I’m kind of sarcastic. Not cynical but sarcastic. I’m a goofy girl. I like to laugh and I like to make other people laugh. Gal Gadot
She may currently be best known as Gisele in the Fast & Furious franchise, but next year Gal Gadot will reincarnate Lynda Carter’s famous role in multiplexes as Wonder Woman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Despite its title and Gadot’s one year of law study in her native Israel, the film is not, it turns out, an intimate courtroom drama concerning a property dispute between Messrs. Wayne and Kent, but rather a superhero-laden -extravaganza featuring Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill in the title roles alongside several other A-listers, purportedly including Vermont senator and noted comic-book fan Patrick Leahy.
But, as it turns out, that’s just a warm-up for the actress. In 2017, the world will be waiting for Gadot to reprise her part in a long-gestating Wonder Woman movie, the first superhero film directed by a woman (Patty Jenkins) and the first female-led entry in the genre since 2005’s Elektra (with Jennifer Garner).
All that high-flying action is no sweat for the 30-year-old actress who served her mandatory two years in the Israel Defense Forces back in the ’00s. But she also plays earthbound characters once in a while, with upcoming high-profile turns in the Ryan Reynolds-Kevin Costner action thriller Criminal (January 2016); the heist drama Triple Nine (March 2016), with Kate Winslet and Chiwetel Ejiofor; and next April as a suburban spy in the comedy Keeping up With the Joneses opposite Jon Hamm, Zach Galifianakis, and Isla Fisher. A longtime model and Miss Israel 2004, she’s the new face of Gucci Bamboo fragrance, too.
Clearly, she has a demanding schedule. When I talked to Gadot, it was during her on-set lunch break for Keeping Up With the Joneses—at the very late hour of 6:30 p.m. Unfailingly polite, she was quick to laugh despite the seriousness with which she takes the responsibility of being a cinematic superheroine and role model around the world. We discussed how raising her 3-year-old daughter has influenced the kinds of parts she wants to play, why she prefers acting to law school, and how she nearly turned down James Bond.
TEDDY WAYNE: You’re in Atlanta now, filming. Can you describe your role in this movie?
GAL GADOT: This is the first major comedy role that I’ve done; I had a small role in Date Night . But it’s going great. I’m playing Natalie Jones, who’s married to Tim Jones [played by Jon Hamm], and they’re spies who work for the agency and are sent to suburbia for a mission. Their cover is blown by another suburban couple, Isla Fisher and Zach Galifianakis. And then everything goes wrong and it’s extremely, extremely funny.
WAYNE: So, a bit like The Americans, but comedic?
WAYNE: How are you approaching comedy as opposed to the action and dramatic roles you’ve mostly done in the past?
GADOT: I love comedy. In real life I’m the type of girl who doesn’t take herself too seriously. I’m very serious when it comes to work, but I like to make jokes and have a good laugh and make fun of myself. I get to work with amazing people who are so talented and bright—Jon and Isla and Zach. And we have so much fun on set. There’s a very different vibe. This one is more about who’s going to give the best punch line, who’s going to make us laugh first.
WAYNE: How would you characterize your own sense of humor? Just about every Israeli I’ve met has a very sharp, often dry sense of humor.
GADOT: Yeah, I’m kind of sarcastic. Not cynical but sarcastic. I’m a goofy girl. I like to laugh and I like to make other people laugh.
WAYNE: Coming out next year as well is Triple Nine. That’s not a comedic film.
GADOT: Oh, not at all. I play opposite Kate Winslet and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Both are so talented. That film was also shot in Atlanta. Different vibe, very serious and dark. Kate and I had a very good bond. I’m used to shooting movies that are male-dominated …
WAYNE: The Fast & Furious films and Batman v Superman.
GADOT: Yeah. So working with Kate was basically the first time I got the opportunity to work with an actress who’s a mother, too. We had so much in common. Once you’re a parent, you already have that in common. Now I have the same thing with Isla. We always talk about the kids and how to manage working with motherhood.
