Emotional ride for Gadot in Wonder Woman sequel
Israeli actress reveals what it was like shooting sequel and how the movie is just what the world needs in this time of upheaval
Wonder Woman 1984 (WW84) was one superhero blockbuster that got pushed around more than most, beginning from its initial release date of December last year.
One year on, when every other Hollywood tent pole has moved to the 2021 slate in the hopes that all US theatres will be safely opened by then and box-office grosses resume, the sequel to 2017's Wonder Woman is in no mood to wait.
Movie studio Warner Bros will release it theatrically in the US as well as stream it on HBO Max on Dec 25.
It opens in cinemas here next Thursday, with sneaks on Wednesday.
"It wasn't an easy decision to make," said WW84's leading lady and co-producer Gal Gadot in our Zoom interview in Los Angeles.
"At a certain point, the movie got pushed and pushed and pushed again. And really, we are living in a time where we don't know when the world is going to be back.
"There comes the point when you have to say, okay, there is the money, of course, but it is not all about the money.
"We feel that we are living in such a complex time right now with the pandemic that the movie just feels so super relevant."
A feel-good movie about hope amid the madness is indeed particularly welcome in these Covid-19 times - and WW84 is that movie.
It is the year 1984 and Amazonian warrior Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman (Gadot) is living in Washington and working as a curator of artefacts at the Smithsonian.
When a magical stone grants her heart's desire to be reunited with her (presumed dead) love interest Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), it also causes her to cross paths with two new foes - colleague-turned-supervillain Barbara Minerva aka Cheetah (Kristen Wiig) and dangerous businessman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal).
Gadot still cannot get over the success of this DC franchise, with the first film making US$821.8 million (S$1.1 billion) worldwide.
"I am always pinching myself when I watch Wonder Woman because I still can't believe I am her. I guess in 30 years from now when I am older and not playing her any more, I will go back and watch the movies and then I will be like, oh my God, that was crazy," she said.
WW84 is more emotional than its predecessor, dealing with themes of truth and sacrifice.
Shooting a particularly moving scene towards the end was difficult because Gadot had to get herself to an emotional point amid dozens of crew members and the noise of the wind machines. It was filmed multiple times with returning director Patty Jenkins quietly giving the Israeli actress notes after every take.
Gadot said: "By the third or fourth time we did it, I was waiting for Patty to come, so the set was super still and silent, but she didn't. Then I went to look for her and she was really crying, and I started to cry.
"It just felt great for me as an actress to know that I had this connection with her. And especially because it was so scary to do such a big monologue not knowing if it was going to work, and then knowing that it was working for the person whom I admired the most."
The other big tearjerker moment was with Pine, in a culmination of their storyline, and it was shot on the third day of production out of a total of 128 days.
Gadot said: "They literally kicked us into the deepest water, and we were like, how do we do this? It was exhausting and long. It took a lot to get into the right headspace, but it worked.
"I am lucky that I have the history with Chris. He is such a good friend and generous partner, and he just made it possible. I would love to work with Chris on everything - he is the best."
Married to Israeli real estate developer Yaron Varsano for 12 years, with whom she shares two daughters aged nine and three, Gadot said the search for balance in her life is ongoing - to be a good mother while managing a thriving career.
But the silver lining during the pandemic is that she is spending precious time with her family.
She said: "Just being home instead of a hotel, cooking together and playing Monopoly together. These are the simple yet magical moments when we are most present, and I've learnt to value them during the pandemic much more."
She added: "I miss interacting with people physically, for real, to feel the chemistry. And I am a hugger and a toucher."
Next up for Gadot is the Cleopatra biographical film, which Jenkins is also directing.
She said: "I have been dying to play her for a few years now. We are working on the script and it is going really well.
"When we think about Cleopatra, we think about the (1963) Elizabeth Taylor movie and how sexual and seductive she was. But when you study Cleopatra, you actually learn that she is more complex, layered and strategic. I can't be more excited about this one."