just when we needed it the most.
PATTY JENKINS: Thank you so much. Thank you for those kind words. It feels really great to finally share something with the world and to have something to share with the world in this time. So I appreciate that.
PHAWKER: So, where did you start with writing this film? Was this already in your head as to where Diana’s journey would go?
PATTY JENKINS: It was kind of interesting. We were finishing the first film, or, you know, maybe a little earlier than that. We were having such a great time as friends making the film that I found myself thinking, ‘wow, I would think I would be exhausted and sick of this, but actually I’m only frustrated by what I didn’t get to do with Wonder Woman and this whole great group of people’. And so really we spent the entire first film creating Wonder Woman. She’s only Wonder Woman in the last scene of the movie. So I found myself really craving doing a movie about full-blown Wonder Woman and then I started reflecting on what was going on in our world and what Wonder Woman would want to say to the world. And the story came out of that.
PHAWKER: Was there something that given the reaction to the film you wanted to make sure was represented in this film?
PATTY JENKINS:Yeah, definitely. I think the first film, like I said, it was about the birth of Wonder Woman. I think what Wonder Woman goes on to stand for in the world, which is that she’s trying to teach everyone she encounters how to be their better self, and trying to like help mankind to be better.
So, the last one was her discovery of humanity. Now, how does she live with humanity? And by the way, she’s not perfect either. So her own struggles and journey to do the right thing, which is so universal, (like) all of us. Like being a hero is not an easy thing, it’s actually a super difficult thing. So that I was really interested in too, like, what does it feel like?
PHAWKER: With Wonder Woman 1984, we catch up with Diana in the eighties. Was her life up until then something you and Patty discussed in depth, like where Diana’s head would be at when we catch up with her?
GAL GADOT: First of all, I’m very grateful to have such an amazing director to work with and yes, you know, we discussed a lot about the history of Diana and how her life had been since we last saw her in 1918, all the way to the 1980s. You know, she lost all of her team members. She’s been very lonely. She doesn’t really want to engage and make new friends because then they’re going to realize she doesn’t age and they’re going to die and she has to let go. So, she kind of isolated herself from the world, and her only goal is just to help and better mankind and be there for them and guide them and try to do good.
PHAWKER: So Gal, Wonder Woman sends an incredibly powerful message to young girls showing them that they already have the strength they need to be the heroes of their own lives. What would it have meant to you as a young girl to see Wonder Woman on the big screen growing up?
GAL GADOT: Well, I wasn’t lucky enough to see so many Wonder Women type of characters when I was growing up. I got to say that when I watched the movie for the first time and I’m, you know, I’m the star of the movie, I’ve read all the drafts and I was, I thought that I was ready to see anything. But then when I saw the opening sequence (Young Diana in WW84) it was certainly something, the reaction I had, I just didn’t expect to have. I just, I got so emotional and for the first time, I didn’t feel like I was Gal, the actress, Gal, the woman, Gal, I felt like Gal the eight year old – watching another eight year old, doing something out of worldly and being so good at it and she is doing it in her way. It’s her own and it moved me so deeply and so much that I just, I got emotional, but then I realized, like the power of these movies
I’m a big believer that when you see it, you think you can be it and then you become it. Right? So, I didn’t have the opportunity to see all of these strong female characters and now seeing it and seeing the way that it affects my daughters, but by the way, also boys and men, and like all different types of people. It’s so powerful and it’s so strong and I feel very, very grateful that I have the opportunity to, be a part of this.
PHAWKER: That opening with young Diana was just amazing.
PATTY JENKINS: It was so great.
GAL GADOT: Yeah. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this before, because also the girls, they do it like a girl would do that. They do it like women would do that. You know, it’s not like, oh, when you see women try to fight like men, no, we’re females. We have different, you know, our bodies are different. The way we move is different and this is how we do it. And just to see it, it feels so great.
PHAWKER: This film was definitely more ambitious than the first, like that final battle with Cheetah and Wonder Woman, that was insane to say the least. Patty as a director what goes into pulling off something like that? The preparation, the choreography? There’s a real grace to the action in this film.
PATTY JENKINS: There were quite a few scenes that were unbelievably complex. For that one we had to build that entire space. There was no stage big enough in the world. Then we have Cirque du Soleil performers, practicing the choreography and showing us what things are going to look like, and then these guys have to end up doing it.
So, it was incredible, but it was fun to really aspire and I think Gal and I were talking about this from the very start, we were saying, however, they would fight, it would be completely different and they’re friends. Right? Or at least, you know, like at least they have this friendship in the past. It’s not about punching in the face and you’re not trying to, they’re both trying to literally get the other one under control. I mean, I think cheetah’s got worse intentions than that, but so narratively, it was fascinating. Then how it would work spatially was fascinating and then executing. It was long and laborious and wild, but also exciting because you would see the moves and be like, ‘Whoa, that’s so awesome!’
PHAWKER: So you’re watching Cirque de Solei and then you’re like, I have to do that?
GAL GADOT: (Laughs) It was, it was, it was a lot, it was a lot. I feel like this movie, everything about this movie just was, it was yeah, a lot.
Everything was super planned ahead. If it goes to sets and locations and costumes and fight coordination, and the acting, everything was, like Patty said, laborious. But at the end of the day, like, that’s why now watching the movie, you can actually tell Patty really made a point about wanting to have minimum amount of CGI in our movies. So most of the stuff that you’re going to see is real people doing the real thing, whether if it’s us, or the stunt people, it’s real people. So, it took much longer. You have to prep and rehearse, much longer, the wire work that we’ve done at the mall and for the fight with cheetah was like, I don’t think it was ever done before. Because people don’t do these types of wire rigs anymore and they just do CGI.
But when you see it in the movie and you see it, you can just tell that it’s the real deal you can see by the face expressions that it’s real. You can see the weight and the movement and the speed. It’s the hardest movie I ever got to shoot by far, but it was worth it, especially because the first movie was, you know, was, how should I say it, was received in such an amazing way, that there was just no way we’re going to take any shortcuts. We’re just going to raise the bar and give everything we have, because we knew people were so invested with the character and cared so much about her.
PHAWKER: Finally, what object dress or song would you take with you from the eighties?
PATTY JENKINS: Little Red Corvette.
PHAWKER: That was like reflectionary, you didn’t even hesitate….
PATTY JENKINS: I just remember being so obsessed with that song at that period of time, I was also just like coming of age. So I was like, what is this and magic of attraction and hotness and edge and coolness?
PHAWKER: (Smiling and nodding) Purple Rain….