Wonder Woman may be 75 years old — in comic book years, that is — but she’s getting a modern makeover for her epic, self-titled action-adventure debut, scheduled for release June 2, 1017, by Warner Bros. Gal Gadot, who also played the character in the recent “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” is the canvas on which costume designer Lindy Hemming (“The Dark Knight” trilogy) painted. But first, production designer Aline Bonetto (“Amélie”) had to fashion an original-looking world in which to place the iconic character.
Bonetto says an immediate challenge was to create the imaginary island of Themyscira, where Diana and her sister Amazonians live in perfect harmony
For its architectural elements, Bonetto drew inspiration from Assyrian buildings and designs from 800 B.C., considering them “pure and beautiful in a modern sort of way.”
“We combined that [look] with a lot of open spaces, and caves that aren’t totally enclosed,” she says.
Exteriors were shot in southern Italy. Interiors were filmed on stages at Warner Bros.’ Leavesden studios in the U.K.
The second big challenge was in recreating the period look of World War I in London and Belgium, for the portions of the movie in which Wonder Woman is transported to the more modern world.
“For that,” says Bonetto, “we built many sets — maybe 30 or 40 — on the Leavesden backlot, including an entire Belgian village, complete with a church, shops, cafes, bars, and streets.”
Bonetto worked over 14 months and employed a team of 250 artists, model builders, set builders, carpenters, and painters, among others. “It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done,” she says.
Taking center stage in this newly imagined environment is Wonder Woman, of course, bedecked in the iconic costume that fans will find familiar — yet updated for today’s audiences by Hemming, who elaborated on the work done by Michael Wilkinson, who created the Wonder Woman costumes for “Batman v Superman.”
“When I was asked to design a new look for her in ‘Batman v Superman,’ the main challenge was finding the right balance between two qualities — her strength and grace,” says Wilkinson. On that film, director Zack Snyder “wanted a fierce, very intimidating warrior, a legitimate fighter standing her own ground in this universe of male superheroes and villains. But she also had to possess a sense of true majesty, which the others don’t have. There’s discipline in her fighting style, an elegance and sense of Amazon royalty.”
Aesthetics aside, it was in battle that the costumes faced their greatest test. Gadot wore a metal suit “that had to look 5,000 years old, but at the same time [she had to] work in it for hours, move easily, and do the fight choreography,” Wilkinson says.
Wilkinson ultimately made four costumes, incorporating the character’s legacy into the new look.
“We did a lot of research,” he says. “It was important to include all the old elements but ground them in a reality so they all feel authentic — the eagle across the chest, the WW motifs, the headdress with the star. We created our own design language that permeates architecture, environments, soldiers’ uniforms, and civilian wear.”
The designer adds that it was important that the costume didn’t seem purely decorative.
“She looks that way for a reason; there’s a brain behind the tiara,” Wilkinson explains. “The weapons and strapping are part of her look, with her sword, shield, lasso, the hand-wraps, the damage and battle scars from over the centuries.”
One of the hardest tasks, says Hemming, was creating almost all of the costumes from scratch.
“We had to make all their clothing and armor for an army of hundreds of Amazons,” Hemming says.
It was the responsibility of Hemming and Wilkinson to make sure there was absolute visual continuity in the look of the Amazons.
When the story moved to the early 20th century, a whole new look had to be created for costumes of a different period. For this, Hemming worked for 16 months with a team of more than 50 artisans that included assistant designers, fabric painters, costume-makers, leather-workers, and even knitters.
“More than any other film I’ve done,” she says, “this included all the crafts on a huge scale.”