A former Miss Israel who spent two years in the army before breaking into modeling, Gal Gadot was studying law when a casting director spotted her, leading to roles in such films as “Fast & Furious” and the upcoming “Criminal.” She’s now lighting up screens as Wonder Woman in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and filming the “Wonder Woman” movie with director Patty Jenkins.
Growing up in Israel, were you familiar with the Wonder Woman character?
I wasn’t a big fan of comics, but I knew of her. I was too young when the Lynda Carter show was on, but I always knew who [Wonder Woman] was; she’s like a household name. It’s like knowing who Superman is.
So when you landed the role, where did you begin your research? Did you read the comics and watch the show?
I did it all, but to be honest with you, [“Batman v Superman” director] Zack Snyder and Warner Bros. had a very solid idea on how they wanted her to be. All I needed to do was embody everything they had planned for this character. And it’s amazing. Honestly, it’s my dream role. I love her so much.
What is it you like most about her?
Everything she stands for is something I can relate to. She’s very compassionate; she’s all about love and peace. She’s so strong and independent but sophisticated and with such emotional intelligence. She’s the perfect woman.
What was the process like in landing the role?
It was super intensive, nerve-racking — a long roller coaster. Everything began when I was in Los Angeles, and WB wanted me to audition for something, but they wouldn’t say what it was. I did an audition with Zack Snyder, so I had an idea it might be the Superman movie. I went home and got a call from my agent saying they wanted to test me with Ben [Affleck]. It was finally Zack who called me and said, “Have you ever heard of Wonder Woman?” I went dead for about five seconds. When I came back to life, I tried to play it cool. When I went to do the camera test with Ben, everything went really well. I hoped it would be a quick answer, and for two weeks I felt very positive about it. Then by the third week I started to go through the seven stages of grief: angry, depressed, it’s not going to be mine. I really wanted it! Life of an actor. Six weeks later, I was trying to forget about it and move on. I was traveling for work, and when I landed, I opened my phone, and there were 30 missed calls from my agent. While I was on the plane, they said, “You can’t say anything to anyone, but you got the part!” I started to scream on the airplane. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
Are you prepared for how your life is going to change or are you in denial?
(Laughs) I’m in denial.
Did you ask your co-stars for any advice?
No. I only asked Ben about traveling. Do you travel commercial or private? How does it work?
How did you go from the army to acting? Had you always wanted to be an actor?
No, not at all. Growing up, I was a dancer. I wanted to be a choreographer. When I finished my service in the army, I decided to go to law school. I started doing that, and a casting director from London was looking for the new Bond girl and saw my card in an agency I was doing some modeling for. She wanted to see me, but I didn’t want to go. I told my agent, “I’m not an actor. This is all in English, and I’m in school.” He said, “Just go, please, out of respect.” The casting director really helped me out, and I went through many callbacks. Throughout the experience, I found acting so interesting. I didn’t land the part, but I told my agents if anything else came up that might fit me to let me know. Two months later, I landed my first role on a TV series in Israel. And three months after that, the same casting director called me and was looking for a new “Fast and Furious” girl. And everything began from there.
What is the accent you use in “Batman v Superman?”
I kept my own. Wonder Woman came from an island called Themyscira where they speak hundreds of languages. She’s not American, and I was able to keep my own accent, which is kind of vague.
You’ve worked with great ensembles in films like “Triple 9” and “Fast and Furious.” What is it like to be No. 1 on the call sheet while shooting “Wonder Woman”?
In the “Wonder Woman” movie, I’m surrounded by great actors — Chris Pine, Danny Huston, Robin Wright, David Thewlis — so I might be No. 1, but I don’t see it as that. I just enjoy working with these people, and feel so honored and grateful to have this role. And with Patty Jenkins, whom I love, directing the movie. She’s a genius.
Do you think it was important to have a female director for the movie?
I think it was a smart move. I think women understand women the best. And Patty has such a great vision; she knew exactly how she wanted to tell our story. She’s all about the heart, and I think that Wonder Woman is all about the heart as well.
How do you approach a role when it’s based on a comic, but you want to treat it seriously?
That’s the thing about Wonder Woman. People might think you should play the superhero, but how do you play a superhero? At the end of the day, we’re all people. What’s so lovely about Wonder Woman is yes, she has the strength and power of a goddess, but she has the heart and mind of a human. So I play her as I think a woman like me would act in the situations she’s going through. You treat her as a normal woman who happens to be fantastic and almighty.