WAYNE: What sort of things do you talk about?
GADOT: A baby comes with such responsibility. Once you become a mother, you always have a guilt trip. You always try to do the best, but you feel you can always be better. At the end of the day, I always tell myself that it is very, very important for me to be a good role model for Alma, my daughter. As long as she’s the first priority, which she is and always will be, it’s okay if Mommy goes to work and has a busy period, as long as I balance everything. The good thing about being an actress is that it’s very children-friendly. I can work for three months and then I can have six months off. And then I can work for six months and have six months off. It’s up to me. It’s not like being a lawyer, for example, going to work in a law firm every day, nine-to-five for years and years. When I choose a role, I always think about whether my daughter can get something out of it when she watches the movie later after she’s grown up. Or even just show her that Mommy’s doing what Mommy loves to do. And therefore, she can do what she loves to do and have a family at the same time. As long as you have your priorities figured out in a healthy way. And it also has a lot to do with my husband, who is really supportive and makes everything so much easier.
WAYNE: Are you raising your daughter in Israel?
GADOT: We’re based in Israel, but we’ve been traveling a lot. We always travel together. My daughter is always with me. My husband goes back and forth, but we spend most of the time together. And I look at that as something unique. Alma is bilingual; she understands and speaks Hebrew and English. She’s very outgoing. Going through all of these experiences and meeting new people and going to different countries and cultures, you can only gain from it.
WAYNE: Picking movies that she’ll someday be able to watch with you and from which she can learn or look up to—is that something you think about with every role? I’m sure you must get offered a lot of roles that you turn down.
Eventually, the universe will knock on your door and tell you, ‘You don’t need to be here; you need to be over there doing something else.’ That’s what happened to me. I fell in love with it and gave it my all. Gal Gadot
GADOT: Now I do. Before, I didn’t have the privilege to choose what I wanted to do. I just wanted to work. But now I’m in a position where I can actually choose. When I just started as an actress, you go to L.A. and the managers and the agency set up general meetings with directors and writers. They always ask you the same questions: “What are you looking for? What types of movie would you like to do?” And I always said, “I’m open.” I’m very open to all different genres because I’m a very open-minded girl. But eventually, I told them that I wanted to be able to show the stronger side of women. I didn’t want to do the obvious role that you see in Hollywood most of the time, which is the heartbroken girl who’s waiting to be rescued by the guy, blah, blah, blah. I wanted to do something different. Little did I know that I would land Wonder Woman not long after.
WAYNE: That is clearly a case where you can have a very strong role, not just for your daughter but for women around the world, since this will be the first female-carried superhero movie in more than a decade. You’ll become something of an emblem, I would imagine, of cinematic feminism. Do you see this as a big opportunity to advance how we portray women on the screen?
GADOT: Oh, my God, I’m so excited about this role. I feel like I’ve been given a huge opportunity to inspire people, not only women. And not because of me but because of who Wonder Woman is and what she stands for. There’s a lot of responsibility. But I have the best team and the best people to work with. It’s going to be an amazing ride, knock on wood.
WAYNE: Can you talk a little bit about what you brought to the role?
GADOT: Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to say much about Wonder Woman at the moment. But I promise we’ll do another interview later so I can talk about it.
WAYNE: Okay, I’ll use the Lasso of Truth on you. You’ll have to tell me.
GADOT: [laughs] Exactly.
WAYNE: Have you encountered much sexism in Hollywood compared to in the fashion industry? Or have you found it less difficult to navigate than you expected?
