With her Amazonian physique, Israeli army training and high-octane stunt work, Gal Gadot simply is… Wonder Woman! Interview by Karen Anne Overton
She’s stunning and smart. She’s a martial arts expert, a model and a mother. After a short time in Hollywood making waves as an actress, it should come as no surprise that Israeli superstar Gal Gadot is now set to star as Wonder Woman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, out in cinemas tomorrow.
The film, co-starring Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill as the caped protagonists, promises to be an action-packed extravaganza.
For Gadot, her latest role brings with it much anticipation, considering it’s a character very few other women have had the privilege to play.
“I was so excited that I barely slept that night!” Gadot smiles, recalling the day she found out she’d landed the coveted part. “I was staring at the ceiling lying down in the bed in my hotel room wondering if this was really happening to me. It took me a few days to calm down and get used to the idea. I thank God every day that I’ve been given the opportunity to play this character.”
Born and raised in Rosh HaAyin, Gadot is extremely proud of her heritage and has said in the past that she feels like an “ambassador” for Israel. In fact, after winning the title of Miss Israel when she was 19, the statuesque beauty literally became the poster girl for her country and once appeared in Maxim magazine’s Women of the Israeli Army photo shoot.
The pageant also launched her career as a model, which in turn led her down the path of acting. But for the young Gadot, who had not even finished school and was waiting to start her compulsory military training at the time, the draw of the competition was simply that it “would be fun”.
“The Miss Israel pageant has a very good reputation in our country – it’s not seen as something that is degrading to women at all,” she says. “I never for a minute thought that I had any chance of winning and I was shocked when I did.”
Gadot’s breathtaking beauty is only one of the facets that make her so sought after in Hollywood; she is also strong and whip-smart.
But it was her athletic prowess and army skills in particular that made her perfect to play the Amazonian goddess.
“It gave me a good background and the kind of techniques that are the basis for all martial arts work,” she says. “You never lose it. But I was very active and physically fit even before I went into the army.”
Despite her fitness background, the role required lots of extra training in swordplay and physical combat, all of which Gadot took in her stride, although there was one aspect she found harder than expected.
“I still had to train very intensively for six months to get ready for the film, and I worked hard to learn how to handle a sword and a lasso, which were skills the army didn’t teach!”
Of all the incredible roles she has undertaken, the most profound is as a mother to four-year-old daughter Alma.
“It’s given me a lot of joy and feeling of love,” gushes Gadot. “I was thinking about whether I should wait to have children maybe later when my acting career was more settled, but then I thought that if you’re more successful, you’re working even more, so that wouldn’t be the best time either.”
Fortunately, wherever she is working in the world, Gadot’s mother accompanies her on set to care for Alma.
Family is incredibly important to her. “My mother has been a major influence in my life and that of my sister. “Both my father and mother raised us to be very capable and independent women with a strong sense of ourselves and a positive outlook on life,” she says.
It is these same family values that keep Gadot and her husband, Israeli entrepreneur Yaron Varsano, firmly rooted in their home country. The bright lights of Hollywood may be calling, but the couple still spend most of the year in Tel Aviv.
Aged only 30, Gadot exudes a wisdom that is beyond her years; even the opportunity to play the iconic Wonder Woman is something she considers a ‘huge responsibility’ because the character is such an inspiration to women.
She may not be able to see it but Gadot, who is the very definition of a strong and driven woman, shares many of the same virtues as her alter ego.
“I’m a woman who has very high expectations and wants to be the best at everything,” she confesses.
“I sometimes think maybe I put too much pressure on myself, but my mother raised me to be ambitious and every time I start to worry too much,I think about how my mother has led her life and what she has taught me. That gives me all the confidence I need.”
• Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (12A) is out in cinemas from Friday