32-year-old Gal Gadot is the star of one of the biggest films of the summer, Wonder Woman, which has now been released in theaters worldwide.
Comic book fans everywhere are ecstatic to see Diana Prince kick some butt in World War I, but what they may not realize is that in real life, Gal Gadot herself has some military experience under her belt, and this helped her land her first ever movie role back in 2009.
Here’s what you need to know about Gal Gadot’s military service.
1. She Served in the Israel Defense Forces For Two Years
Gal Gadot served in the Israel Defense Forces, Israel’s military, for two years.
That’s because conscription is mandatory for everyone over the age of 18 in Israel. According to Glamour, Gadot went through a grueling three-month long boot camp before being given her assignment.
Gal Gadot was born and raised in Rosh HaAyin, Israel, and she says that she is proud of her Jewish heritage.
“I definitely have a strong sense of my Jewish and Israeli identity,” she said in an interview, according to The Daily Beast. “I was brought up in a very Jewish, Israeli family environment, so of course my heritage is very important to me. I want people to have a good impression of Israel. I find that people in the U.S., especially in Hollywood, tend to have positive opinions on Israel—both Jewish and non-Jewish people alike.”
2. She Was a Combat Trainer
In the Israel Defense Forces, Gal Gadot was given the role of combat trainer.
More specifically, she taught gymnastics and calisthenics, telling Maxim in 2007, “[T]he soldiers loved me because I made them fit.”
Prior to serving in the Israel Defense Forces, Gal Gadot had already been crowned Miss Israel and had participated in the 2004 Miss Universe competition. She did not end up winning, although she later told People Magazine that she was going out of her way to try to lose because she hated it so much.
“I really didn’t want to win the Miss Universe pageant,” Gadot told People Magazine. “It was too much being Miss Israel. I was 19. I wasn’t that type of girl. I rebelled. I came down late. I showed up late to everything. They make you wear evening gowns for breakfast. I didn’t wear evening gowns to breakfast. I didn’t wear my makeup. I remember Paula Abdul was part of the judges and she was asking me a question and I just said I don’t understand. And I successfully didn’t win.”
3. She Says Her Military Service Helped Land Her a Role in ‘Fast & Furious’
Gal Gadot’s first film was Fast & Furious, the fourth film in the Fast and the Furious series. Gadot has since said that she thinks a part of the reason she was cast in that movie was because the film’s director, Justin Lin, liked the fact that she had a military background.
“I think the main reason was that Justin really liked that I was in the Israeli military, and he wanted to use my knowledge of weapons,” Gadot told Forward in 2011.
By the time she was cast in Fast & Furious, Gadot had only had one performance under her belt: a role in the Israeli TV series Budot. She actually almost starred as the Bond girl in Quantum of Solace, but this did not end up working out, partly because she wanted to finish law school.
“I said, ‘No way’,” Gadot told W Magazine. “I said, ‘I’m studying law and international relations. I’m way too serious and smart to be an actress, and besides, the script is all in English’. I spoke English, but I wasn’t comfortable with it.”
However, the experience of getting ready for Quantum of Solace made her realize that she loves acting, and so when her agent three months later got her an audition for Fast & Furious, she was ready to go.
“I did not get the part at the end of it, but throughout this process I started to enjoy the acting,” she told Bring the Noise. “It was like, ‘Oh, my God, this is so much more fun than Law School!’ I said to my agent, ‘Let’s give it a try!’”
4. She Says Her Military Service Helped Her Prepare for Hollywood
Gal Gadot has said that she is glad she served in the military, as it helped make her strong and ready to take on Hollywood.
“Let me start by saying, I wish no country had the need for an army,” she told Glamour Magazine. “But in Israel serving is part of being an Israeli. You’ve got to give back to the state. You give two or three years, and it’s not about you. You give your freedom away. You learn discipline and respect.”
That being said, Gadot has said that training for Wonder Woman was actually more difficult than training for the military.
“I was training six months prior to the shoots, and six hours a day I did two hours of gym work, two hours of fight choreography, and one and half hours-two hours horseback riding, which is super hard…It was a lot more intense [than the army],” Gadot said during an appearance on Live with Kelly and Ryan. “By far.”
5. She Participated in a 2007 Maxim Photoshoot Featuring Women of the Israeli Military
Long before she became a famous actress, Gal Gadot participated in a 2007 Maxim photoshoot.
This was a photoshoot highlighting the women of the Israel Defense Forces. The article’s subheadline read, “They’re drop-dead gorgeous and can take apart an Uzi in seconds. Are the women of the Israeli Defense Forces the world’s sexiest soldiers?”
Gadot later appeared in Maxim after her Fast and the Furious franchise role, with Maxim noting, “This former Miss Israel gained fame from our ‘Women of Israel Defense Forces’ photo shoot.”
Since she has made it big in Hollywood, Gal Gadot has never forgotten the people of the Israel Defense Forces, posting a tribute to them on her Facebook page in 2014.
“I am sending my love and prayers to my fellow Israeli citizens,” she said. “Especially to all the boys and girls who are risking their lives protecting my country against the horrific acts conducted by Hamas, who are hiding like cowards behind women and children…We shall overcome!!! Shabbat Shalom! #weareright #freegazafromhamas #stopterror #coexistance #loveidf.”