Tuesday, June 6, 2017

How did Wonder Woman get made? How did Gal Gadot get the part of Wonder Woman?

In 1996, Ghostbusters producer-director Ivan Reitman was finishing Space Jam for Warner Bros. Searching for a project, he asked to develop Wonder Woman as a film. Three fruitless years passed, and he resigned from the project to return to comedies (Six Days, Seven Nights, Road Trip, Evolution).

Warners passed the project in 1999 to producer Joel Silver (Weird Science, Commando, Lethal Weapon, Predator, Die Hard, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Lethal Weapon 2, Die Hard 2, Lethal Weapon 3), who hired up-and-coming screenwriter Jon Cohen (Minority Report is his only credit) to work on a script. In 2001, Silver fired Cohen (who was working on Minority Report anyway) and brought in writer Todd Alcott (who'd just finished Antz). Over the next two years, the script would be worked on by Alcott, Cohen (again), Becky Johnston (Under the Cherry Moon, Prince of Tides), Philip Levens (then an unknown writer who would eventually write a truckload of scripts for Smallville), and Laeta Kalogridis (then an unknown scriptwriter who'd worked on early versions of X-Men, and on Scream 3 and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider). Kalogridis was the last to work on it, and tried to turn the movie back into a traditional "origin of Princess Diana" movie with feminist overtones.

Work on the script pretty much ceased in late 2003 or early 2004.

In March 2005, Warners sought out Joss Whedon, who'd had stunning success with his feminist Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Whedon agreed to both write and direct the film. Whedon was directing Serenity at the time and needed several months to research the character, so work on the screenplay did not begin until late 2005. Whedon's concept was to have Wonder Woman fighting giant corporations, not evil villains. Whedon also wanted Wonder Woman wear classical Greek armor. Whedon left the project in February 2007, having written nothing. (Rumors are that Whedon would have cast Charisma Carpenter in the role.)

Because the rights to the film were going to revert to Warners unless it went into pre-production, Silver Pictures purchased a spec script from unknown writers Matthew Jennison and Brent Strickland in January 2007. This script was by all accounts impressive, but set the action entirely during World War II. Joel Silver did not want the film to be a period piece and so refused to greenlight the script. However, he recognized the insight the writers had brought to the project and in March 2008 hired Jennison and Strickland to work on a new script. It had to be set in contemporary times, although it could explore Paradise Island's history.

Work on the script continued, off and on. Several other unidentified writers were brought in to work on it, sometimes with Jennison and Strickland and sometimes on their own. At one point, the focus on was on Wonder Woman's daughter, Donna Troy (Wonder Girl).

Warner Bros. was also trying to get a Justice League movie off the ground. This project was being scripted by Kieran and Michele Mulroney (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows), and used much of the Checkmate/Maxwell Lord storyline from Countdown to Infinite Crisis. At one point, their 2007 script had a hypnotized Superman punching Wonder Woman into outer space with the words "Die bitch!" The script never got produced.

In 2009, Diane Nelson was named President of DC Entertainment – the division of Warner Bros. that turns DC Comics characters into films and TV shows. Tasked by Warner Bros. CEO Ken Tsujihara to get the character into development, Nelson bought out Silver's rights. In 2010, she sold television rights to David E. Kelley (L.A. Law, Picket Fences, Chicago Hope, The Practice, Ally McBeal, Boston Public, Boston Legal), who wrote a pilot for NBC. It featured a "Diana Themyscira" as the CEO of a large corporation who fights crime on the side. Shot in 2011, the pilot never made it on the air.

Director Patty Jenkins (Monster) approached Warners in 2010 and pitched a version of Wonder Woman that would be an origin story set against the backdrop of World War I, beginning with Princess Diana at age 7. The studio turned her down, as the TV show pilot was in the works.

