Gal Gadot doesn’t only play Wonder Woman on screen, she is, truly, a wonder woman off screen too. The actress threw her back recently and is in pain. She walks slowly, but gracefully, to our interview – at a movie studio in Los Angeles. She doesn’t sit, though, as it aggravates her back so she stands throughout the 30-minute interview.

But Gadot is in good spirits despite the discomfort. What is there not to be happy about? She’s starring in her first lead role in a Hollywood feature … and playing the most powerful woman in the comic universe, no less.

Gadot’s Wonder Woman was first introduced in the much-panned Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice last year. And ever since fans caught a glimpse of the statuesque superhero, they have been feverishly waiting for the stand-alone Wonder Woman film. Will it help elevate the DC cinematic universe which has been experiencing one disaster after another (here’s looking at you Suicide Squad)? Our reviewer says, yes!

No pressure there, Gal.

Not unlike her character, Gadot is wearing a figure hugging ensemble today. She looks super chic in a Wolford sleeveless turtleneck tucked into high-waisted Lanvin pants. The look is completed with a pair of Christian Loboutins.

Getting Wonder Woman, the film, off the ground was a long process. The idea was mooted some 21 years ago with different directors considered. But when it came to fruition, Patty Jenkins was hired to helm the film. And it seemed like the right fit.

Jenkins made her directorial feature with Monster (2003) in which Charlize Theron went on to win a bunch of acting awards, including a best actress Oscar. Jenkins also directed the critically-acclaimed TV series The Killing (2011), another show with a strong female character.

Gadot knew she was in the right hands with Jenkins on board the project.

“I’m so lucky that Patty was directing me. She’s a funny, warm, brilliant and talented person,” Gadot says. But more important is that the actress and filmmaker were on the same page when it came to the direction of Wonder Woman.

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Director Patty Jenkins (centre) joking with her actors in between takes on the set of Wonder Woman.

Starting point

When she was cast for the role, Gadot was sent two boxes filled with Wonder Woman comics and being the nerd she is (her word, not ours), the 32-year-old actress pored over the material. She later had a discussion with Jenkins about the kind of Wonder Woman that would be right for this generation.

“There have been many versions of Wonder Woman throughout the years. At the end of the day, when Patty came on board, it was important for us to portray a Wonder Woman that everyone could relate to.

“What is the essence of Wonder Woman? What does she bring to the table that others (superheroes) don’t? We found that the values we need to keep are love and warmth. She’s also sassy, with an attitude. We made sure we kept those qualities that are unique to her,” Gadot offers.

Jenkins, 45, says of her lead star: “Gal is the most dedicated individual you’ll ever meet. All she wanted out of this whole process was to do justice to the character. She genuinely wanted to embody the Diana-Wonder Woman everyone expects.”

As the story goes…

This film version, set in 1918 at the tail end of World War I, tells the origin story of Diana (Gadot), the only child of Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), who lives in a secret island of Themyscira. The island is inhabited by a bunch of Amazon women. Diana has been preparing for combat her whole life, trained by her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright).

When Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an American spy, crashes his plane on Themyscira he tells Diana of the terrible situation in the real world, with WWI happening in Europe. Diana, who feels it is her obligation and calling to protect the weak and helpless, travels to London with Steve. She is determined to hunt down Ares, the God of War she thinks is responsible for the destruction. Thus, Wonder Woman is born.

“I just think it is strange that this iconic character has been around for 75 years and we have never seen her origin story,” Gadot says.

“Men and boys had Superman, Spider-Man to look up to. (Girls) didn’t really have strong figure to look up to. Now, finally, we have. But she is not only for girls but for boys as well. Everyone keeps talking about women empowerment and you can’t empower women without educating men. You need to be inclusive. Being a mother of two, I am thrilled. I hope there will be more and more strong female figures (in films).”

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Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) is Diana aka Wonder Woman’s mother.

Physical challenge, English weather

An action-packed film like this meant it was bound to be physically exhausting for the actress, but Gadot came prepared, knowing what it would entail to play a female warrior.

Preparation for the role started six months before the shoot even began. Gadot would spend two hours in the gym, another two hours learning martial arts and then 90 minutes of horseback riding.

“It was exhausting! I feel so much responsibility for this character that’s so iconic. And when you portray power and strength on screen, you just can’t fake it. You have to be prepared. I was miserable when I was prepping, but it was totally worth it,” she explains.

While she was prepared for the physical aspect of the shoot, Gadot was caught unaware of other problems … like the weather.

“We shot part of the film in England, in winter, and I had very little clothes on for some scenes …” she remembers and then adds, “And when we shot some scenes in Italy, I stepped on a sea urchin!”

One of the film’s big fight sequences involves an army of Amazon women defending their island from intruders. That scene, Gadot says, is significant to her.

“When I first watched the movie, I thought ‘How crazy is this scene?’ For me at least, it was the first time I’ve seen a big battle sequence driven by women. The film 300 was beautifully shot, but it had men with six packs. When have you seen (a scene like that) with women? It’s mind-blowing.”

Sisterhood on set

Gadot also adds that the vibe on set was of pure love with a majority of the cast members being female.

“I have worked a lot in male-dominated environments and a big franchise, but on this set, the energy we had was inclusive,” Gadot says. “There was a sisterhood kind of vibe on set; no envy, no jealousy. We’d even work out in the gym together.”

With so much talk on feminism and female empowerment attached to this project, Gadot says that Wonder Woman is a film that will appeal to everyone regardless of gender.

“Everything that Wonder Woman stands for will always be relevant. She’s all about love, justice, truth and compassion; values that are always relevant,” she says.