Life Magazine: Simply Wonder-ful Gal Gadot
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Life Magazine: Simply Wonder-ful Gal Gadot

She’s Israel’s most popular export since diamonds and hummus. Brie Bailey profiles the indomitable Gal Gadot

Admit it.

There is something incredibly satisfying about an Israeli playing Wonder Woman.

Forever ducking the slings and arrows of the Holy Land lambasters, it felt like an act of defiance or gesture of support for Warner Bros to cast an Ivrit-speaking, former IDF female to play the warrior princess of Themyscira.

Of course, there were protests from DC comic’s hard core fans as a newbie from the Middle East playing America’s star-spangled icon who, fittingly, fought Nazis when she first appeared in All Star Comics #8 in 1941.

But they switched the patriotic red, white and blue shorts for a shimmering armour basque and reminded critics the comic superhero, aka Diana Prince, was Hippolyta’s daughter, and therefore Greek.

As it turned out, the foreign accent and heritage weren’t a problem when Gal Gadot made her dazzling debut as the sultry Amazon in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2016, swiftly followed by a solo gig as Wonder Woman in 2017. The film, directed by Patty Jenkins, was the highest-grossing superhero story of all time and next June there will be another – Wonder Woman 1984.

Originally slated for spring this year, then December, director Jenkins says the new film is not a sequel, but it propels Diana Prince forward 70 years to battle a new enemy – villain Cheetah, a British anthropologist from the comics, who has enhanced strength, speed and agility, plus night vision and heightened reflexes. Nothing a girl trained by the Israeli army can’t handle… and Gal even does her own stunts!

“We just gave it everything we have,” says Gal. “We hope you guys will love it.”

Warner Bros is banking on it as it’s now their 2020 summer blockbuster, but female audiences loved the first film so much that Wonder Woman became a UN mascot, with Gal calling out gender injustice.

Gal Gadot – that’s with a “light t” not silent as in Gadoh, knew her moment had come when she stood in New York’s Times Square and saw it covered with posters. “I could not believe it,” says the actress. “I’d been there  many times before and all of a sudden, to be  on Times Square, that was a moment.”

Wonder Woman.

Israelis have been schlepping nachas for Gal (Hebrew for wave) since she became Miss Israel in 2004 and then competed in Miss Universe, without the urge to win. “I wasn’t that type of girl. I rebelled. I showed up late to everything. They make you wear evening gowns for breakfast. I didn’t wear evening gowns to breakfast.” This isn’t surprising as she was the tomboy child – “always with wounds and scratches on my knees”.

Home-schooled with her sister Dana by her Israeli-born parents Irit, a teacher, and engineer father Michael, Gal was a talent on basketball and tennis courts and never stopped dancing. “I did it for 12 years – ballet, hip-hop, modern, jazz. I thought that I wanted to be a choreographer,” she told ESPN, so was clearly faking it in Wonder Woman when she told co-star Chris Pine she couldn’t dance.

Gal Gadot (L) and Yaron Varsano

“Is this what people do when there are no wars to fight?” says WW in a scene that would have resonated with Gal as she served in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) during the 2006 war with Lebanon. “I wish no country had the need for an army,” she has stated. “But in Israel serving is part of being an Israeli. You’ve got to give back to the state. You give two or three years and it’s not about you. You give your freedom away. You learn discipline and respect.”

Unlike so many stars who choose not to go public with their faith, Gal, 34, has always waved the flag for Judaism and Israel, which gets a reaction – good or bad. Controversially, in 2014, she posted an Instagram picture of herself praying with her daughter supporting the IDF and condemning the “horrific acts conducted by Hamas”. The haters closed in and Wonder Woman was banned in Lebanon as boycott supporters put pressure on the government to block “the Israeli soldier film”.

Gal in the army aged 18

That she also posted on Yom Haatzmaut to honour her maternal grandfather Abraham Weiss who survived Auschwitz is tantamount to writing a love letter to world Jewry, but such public posts attract the bigots who hide among her two million Twitter and 31 million Instagram followers.

Undeterred, Gal fights back.“I get so many antisemitic messages and reactions. It’s just – this is who I am. I believe we have no place  to hide or lie.”

She isn’t a pushover when it comes to politics either and condemned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s starement ‘Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people – and belongs to them alone’ ahead of recent elections.

In defence of Arab Israeli voters, Gal urged her Israeli brethren to “get out and vote. Let’s increase the voting percentage once and for all. Because this is the land of us all”.

Yaron, her Dutch-Israeli husband, sold his Varsano Hotel in Tel Aviv to Roman Abramovich. The real estate developer is often lovingly seen at his superhero’s side, with their two daughters, Maya and Alma.

Gal’s wedding (Gal’s wedding arranged by Danny Marx events)

The photogenic couple met at a yoga retreat in the Negev, and Danny Marx Events planned the wedding.

Of late, the actress has just been at Longcross Studios in Surrey, shooting Kenneth Branagh’s Agatha Christie film Death on The Nile, in which she plays Linnet Ridgeway Doyle, the heiress whose demise prompts Poirot’s investigation.

Playing Jewish actress Hedy Lamarr in  a TV mini-series follows next and, depending  on which part of Hedy’s life is the focus, Gal will either be inventing a military torpedo guidance system for the US navy, or appearing nude in the film Ecstasy (1933).

Ryan Reynolds and Dwayne Johnson are her co-stars in the comedy Red Notice, which is still in pre-production, but the way Wonder Woman has moved about, it could still open first.

Gal will be too famous or busy to care by then, as she has set up her own production company, Pilot Wave, with Yaron and they are making a film based on Polish war heroine Irena Sendler, who saved thousands of Jewish children during the Holocaust. Wonder Woman plays wonder woman has a nice ring to it.

  • Wonder Woman opens on  6 June 2020
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