“We just keep talking about each other,” laughs Kristen Wiig of her co-star Gal Gadot while doing press together for Wonder Woman 1984. “We’ve become very, very, very close friends and it was instant. She’s one of my favourite people in the whole world and I just love her. We had an amazing time and she’s so funny and warm. I just feel really lucky that she’s in my life.” Gadot quickly concurs. “We had so much fun,” the actress says. “While we were shooting the movie, I think everyone was jealous. We were very creative, and we wrote songs that we recorded. Then we shot video music clips for them. We had so much fun. I couldn’t stop laughing on set.” Wiig laughs: “Everyone else was like, ‘Shut up!’”
It’s the right fit for Wonder Woman 1984, the long awaited (and long delayed, thanks to the worldwide shit-show that is COVID-19) sequel to the game-changing, crowd-pleasing 2017 smash hit, Wonder Woman. While one of the very few low points of that finely realised comic book movie (a triumph for director Patty Jenkins) was its decidedly lame and disappointingly generic villain, the ante has been upped for Wonder Woman 1984, with Gal Gadot’s singularly wonderful Wonder Woman this time getting a more well drawn nemesis in the form of Barbara Ann Minerva, a meek and mild washout who eventually transforms into the cat-like super-villain Cheetah. Played by top-tier comic powerhouse Kristen Wiig, this complex figure – initially a friend to Wonder Woman – is set to give this 1980s-set sequel just the dose of radical feminine energy that it needs.
You can see the friendship on screen. Did you have a chemistry test beforehand to see what this would look like?
Gal: “We met briefly at an event, and Patty and I were like, ‘We agree. She would be amazing for Cheetah.”
Kristen: “Then I had dinner with Patty…”
Gal: “And you got the job…”
Kristen: “So I guess that went well! It was like, ‘Patty Jenkins wants to talk to you.’ I didn’t even know what it was about. I said, ‘Oh yes.’”
What are your super powers? We don’t really see it in the trailer…
Kristen: “Oh, in the movie? I can’t really say. Oh, in my real life, what are my superpowers? I really don’t have any.”
It’s fashion, I think.
Gal: “Yes, she just makes all the comics look much better when she brings it to life. It’s true.”
Did you do a lot of training for the film?
Kristen: “We trained for months. It was intense. It was like nothing I’ve ever put my body through. I was sore in places that I didn’t know I had muscles. But it was great…I mean, I felt great. We did weight training, muscle training, cat training…everything.”
Gal: “The great thing about the action sequences in the movie is that it was very much inspired by a Cirque du Soleil show that Patty and I went to watch before the movie. Patty was like, ‘This is beautiful.’ Whenever you have superhero movies, it’s mostly men. The man is the hero and they fight like guys. We’re women and we don’t fight like that. When we saw the show, we were like, ‘That’s a really good direction, and this is a really good inspiration.’ Now we have our own method and style of fighting, which is different. It’s not like the kick and the punch. It’s feminine, beautiful, graceful, and sexy. The stunt team had to build crazy wire rigs which had never been done before. It took months of work just to make sure that we could do all the movements without getting caught up in the cables. When we trained, it was all about strength and flexibility, and it was almost like dancing training. It was a lot of work, but it looks great and it was fun.”
How do you see the whole phenomenon of the first Wonder Woman movie? There are so many more big movies being directed by women…
Gal: “It’s really good…it’s a positive trend. Patty really opened the door to many female filmmakers, and showed that they can do the work. I’m very happy to see that there are more and more female filmmakers and women starring in huge movies. We can bring people to the box office too…it’s everyone. I don’t think we’re completely there yet though. It’s just starting. But again, it’s a good trend and I’m looking forward to more and more and more.”
Kristen, how did you find your inner cat? Are you a cat person?
Kristen: “I do not have a cat. I used to have a cat growing up. I did not go to the zoo, but I did watch videos of cheetahs. I don’t know how to answer that question. I didn’t lick milk out of a bowl.”
Were you familiar with the Cheetah character in the comic books? And how much of the comic book Cheetah character are you bringing in to the screen?
Kristen: “Yes, I’m familiar with Cheetah. There are lots of different Cheetahs. There are lots of different variations of Barbara Ann Minerva and how she gets her powers. But truthfully, I just relied on the script and Patty. I had a lot of conversations with her about how she saw the character. She goes through a really big transformation, and I wanted to make sure that each stage made sense and led into the other one. I wanted to get it right physically too. When it starts out, Barbara is very insecure and a little hunched over and then she becomes this very powerful cheetah woman. A lot of it was just about talking to Patty about how she envisioned it and saw it. I wanted guidance for it too because that’s a hard thing to just figure out on your own. How do you do that?”
This is your first superhero movie. Were your expectations met?
Kristen: “Oh, beyond, yes. I’m a huge superhero movie nerd, fan, geek. So I’ve seen probably all of them. When I saw the first Wonder Woman, I was like, ‘Oh, this is a game changer.’ I cried and I was squeezing my boyfriend’s arm and I was going, ‘Oh, my god, she’s a woman. This is happening. She’s a superhero. This is amazing.’ I had such a reaction to the first one and the fact that I was in the second one, I’m still pinching myself and I’m so grateful. It’s hard to put into words. It was all very big and unlike anything I’ve ever done before.”
What do you remember about the ’80s? Or are you too young?
