It is hard not to be a little bit jealous of Gal Gadot.
In the same instant that I am mentally chastising myself for being that girl, the Keeping Up With the Joneses star flops into a chair, swings her legs over the arm with total disregard for potential undergarment exposure, begs me to forgive her for taking off the shoes “that are killing her,” and waves off the drink service commonly offered to and accepted by actors at press junkets.
“If I want something, I can get it myself,“ she says, before turning to ask how my weekend is going and expressing how much of a bummer it is that I have to work on a Sunday. (The irony is that she’s at work, too, promoting her comedy about undercover spies in suburbia with Jon Hamm, Isla Fisher, and Zach Galifianakis, in cinemas October 21.)
It is kind of hard not to love her, too.
We’re pretty sure she’ll win you over, between her experience fighting beauty-queen stereotypes during her two-year stint in the Israeli military, the heavy sense of responsibility she feels portraying Wonder Woman, the first female superhero to have her own movie in too long a time, and her revelation of one of the mottos she lives by: “Karma is the shit.”
Set the record straight on your name. I've read that it rhymes with “all” and have also been told it’s pronounced gal, as in "gal pal." Did you always like your name?
"It mostly rhymes with pal but with a little more of an accent. It means wave, ocean wave. It's a unisex name, but when I went to school, as a kid, I remember more boys named Gal than girls. But I always loved my name, because I love the ocean. I was even proud that it's like a unisex type of name and not the girly girl kind of name. I was a tomboy when I was young. With names, it's such a responsibility, especially nowadays when you see young parents trying to be super special naming their children [so they choose] a weird name. And then, you think, how will the children carry the name their entire life? Sometimes it's best to go simple and clear and lovely."
How did you get to this point? I read that you turned down modelling offers as a teenager, then started law school after winning Miss Israel and completing your required military service with the Israel Defence Forces. Any regrets that you didn’t become a lawyer?
"No, I'm super happy. I have a few mottos in life — I always say karma is the shit. At the end of the day, if you're being good and kind to the world, what you give is what you get. I never planned on being an actress, but I was always a very proactive, curious person who always gave her best. When the opportunity arrived, I was ready. Life led me in a way to become what I've become and to where I am because it was meant to be. All of the roles that I didn't get before, so many of them have been for a reason. I was offered the villain on Superman and I couldn't do it because I was pregnant. If [I had done it], I would never have gotten Wonder Woman. I almost did Man From U.N.C.L.E. with Henry [Cavill], but I thankfully didn’t get the part. If I had done it, I would never be Wonder Woman because I already did something with Henry and it would have been too weird.
"I think that everything happens for a reason, and as long as you're being receptive to the world and good, and you give your best to every opportunity that comes by, then whatever happens is supposed to happen. What's mine is mine, and what's not mine was never meant to be mine. It's very spiritual, but I truly believe in that."
You were Miss Israel before you served your required two years in the IDF. Did others treat you differently because you were a pageant girl?
"I've been in a few different places in the army. Some of them were happy about it; some of them were not. So, it kind of balanced itself with the people who like that and were a little bit starstruck, and the people who tried to put me down and to show me how the real world is."
I assume your military training comes in handy when you do films like Fast & Furious or Keeping Up With the Joneses.
"The fact that we have to go to the army changes a person. Our entire experience is a lot to handle. It made me who I am. And it was good. And it's over. And honestly, I feel like the world is in such a weird place right now. Like everywhere. In America, in the Middle East, Russia, everywhere. I just hope that we will shake it all off. And people will just reach agreements, so that we can all live our lives quietly and have no armies and no wars. Maybe it's very naïve. But if you're not being naïve, then life is miserable.
"When you're 18, you have to go and do your service for two years if you're a girl and three if you're a man. You give up your freedom. It's all about discipline. And everyone is equal. No gender. It makes you stronger. For instance, in America, here, they go to university, and they have the dorms. And they have fun and parties. And they have the sororities and the fraternities. It's a different vibe than the army, so you get tougher. In that way, it probably prepared me to be on some very male-dominated sets."
Your résumé is fairly action-heavy, and Keeping Up With the Joneses has you doing a lot of comedy. Is that why you were interested in the role?
"I knew that I had only a certain amount of time to shoot a project before Wonder Woman and Justice League. I wanted to do something different, something funnier, and something light. I love comedies. I enjoy good humour and I'm not afraid to make fun of myself."
It must have been nice to work so closely with another woman for once. It seems like you and Isla really hit it off. I’m not sure you could pay me enough to be in lingerie around you in lingerie, yet Isla took it like a champ for the laugh.
"She's a wonder woman. [She filmed] only six weeks after she had her baby. And she was the most loyal mother who breast-fed during the breaks. It was so beautiful and inspiring to see. We got along so well. We love each other. Our husbands sit together by the pool now. We do barbecues together. Our kids play together. We went to London together. We really got along. And that's amazing, because I've worked on so many male-dominated sets with men who I love, but it's so nice to have a friend on set and we can talk about our stuff."
I’m sure just having someone who knows what it's like to breast-feed or give birth is helpful on a set.
"Yes. I would remind her, 'It's time to go breast-feed. Come on, I'll carry the baby. I'll do the burp.' And that's the way it was every day. I hope we get to work together again. She’s very funny. She could teach me things about that, too."
In the last couple of years, women have really started speaking up in the business about the inequality and sexism that persists in Hollywood. Have you experienced any of this or has it been smooth sailing?
"Nothing really dramatic ever happened to me. I think that's because I'm super assertive. I made the boundaries in a very assertive way. Not in a nasty way, but it's very clear. But I think that almost every woman has been in an uncomfortable situation with a man in this industry. And the woman wasn't necessarily raped or touched or whatever, but there’s so many more things that can be done that are wrong. There's still a long way to go for women to feel completely comfortable. And in that way, I feel like we are in a better place because women are talking now. They're voicing their experiences and problems. And they don't shut their mouths and hide. They’re speaking up. You need to speak up and show everyone that it's not appropriate and that is not okay to treat women with disrespect, to pay them less. And slowly and surely, because I'm an optimist, we'll get there."
Wonder Woman is a hugely iconic role. What did getting that part mean to you? Did you watch the original TV series with Lynda Carter?
"I grew up in Israel, and in Israel, just like Superman, who I knew better because I had seen the movies and the shows, Wonder Woman is a household name. Everyone knows who Wonder Woman is. I was too young to see the Lynda Carter show [and] I didn't see any of the cartoons that Wonder Woman was in. But I do feel the responsibility. I am very happy that we get to tell her story, finally, in a movie that is about her only. I think that her story is very universal. I think it is empowering for young girls to see a female superhero. And I think it's important not only for women and girls, but also for men and boys. They need to know just as much as girls do that women can be powerful and strong and do things on their own and that they can be heroes, too. It's good for children to learn that lesson when they are young. Shooting Wonder Woman was one of the best experiences I've ever had as an actress. It was special and unique and beautiful, and I can't wait to share this movie with everyone."
As a mum to a daughter, does it take on extra significance to play one of the only female superheroes, especially the only one in some time to lead her own film?
"Yes. I want her to believe she can do anything she puts her mind to and that she should never let anyone stand in the way of that."
We're celebrating the biggest movies of the year with a new series calledBlockbust-HER . We'll be looking at everything film-related from the female perspective, interviewing major players in the industry, and discussing where Hollywood is doing right by women and where (all too often) it is failing them. And now...let's go to the movies!
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