GADOT: I found it easier to navigate than the fashion industry, to be honest. Not that I’m belittling models or anything like that; it’s hard work, and it takes a lot to be a model. But at the end of the day, when you do modeling, it’s more about the story or the collection or the outfit and less about you. When you play a character, you bring yourself into the character. You get a chance to shine and show your translation for the character and her state of mind. I still enjoy doing modeling because I feel like I’m acting in some way. But I’m much more intrigued by acting. I was lucky because I had good experiences modeling. I’m a person who loves people. It’s all about the vibe of the environment I’m working in. And the people who work in the fashion industry and the people who work in the film industry have a lot in common. They’re very creative. Their eye is very aesthetic. And they all try to tell a story in what they capture, whether it’s films or campaigns or just an editorial shoot. But I just feel like acting has so much more to it. I’ve never experienced a bad situation with men being sexist with me. I’ve been very lucky—even when I was just starting and modeling in Milan and Paris. I think it was my state of mind, because I never planned on being an actress, just as I never planned on being a model. I went to law and international-relations school. It wasn’t my direction. It kind of happened to me. And because it wasn’t my dream when I started, I wasn’t starstruck.
WAYNE: How did you get started?
GADOT: I was Miss Israel in 2004. That’s how I started modeling. And then I had to quit modeling to do my service in the army for two years. Then I went to law and international-relations school. And everything went great until this casting director flew in from England looking for the new Bond girl. She saw my card on the board and she wanted to see me. My agent called me and said, “You have an audition for James Bond. They’re looking for the girl.” And I told him, “Listen, it’s all in English. I’m not an actress. I’m not going to go.” He thought I was kidding with him, because who would say no to—
WAYNE: James Bond.
GADOT: The day of the audition, he called me and asked where I was. And I told him, “I’m in school. I told you I’m not going to go.” And he was like, “What? I can’t believe you meant it, because the casting director is waiting for you. Please, you’ve got to go. Just out of respect, go.” I didn’t learn the scenes. And then I got to the room and I told the casting director, “I’m not an actress. I wasn’t planning on coming here. I apologize for not coming prepared because I’m very professional no matter what I do.” She said, “Well, I’m going to be here for four more hours. Just go through the scenes, and I’ll guide you through it.” Two hours later I got back into the room and we had very good chemistry, the casting director and I. Then I had a callback and another callback and another callback and a match. And throughout this whole process, I realized it takes a lot to act, and it’s so much more interesting than going to law school. I didn’t get the part eventually, but I told my agent, “If anything else comes up, let me know. I’m intrigued.” A month later, I landed the lead role for a TV series in Israel. And two months later, the same casting director cast me for Fast & Furious . The rest is history.
WAYNE: Did you drop out of school at that point?
GADOT: Yeah. I didn’t finish my degree.
WAYNE: How many years had you studied for?
GADOT: Just one. [laughs]
WAYNE: Any plans on going back at some point?
GADOT: I always think about that. Right now, my schedule doesn’t allow me. But I would love to go back to school and maybe study film or art history or something more in that direction. It’s not for me to be a lawyer, because I don’t like conflict. I just went back then because it felt like the right decision. I hope it’s not going to sound too spiritual, but when you’re proactive and you’re good to the world and your surroundings and people, it’s karma, and good things happen to you. Eventually, the universe will knock on your door and tell you, “You don’t need to be here; you need to be over there doing something else.” That’s what happened to me. I fell in love with it and gave it my all.
I wanted to be able to show the stronger side of women. I didn’t want to do the obvious role that you see in Hollywood most of the time, which is the heartbroken girl who’s waiting to be rescued by the guy, blah, blah, blah. I wanted to do something different. Gal Gadot
WAYNE: You said you like to avoid conflict. As you know, superhero-movie fans are notoriously finicky. They’re hard to please. Every time a big movie comes out, they quibble and grumble about certain things. I’m sure they’ll do it for Wonder Woman. Do you feel like you have a duty to respond to that?
GADOT: No matter what you do, you can never please them all. People will always have something to say because that’s the way people are. And it’s okay. But for me, it’s my job. It’s my career. It’s my art. Whatever I do, I take it very seriously and I do my research and I give it my best. I just want to be able to shine and inspire people. And it’s not just about me. It’s the script and the story and the acting. I hope people are going to love it.
