FOR 40 years, comic book heroine Wonder Woman was embodied by the sweet-natured Lynda Carter, with her bulletproof wristbands and blue hot pants, according to The Sun . But that will change this week, when a far raunchier version of the world’s most iconic female superhero storms into cinemas for the first time.
There is not much of the “girl next door” about Gal Gadot, who steps into Carter’s knee-high leather boots for the new blockbuster Batman Vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice. The 30-year-old model and former Miss Israel winner has shown a remarkable ability to court controversy and grab attention by stripping off.
Unlike other movie stars, Gal’s CV includes two years serving in her country’s military. But there was a suspicion that the Miss Universe contestant was wanted as much by the Israeli Defence Force for propaganda purposes as for her fighting ability. She posed in army fatigues and caused an international row when she sprawled in a bikini for an official army photoshoot.
That photo was for a piece in lads’ mag Maxim entitled “Women of the Israeli Army” — an article that was set up by the country’s diplomats to lure American tourists to the embattled Middle Eastern state. Gal fiercely defended the picture of her writhing on the ledge of a tower block insisting: “I don’t think that it’s pornographic or I wouldn’t have done it.”
The flak she received certainly didn’t deter Gal from flaunting her body. She is now the face of Gucci’s Bamboo perfume and sat naked in front of a piano for the luxury brand’s new television advert.And two years ago there were complaints to television regulators in her homeland about Gal’s sexually provocative twerking in a jeans commercial.
In between, there have been numerous racy photoshoots for various brands and magazines. She now rivals Bar Refaeli, the former girlfriend of Leonardo DiCaprio, as Israel’s most successful model. But when Gal was unveiled as the new Wonder Woman, some comic book fans criticised the decision.
They claimed her catwalk-friendly 32B, 5ft 10in figure made her too skinny to play the curvy heroine. Gal shrugged off the comments, saying: “You want people to be happy. There were a lot of comments about the size of my breasts. I realised we can’t please everyone.” Her character has a key role in the film, which hits cinemas on Friday and sees Ben Affleck make his debut as Batman, with Jesse Eisenberg playing the villainous Lex Luthor.
Producers gave Gal an armoured chest plate that is more rounded than her natural figure. Of her racy costume, she said: “I was so happy and grateful and thankful for being there for doing this role that I didn’t say anything about the fact that it was so tight. “Some adjustments were needed. I couldn’t go to the loo.” A full Wonder Woman movie is set for release next year, followed by two Justice League movies — DC Comics’ answer to Marvel’s Avengers franchise.
Gal, whose named is pronounced “Gaul”, has also courted controversy with her politics. Two years ago, as attacks between Israeli and Hamas fighters in Gaza grew increasingly bloody, she posted a photo on Facebook of herself praying with her daughter Alma, now four. She wrote: “I am sending my love and prayers to my fellow Israeli citizens.
“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.” Her post came in the same month Hollywood power couple Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz wrote an open letter describing Israel’s military action in Palestine as genocide.
Gal later removed the message but she has defended her time with the Israeli military. She said: “I wish no country had the need for an army. 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.” Gal’s grandfather Abraham Weiss lost all of his family in the Holocaust.
Only Abraham survived the Nazis’ Auschwitz death camp before making his way to Israel. Gal paid tribute to him by writing: “My grandfather’s legacy was to have his own new family and create new roots in this world, as all he ever had was taken from him.” Being cast as Wonder Woman has transformed Gal into an Israeli heroine. Last year she was named as one of the country’s “super-brands”.
David Brinn, managing editor of the Jerusalem Post, said: “Gal’s like a national hero. She is the first Israeli actress to become a mainstream star.” Gal is proud of that, saying: “To be named one of the most influential Jewish people in the world is a tremendous honour. “I’m grateful to serve as a cultural ambassador through my work and proud to remain a strong advocate for the state of Israel.”
The acting and modelling has made Gal a multi-millionaire and she now boasts more than a million followers on Instagram. Her marriage to businessman Yaron Varsano added to her wealth. Last year Yaron and his brother Guy sold their boutique hotel in Tel Aviv, called Varsano, to Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich for £17million.
Gal met Yaron while she was making the film Fast & Furious in 2008 and they married later that year in a lavish wedding with 500 guests. They split their time between Israel and Los Angeles, where Gal’s burgeoning career is keeping her busy. As well as playing Gisele in three Fast & Furious films, she appeared in the comedy thriller Knight And Day and can currently be seen in Triple 9 alongside Kate Winslet.
Gal was studying to become a lawyer when her first acting opportunities came along. She auditioned for a role in the Bond film Quantum Of Solace but lost out to Olga Kurylenko. Gal said: “What’s not mine was never meant to be.” She has now done what Carter could not in portraying Wonder Woman on the big screen.
Gal was not even born when the original Wonder Woman series aired on American TV between 1975 and 1979. Comparing the film and the series, Gal said: “I love Lynda Carter. But this one is going to be very up to date, very different.” Many fans are disappointed that Lynda does not have a cameo role in the movie. But the part brought her mixed fortunes.
While she found international fame, Lynda has admitted she hit the bottle after the TV show finished. Lynda, who has now overcome her personal difficulties and performs as a singer, said: “It is odd that it is an Israeli actress and not an American. “But she seems to be very pretty and I wish her well.
“Nobody has contacted me but I would happily do a cameo if that’s something that everybody involved wanted.”