In her everyday life, Gal Gadot keeps things low-key and casual — hair pulled back, face mostly free of makeup, and wearing tank tops and jeans. But when she finally donned the iconic armor and cuffs of Wonder Woman, things got real. Very, very real.
“I felt like a badass. I felt great. You feel very sexy and very strong,” she tells Yahoo Style.
It shows. And then some. Since the early 2000s, I’ve sat through innumerable big-screen spectacles that glorify and adulate the achievements of preening or tormented superhero dudes — guys out to rescue humanity but hampered by existential angst, daddy issues, or social anxiety: Captain America, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Batman, and the list goes on and on and on. The females generally whirl around them, mostly superfluously, with the emphasis always, always, on being appealing and hot and serving as some kind of foil.
So it was with some sense of trepidation — please, please, let this at least be decent — that I went to a screening of Wonder Woman, the first tentpole superhero film centered on a woman in a decade (after 2005’s forgettable Elektra, starring Jennifer Garner) and also the first directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins. Two and a half hours later, I stumbled out filled with a sense of joy and wonder, pride and delight, at being a girl. For that I thank Gadot, the former Israeli beauty queen who doesn’t merely embody Diana Prince, the goddess who transforms into Wonder Woman and makes it her mission to save the world through love and that gold lasso of truth. She burrows into the inner life of Diana and explodes with a force so powerful, so contagious, so exhilarating, so intelligent and confident and funny that something melancholy follows in her wake: Why did it take so long?
Tell that to Gadot and she says she feels chills. And then she cracks a joke: “Mission accomplished. I can retire now.”
A few things to note about Gadot, 32, who has a devilish, sweetly impish charm in person: She’s an athlete who played volleyball growing up, served in the army in her native Israel, rides a Ducati, and is raising two daughters — 6-year-old Alma and 2-month-old Maya. On that note, she finished reshoots of Wonder Woman while five months pregnant with Maya, who was born this March. That wasn’t easy, but neither was the rest of the shoot.
First and foremost, Gadot prepped for six months — building strength, which you can’t fake onscreen, and learning the intricate fight choreography.
“I was on a strict diet, eating 2,000-3,000 calories per day. I got sick of food. I couldn’t eat any more chicken and I’m such a foodie,” she says. “We did two hours of gym work, two hours of stunt choreography and two hours of horseback riding every day. That was the hardest thing for me. I always thought it would be super fun to ride a horse. But no. You have to make the horse move. It takes a lot of work. But we did it, and now I know how to ride a horse.”
Gadot says she and Diana Prince (Wonder Woman’s human name) have a similar approach to fashion: They don’t overthink it. Case in point is one very funny scene in a department store in London, where Diana/Wonder Woman is confused by a corset and wonders why on Earth any woman would wear one.
When her daughters are old enough to see the film, Gadot hopes that its message translates. Wonder Woman isn’t out to avenge anyone or tame her inner demons. She just wants to live her own life on her own terms. And if that’s not feminism, what is? Gender in the film is never an issue or a hindrance; Wonder Woman never feels “less than” because she’s a woman. “I hope that they feel limitless. I hope they feel they can do and achieve anything they want,” Gadot says of her girls.
Thus far, the response to the film has been little short of rapturous, especially compared to previous Marvel and DC releases, many of which got slammed by critics.
“I’m so overwhelmed and grateful. I’m pinching myself and [director] Patty [Jenkins] every five minutes. Even in my wildest dreams, I never imagined it to be received to this extent. I gave it my everything. But I’m a reasonable person,” says Gadot.
With that acclaim comes a loss of privacy. Gadot posted a video of herself and Jenkins in Times Square, under a huge Wonder Woman billboard. Yes, she was recognized. Eventually.
“The worst thing about being famous is that you lose your anonymity. You can’t walk around. The good thing about it is — well, that’s an interesting question. I never planned on being an actress or being famous. Fame is a side effect that I never aspired to have. I’m used to it from Israel. It’s a whole different ballgame here. I need to think about it, and I’ll get back to you about the greatest thing about being famous,” she says.
A post shared by Gal Gadot (@gal_gadot) on May 23, 2017 at 4:36am PDT
In Mexico, she did one better, pairing a custom Prada with Rocket Dog shoes. “They’re super comfortable. You need to walk this carpet and do the interviews. Yeah, it was really comfortable,” she says.
Read more from Yahoo Beauty + Style: