Gal Gadot on Wonder Woman 1984, Feminism, and More

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Gal Gadot is relaxing on the back patio of her home in Tel Aviv. This outdoor space, surrounded by a stone wall and overhanging trees, is where she says she likes to go for a little “me time” after her children, Alma, eight, and Maya, three, fall asleep. Last year, when Gadot and her husband, Jaron Varsano, thought Alma was old enough, they showed her the film that made her mother a star: Wonder Woman.

“She was very excited,” Gadot says, “but she also couldn’t detach from seeing Ima”—Mother in Hebrew—“battling the bad guys. She said, I can’t watch it! Just forward! She couldn’t bear it. So we skipped the scary parts. But the rest of it she loved, and she is proud of it.”

Alma isn’t a fan of Sleeping Beauty, however. “She said, ‘I don’t like Sleeping Beauty,’ ” says Gadot, “and I asked her why—because it’s a Disney princess; who doesn’t like a Disney princess? And she said, ‘Because all she does is fall asleep and the prince comes and kisses her and then it’s the end. She didn’t do anything,’ she said. And both Jaron and I were looking at her, and we were like, what a healthy perspective. And it’s so true—she didn’t do anything.”

Dress by Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello.Photographs by Dudi Hasson.

I remember when I went to see Wonder Woman in the theater in New York City just after it opened in June 2017, all the hooting and cheering erupting from the women and girls in the audience. At one point a woman sitting next to me gripped my hand in some spontaneous show of sisterhood. Reports soon followed of similar reactions occurring all over the country and the world: audiences clapping, crying, donning their Bracelets of Submission and wielding their golden lassos in public and on social media. A viral Tumblr post from a kindergarten teacher (which Gadot retweeted) reported a list of inspiring things that had happened in her classroom since the film’s release: both boys and girls wanting to emulate the strength and goodness of Wonder Woman, and to save the world, like she did.

Wonder Woman was a phenomenon. Coming, as it did, months after the election of an avowed pussy grabber to the U.S. presidency, it felt like balm. And Gadot seemed like the perfect incarnation of a beloved female superhero, arriving in time for a feminist wave (her first name, Gal, actually means wave in Hebrew), kicked off by the historic international Women’s March in January 2017.

Today, with Wonder Woman 1984 set to hit theaters in December, Gadot is excited for audiences to catch up with the next installment of Wonder Woman’s story. “I think the first film was the birth of a hero,” she says, talking to me on Zoom, “and this time around we wanted to go deeper in a way. It’s more about the danger in greed, and I think that it’s very relevant to the era that we’re living in nowadays. It feels like everyone is in a race for more, and when you get what you wanted there’s a new bar—and what’s the price? And do we lose ourselves in this crazy marathon?”

She’s wearing a sleeveless black Helmut Lang tank dress with an asymmetrical collar, diamond studs, no makeup. In a conversation touching on feminist themes, it’s hard to know how, or if, to say just how beautiful she is. She doesn’t seem that interested in it herself. In her teens, she worked at Burger King rather than take the modeling jobs she was being offered. She was shocked when she won the Miss Israel pageant in 2004 (her mother and a friend had entered her on a whim) and decided beauty pageants were not for her. She threw the 2004 Miss Universe pageant, she has said in interviews, by acting uncooperative and wearing terrible clothes.

“Oh, my God,” she says, laughing, when I bring it up. “Paula Abdul was one of the judges, and she asked me something and I was like”—intensifying her smoky Israeli accent—“ ‘Me no speak English, so sorry.’ I did everything to make sure it wasn’t gonna happen.”

Clothing by CHANEL.Photographs by Dudi Hasson.

In the opening scene of Wonder Woman 1984, the child version of the warrior princess Diana Prince (played by 12-year-old Lilly Aspell, a prize-winning show jumper in real life) engages in a lengthy physical contest, a sort of Amazonian Olympics. It takes place on Themyscira, the magical island and all-woman city-state that is her birthplace. It’s a dazzling sequence from a technical perspective, with many impossible-looking feats executed on a grand scale, but what stays with you is the sheer athleticism on the part of a very determined-looking little girl.

“Whenever I see this part of the movie, I always get teary—like good, excited tears,” says Gadot (pronounced “Ga-dot”), who is 35. “One of the biggest things that I believe is that you can only dream about becoming someone or something after you’ve seen it visually. And for boys—lucky them—they got to experience, since the beginning of the movies, that they were the protagonist, they were the strong ones, they saved the day.

“But we didn’t get this representation,” she says. “And I think it’s so important—and of course it’s ultra-important for me because I’m a mother of two girls—to show them the potential of what they can be. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to be athletic or physically strong—that too—but that they can be bigger than life.”

She talks about the need for education; she tells me about “a horrible thing that happened to a 16-year-old girl that got raped by multiple men in Israel,” in the Red Sea resort city of Eilat in August. “How come there were multiple men in the room, and no one was like, Hey guys, this is wrong, stop, somebody call the police?” she asks. “We have to role-model ourselves to our children and we have to educate them for equality. There is still a long way to go because there’s no true equality yet. If we focus our resources on this type of thing, then real change would happen.”

She smiles. She smiles a lot. “I hope it wasn’t too big of a speech,” she adds.

Dress by Proenza Schouler. Photographed at Caesarea beach.Photographs by Dudi Hasson.

“I’ve never met anyone who is so bestowed with gifts—of beauty and intelligence and strength—and is so good,” says Patty Jenkins, the director of Wonder Woman 1984 and 2017’s Wonder Woman, which was the highest-grossing movie by a solo woman director, earning more than $820 million worldwide.

The success of the first Wonder Woman film—for which Gadot was paid only $300,000, a figure that caused outrage in some circles as it paled in comparison to what many male action stars take home—helped catapult her onto the list of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood. For Wonder Woman 1984, she reportedly earned $10 million—a hefty sum that is still less than half of what some leading male action stars get, yet another sign that in Hollywood, as elsewhere, the gender pay gap still has a long way to go to close.

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