Wonder Woman, the latest D.C. superhero film, is now in theaters.
Starring as the titular protagonist is 32-year-old Gal Gadot, who was born in Israel and was not particularly well known before she was cast as Wonder Woman in 2016’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
So how, exactly, did Gal Gadot wind up starring in one of the biggest movies of the summer? Here’s a look at her journey from struggling actor to feminist icon.
She Started Off in Beauty Pageants & Was in Talks to Play a Bond Girl
Gal Gadot first became involved in the entertainment industry when she won the Miss Israel beauty competition in 2004, going on to represent Israel in Miss Universe 2004. She did not end up winning, and afterwards, she spent two years in the Israeli military and then went to law school.
While she was in law school, Gadot received a call from a casting director asking her to audition for the role of the Bond girl in Quantum of Solace. But Gadot didn’t want the part, as she hoped to continue with her studies.
“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.”
But although she did not end up starring in Quantum of Solace, this whole experience gave her the taste for acting, and she realized this was something she was interested in pursuing.
“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!’”
She Was on an Israeli TV Series & Then Was Cast in ‘Fast & Furious’
Not long after Gal Gadot realized she was interested in acting, she got herself an acting coach, and she soon was cast on the Israeli TV series Bubot.
At this point, Gadot had quit law school, and she was committed to pursuing acting as her career, she told Glamour Magazine. Then, just a few months after she got the part on Bubot, the same casting director who had contacted Gadot about Quantum of Solace reached out to her about a part in Fast & Furious, the fourth film in the Fast and the Furious series.
Gal Gadot says that she thinks a big reason she got the part in Fast & Furious was because she served in the Israeli military before becoming an actor.
“I think the main reason was that [director] Justin [Lin] really liked that I was in the Israeli military, and he wanted to use my knowledge of weapons,” Gadot told Forward in 2011.
Gadot portrayed Gisele Yashar in Fast & Furious, and she returned for Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6. Gadot has said that she owes a lot to the franchise and that the crew was like a family.
She told Bring the Noise, “We don’t do those kind of movies [in Israel], with those kind of standards and everyone, the cast, Justin Lin, the director, they all welcomed me so well and made it so easy and comfortable for me that doing the fifth one was a no-brainer and doing the sixth one was a no-brainer as well, as we all became such good friends, off set as well. Vin Diesel is literally like a father and his family always adopt my family whenever we go to Los Angeles. So it’s like a family reunion — coming back home.”
She Was About to Quit Acting When She Got the ‘Batman v. Superman’ Audition
After Fast & Furious, Gal Gadot was able to land a few small roles here and there, such as in the movies Date Night, Knight and Day, and Triple 9. She also continued starring in Israeli productions, including the movie Kicking Out Shoshana.
However, Gadot has said that her career wasn’t really taking off the way she hoped, and so she was just about ready to give up acting.
“This profession, the rejection, oh dude. It’s tough,” she said on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. “I had so many almosts, and another camera test, and it was almost mine, and another role, and another role, and another role, and I was like ‘I don’t know how long I can take it…'”
But just around the time that Gadot was considering quitting acting, she received a call that director Zack Snyder wanted to audition her for a secret role. She said in an interview with Empire that all she was told was that she was auditioning with Ben Affleck, and so she thought the part might be Catwoman.
When she found out the part was actually Wonder Woman, that was a big deal, as she had always talked about the fact that she wanted to play a strong female character.
“I was very excited,” she told Empire. “Anytime I had general meetings in LA, I always said that my dream role was to do an empowered, independent woman who doesn’t rely on men.”
Gadot said in one interview that she listened to Beyonce to psych herself up before the audition.
“I called [my husband] Yaron and told him I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t calm down,” Gadot said, according to Batman News. “He told me ‘Gal, put on Beyonce. Move around. Don’t sit there frozen.’ I put on Diva and started dancing. Just when the song ended, I was all flushed, there was knock on the door calling me in.”
Six Weeks After Her Audition, She Found Out She Got the Part
After the audition, an excruciating six weeks went by before Gal Gadot heard anything.
She said during an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon that she completely put the audition out of her mind because she assumed she didn’t get the part, so she was surprised when she looked at her phone after a flight landed to see 20 missed phone calls from her agent.
“I forgot about it,” she said. “I’d been waiting for six weeks, I already think that the part is not mine, f— it…”
Finally, however, Gadot was informed that she got the part and was going to be Wonder Woman. She immediately freaked out, although she had to keep it to herself as the news was a secret.
Now, just a few years after Gal Gadot was considering quitting acting entirely, she has found herself starring as a heroine who will no doubt inspire an entire generation of children and make an indelible impact on comic book movie history.