Kristen: “Yeah. I was too young. No! I do remember. I was a young girl in the 1980s. That’s when you get into clothes and makeup and fashion. I would paint my nails turquoise and then do white polka dots and stripes on my nails. I was really into Esprit and Benetton and I loved all that stuff. Because of my age during the ’80s, it was all about fashion and movies and boys.”
There’s a big party scene where your style looks very reminiscent of Madonna. Were you into Madonna?
Kristen: “Yeah. Yes.”
Gal: “Oh, my god.”
Kristen: “Weren’t we all?”
Gal, what do you remember about the ’80s?
Gal: “I was born in the ’80s. The big thing that affected me is probably the music growing up. My dad always listened to Duran Duran and Pet Shop Boys and George Michael and Madonna and all that…all these amazing talents. The music is a big deal. But other than the music, I wasn’t doing much in the ’80s.”
Diana hasn’t changed physically since the first film, but she’s been through a lot…
Gal: “In the first movie, we see Diana and she’s the fish out of water and she’s just come to the men’s world. Everything is new and weird and just fresh to her. By the end of the movie, she only starts to learn about the complexities of humankind. In this movie, Diana is wiser, and she’s more mature. She’s lonely though; she has lost all of her team members and she’s not really engaging with anybody else. Because it’s only a matter of time until they grow old and then she has to say goodbye to them as well. So she’s very guarded and still at the same time she’s doing the right thing. So she’s involved and she saves people and she tries to do good.
I can’t wait to see how many drag queen couples costumes are going to be made of you two. Why do you think queer people have such an affinity with this genre and with this?
Kristen: “Oh, gosh.”
Gal: “I never thought about it. Maybe these characters are the embodiment of femininity. And to be a strong woman and celebrate that and owning it.”
Kristen: “I like your answer.”
Barbara really develops throughout the movie…
Kristen: “In the beginning of the movie, she’s really lonely and sad and she’s invisible. She wants to be something that she’s not and people just walk by her and they don’t talk to her. Because of that, she doesn’t know who she is. She doesn’t know how to embrace who she is. Then when she meets Diana, and she says, ‘You’re okay with who you are and you’re actually amazing.’ Diana looks at Barbara and actually sees things in Barbara that she wishes she had and she misses. She really is attracted to Barbara’s sense of humour and how open she is because she’s been so guarded for so long. Conversely, Barbara looks at Diana and she’s just like, ‘Oh my god. That’s who I want to be. She is just walking around and just owning it and she seems really happy.’ But Diana thinks that Barbara is happy too. We always think that people have things that we want and that they’re happy and sometimes we’re all struggling with stuff.”
Your Wonder Woman is not only strong but feminine, and nurturing. Some people took issue with that. They said that you have to be a badass. And the costume is too sexy. People had issues with that…
Kristen: “People have issues with everything!”
What did you think of people having those criticisms?
Gal: “People criticised my warmth and my sexiness in the character? And the costume?”
Kristen: “Because the costume was sexy? Superman and Batman aren’t wearing baggy jeans.”
Gal: “They’re sexy and they have six packs…actually, they have eight or 12 packs! And they look amazing. It’s actually great to be able to be smart and good and warm and welcoming and loving and to believe in the good and also look sexy and good and enjoy who you are.”
Do you feel that you’re moving forward to be this hero that you want her to be?
Gal: “At times, I pinch myself. When I saw the movie for the first time, I was by myself in the theatre. I literally could not register that I was in it, and that she was me, and that we’re doing this together. I always feel very, very privileged that I was loaned this amazing character, and that I get to portray her and to be her and to tell her story now. After all the feedback that I’ve received over the years from parents and kids and girls and boys and men and women and all different genders, I know that it has made a difference. It is so important to tell the story from a female perspective. There was a moment during the first movie, when all of a sudden, I felt like I wasn’t Gal, the actress, and I wasn’t the character. I was the eight-year-old version of myself looking at this amazing woman who does these incredible things that I was never exposed to. I love men and I’m married and I have many guy friends and my husband is my hero and I love him. I have zero issues. My dad is amazing. I have zero issues with men. It’s not about that. But I do think that throughout life, the heroes that we were exposed to were mostly men. I grew up thinking that my father was Superman. If someone’s going to break into the house, he’s going to save us all. I never had this thought about my mother. It’s essential for the next generations to know that we’re all that. My mom can be the superhero as well. You believe that only when you see it. Because I’ve never seen it throughout my life, I didn’t even think that it was an option. But now that we tell her story and she’s that, then she makes it real. Then people will believe that it’s real and then the world will be better.”
Having become such a symbol of feminine power, is there one single moment that stands out in your mind from three years ago when the film was released?
Gal: “I’ll give you an answer that you’re not going to expect. I mentioned it once before on a speech that I gave. I’m humbled and lucky to receive all this amazing feedback from people telling me how much the movie was impactful on them, and on their daughters. But there’s one story that was told to me about a father who took his son to see the movie. They had so much fun, and the son was loving it. They came out of the theatre, and his son told him, ‘Daddy, when I grow up, I want to be a woman.’ That was everything for me. We always talk about female empowerment. But it’s all of us. We can’t just empower women without educating the other 50%. We need to do this together. This movie has such universal messages, and I’m proud of it. I’m grateful to be part of it.”
Wonder Woman 1984 is released in cinemas on December 26, 2020