WAYNE: You were in the Israel Defense Forces for two years. How did that training physically prepare you for an acting career, especially in action movies?
GADOT: Well, it’s not only the IDF. I come from a very sporty background because my mom is a gymnastics teacher. So growing up I was never sitting watching TV in the afternoons. I always played ball outside in the backyard. I was a dancer for 12 years. I did tennis, basketball, volleyball, dodgeball, you name it. I was such a tomboy. I loved sports. Now, as a parent, I feel it’s so important that we get our children into an active routine. I was a good girl because I got all of my aggression out while I did sports, so the rest of the time, you’re just relaxed and can focus. I hope I’ll be able to raise my daughter in an active, sporty world, rather than having her sitting watching TV or playing Nintendo.
WAYNE: Do you feel the military instilled discipline in you, too?
GADOT: Yeah. To begin with, I hope that no country in this world will need an army. But, unfortunately, having the reality we have in Israel, it’s a mandatory thing and you have this service for at least two years. It gives you values, like giving something of yourself, your time, your energy. It gives you good discipline, because it’s not about you; it’s about the system. And it’s not easy, either. [laughs] You don’t have your freedom and you can’t go and do what you want to do. [sings] “You’re in the army now.” But it was good. It made me more responsible and mature.
WAYNE: What was your role there?
GADOT: I was a gym trainer on one of the bases in Israel. So my boot camp was longer than other boot camps. It was four months and all about sports, waking up at 6:30 a.m. and going for a run, doing push-ups …
WAYNE: Did you receive weapons training that you could use for any of your roles?
GADOT: When I did my camera test for Fast & Furious, I had a conversation with Justin Lin and he was talking about weapons, that he wants this girl to be a pro at weapons, and asked if I ever had any experience with weapons. I told him that I used them in boot camp, so I came prepared. [laughs]
WAYNE: Do you find in the U.S., especially when you’re working on film sets, that people tend to avoid discussions of the Middle East with you?
GADOT: No. I find they’re very interested in everything that’s going on in the Middle East. It’s a very complicated situation, and I leave the politicians to do what they need to do. It’s their responsibility. But I feel like at the end of the day, we’re all people and we all have the same aspirations. We all want to be able to lead a quiet life, a good life with prosperity, and raise our children the best we can and give them everything we can. I really hope that one day soon, all sides will reach an agreement where everyone can coexist. But it’s complicated. That’s why I didn’t go to school to be a politician. [laughs]
WAYNE: On to less complicated matters, you own a hotel in Israel with your husband.
GADOT: We just sold it.
WAYNE: Did you play a role in the business when it was still going?
GADOT: At the beginning, I was very involved in the design and everything. But later on, I got too busy.
WAYNE: You’re also a motorcycle enthusiast. Do you still ride a lot, or have you cut back?
GADOT: No, not at all.
WAYNE: Because you’ve got a daughter now?
WAYNE: Done forever now?
WAYNE: I saw you posted a couple of very nice things on the internet about Paul Walker after he died.
GADOT: I did three movies with him. Every time we shot a movie, we had a break for a year or two, and then we got together again and saw everyone on the set—it was one big, happy family. It’s still hard for me to acknowledge that it’s real. I’m still expecting to do another Fast & Furious sequel. It came as a huge shock. Because who would think that it would happen the way it did? It’s just unbelievable, really. It’s so sad, and when I talk about it, I still get tears in my eyes, because he was a great man. He was an angel in life. He was so down-to-earth, so interested in everyone. He was a rare person. I still miss him and will miss him forever.
TEDDY WAYNE IS A NEW YORK-BASED WRITER. HIS THIRD NOVEL, LONER, IS OUT FROM SIMON & SCHUSTER NEXT YEAR.