Talking Wonder Woman With Director Patty Jenkins


by Ed Gross |
Published on

On television, female superheroes — ranging from Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman to Sarah Michelle Gellar's Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Melissa Benoist's Supergirl — have become something that's fairly accepted. On the big screen, the rise to prominence has been a little slower in coming, though that seems likely to change this June with the release of Wonder Woman.

Introduced as the character in last year's Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, Gal Gadot returns as the Amazon princess under the guiding hand of director Patty Jenkins, who recently took the time to talk about the project with Empire prior to taking to the stage at Wondercon, where she previewed several impressive sequences from the film.

What do you feel makes Gal Gadot the ideal Wonder Woman?

I didn't get to choose her, but boy was I relieved once I realized who she was. That is like a make it or break it thing, who plays these characters. So when I first heard Zack Snyder has cast somebody as Wonder Woman, a movie I had wanted to make for a long time, I was cautious. But then, oh my God, they couldn't have found anybody better in the whole wide world. Just look at Gal Gadot when she smiles or when she meets somebody and shakes their hand. That is the embodiment of Wonder Woman. She is so beautiful and powerful, but kind and generous and thoughtful. She's just an amazing person.

Is it challenging to create an origin story for Wonder Woman when she was already introduced in Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice?

It's easier than that sounds, because there are hundreds of years between the films. And, because that story is who she's going to become a long time in the future. I got to look at the story of the beautiful child and character that comes into this world, and there might even be some misconceptions about who she is later on. We may be reading into things in Batman V Superman in the future that aren't necessarily what you think they are. They're making Wonder Woman, and so was I. For me, I felt very supported in this vision.

Wonder Woman teaser posters

And what about the things that were established in that film, such as the costume or the music theme?

The costume made perfect sense to me. I love that costume, and I love that costume designer. Michael Wilkinson is an amazing costume designer. Because of it's origins, because it had a relationship to the ancient Greek and Roman times, it made sense as a battle armor of somebody who would be coming from there. So, that was very easy. The song is slightly more complicated, because that is the song of a very adult and evolved character. I love that track, but we had to embrace it as a different thing. The story is of who Diana grows into being; you can't just come out of the gate with a song like that for a ten year old.

This film seems to have such a different look than what we've seen in these films so far; the colors not nearly as muted. Why?

It's an origin story, and it's a classic film. For both of those things, it's essentially not modern in the color palates of our times. I was going for brand classic cinema. Also, Wonder Woman is a very colorful character to me. The red and the blue, and just the beauty, and the beauty of the world that she comes from... everything about that asks to make a colorful film.

Wonder Woman teaser posters

What's the draw of dealing with god-like characters for you, because you were also involved with Thor for a while?

I think it's an incredibly powerful story to look at. Many other superheroes find themselves in circumstances and become a superhero. In this case, what's so great, is here's an idealistic character similar to Thor, who comes to the world of man and has to observe what's happening with them and make a decision about how to go about it. Interestingly, I had been talking to Warner Bros before I ever got involved with Thor, and that's how the Thor guys knew that I was interested. I was putting out there that there was at kind of superhero film that I would love to do. There was something very similar that I wanted to do with Thor. I will always be grateful to those guys for trying, because — and it should never be this way — it was shocking to some people that a woman was being approached for Thor. But, those guys weren't thinking about that at all, and kudos to them for it. I'm so happy I got my shot now.

How important is it for these characters to be aspirational yet remain human?

I don't think they have to be anything. I think they're a metaphor that you can do all kinds of things with. But, I certainly think that the grand tradition and the number one reason that they evolved was to be aspirational. So, there's always going to be a place for that. Even though I think there's a place for all kinds of other dialogues, as well.

From what we've seen, there's more humor in Wonder Woman than in the previous DC films...

I think there's funny things in those films, but we definitely went for making a funny film. I was always basing it on Superman: The Movie and on Indiana Jones. I wanted to make a classic film where you're laughing and you're in love with them, and then they're off on a great adventure. It's definitely the point in the pursuit of our film.

Wonder Woman teaser posters

Why do you think Ares was the ideal villain for this film?

He's the biggest villain of Wonder Woman's World. I think if you're going to start off big, and start off right, you go with the greatest villain. I also think it was a great delight to place him in the world in a way where he believes in exactly what a real, true Ares does, and what kind of havoc would an Ares wreak on this planet and how?

Was there much collaboration between you and Zack Snyder on this?

Zack was making Batman V Superman simultaneous to making this, but he was very instrumental in the direction the film was going to take. That ended up leading to my signing on, because I know enough about these worlds now that unless we really have a shared vision, it's going to be two years of fighting, and who wants that? I had a very strong feeling of what kind of Wonder Woman film I'd want to make.


Since you had spent time on the Thor project, was there much carryover from that to Wonder Woman?

They're very similar in a lot of ways. It's a lot of the same questions, and a lot of the same struggles that I was interested in for both Thor's story and Wonder Woman. Although in that case, it was a second movie, so it could never have been as pure and a simple of an arc. So I think it was meant to be that I ended up doing this one, which I had always wanted to do anyway. And I got to do it in a kind of bigger and purer arc, rather than putting it in that other story.

There has been so much criticism over the lack of a superhero film focused on a female. How significant, then, is this and did that add any pressure?

I think it's pretty significant, but I also didn't think about it that way at all. I tried not to think about it, and that's the great thing about being a woman director doing it, is I was like, "Oh, I'm just making a superhero movie." I'm not looking at her as being any different than any other superhero. And that's the victory. I think the reason that there wasn't a woman superhero made for a long time is because people were assuming that it had to be a different kind of thing. Or more rarefied, or something. This is Wonder Woman. There's nothing different. There's Batman, there's Superman, there's Wonder Woman. She's the full-blown real deal. So it's very significant, but I also just went forth trying to make a great superhero film the same way I would have with any of them, which was great.


You've referenced the fact that you went right back to the beginning of the comics. That that was an important influence ...

You know, William Marston created the magic that has gone on to this day. What was so magical about Wonder Woman then, was how powerful she was, yet she was so beautiful, and she was so kind, and she had such a strong moral compass. That's it. That's who, to this day, has drawn millions of women and little girls, and men, and all different kinds of people into dressing up like Wonder Woman and identifying with her. I think it's absolutely important to honor the real, original Wonder Woman.

Earlier you referenced Superman: The Movie and its impact on you. How would you describe its influence?

It made me believe that I could be anything in my life. Yet it made me laugh, and it made me cry, and it made me fall in love with Superman and Lois Lane as a love story. And so, that is a wonderful thing to bring to other people.

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