In 2011, Warners agreed to allow its co-owned television network, The CW, to develop a prequel television series called Amazon, which would focus on the Amazons of Paradise Island. Allan Heinberg served as executive producer. Heinberg got his start in television, working on a host of series as a writer and production assistant (including Party of Five, Sex and the City, Gilmore Girls, The O.C., and Grey's Anatomy). He joined Marvel Comics in 2004, creating the Young Avengers. It was a huge hit, and included two gay characters (Wiccan and Hulkling) which proved to be immense fan favorites. Heinberg quit Marvel and went to work in 2006 for DC comics, where he and senior editor-writer Geoff Johns did five issues of JLA before Heinberg relaunched Wonder Woman in 2007. But once more, the pilot was not picked up.

With the television series kaput, Warner Bros. was back to working on a film. Charles Roven (Atlas Entertainment), who had produced all of Warners' superhero movies going back to The Dark Knight, was brought aboard to oversee the production. Rosen had his daughter, producer Rebecca Rosen, keep in touch with Jenkins "just in case"…

In October 2013, Paul Feig (who at that time only had Bridesmaids to his credit) pitched an action-comedy version of Wonder Woman to Warners. The studio passed on his offer. About this time, the studio brought Zack Snyder's Cruel and Unusual Films on board to assist Atlas with the production. The film was considered a sop to Snyder, who had just finished producing and directing Man of Steel. Snyder was supposed to help fashion a "DC Cinematic Universe" in which all the forthcoming Warner Bros. superhero films would contain similar elements.

Atlas Entertainment hired a writer (it's not known who) to work on a Wonder Woman script. This script had Wonder Woman fighting in the Crimean War (an 1853-to-1856 war in which the Russian Empire lost to an alliance of France, Britain, the Ottoman Empire and Sardinia). That script got tossed, and a second writer was brought aboard. This writer used World War I as the background for the script. When the Silver Pictures writers discovered this, they asked for an arbitration with the Writers Guild – arguing that the script idea was theirs. They lost.

Zack Snyder sought out Allan Heinberg for story ideas for Wonder Woman. His reasons for doing so were that Heinberg had successfully relaunched the character in comics in 2007, and knew Geoff Johns (by now, the publisher and creative director of DC Comics) very well. Heinberg had extensive television writing and producing credits, and knew what it would take to bring Wonder Woman to the silver screen. They brought in Jason Fuchs, the young actor and newly-minted writer, to help make the film more whimsical. In 2010, Fuchs had written Ice Age: Continental Drift, and in 2011 Rags (a post-modern take on Cinderella that was a massive hit for Nickelodeon). His script for Pan was considered Hollywood's best unproduced script (although the film later bombed). Together, the three came up with the story for Wonder Woman. Heinberg was tasked with writing the script.

By now, there was immense pressure on the studio to put a female director in charge of the film. In November 2014, Warners hired producer-director Michelle MacLaren to helm the film. She'd produced a bunch of Lifetime movies, been a producer and director on The X-Files for two years, directed four episodes of Game of Thrones, and just spent four years producing and directing Breaking Bad – for which she'd been nominated for a bunch of Emmys.

MacLaren then brought in several writers of her own to work with Heinberg on the script. Roven was appalled, and MacLaren tried pushing the film in a new direction. Just what that direction was is not entirely clear, but Warner Bros. – which had by now bought into the World War I background story – resisted.

MacLaren quit in April 2015.

Three days later, Patty Jenkins was hired to direct. Jenkins began working with Heinberg on her vision for the script. Although five years earlier she had pushed for a World War I version of Wonder Woman, she'd abandoned that concept by 2015 and it took some time for Snyder and Heinberg to convince her that it was the right approach. Once convinced, Jenkins launched full-tilt into making script suggestions to Heinberg. These involved making Wonder Woman feel a great deal of compassion for humanity, and highlighting a lot of the "fish out of water" humor that fills the middle of the picture. According to Roven, with Jenkins' input, Heinberg's script began coming together very swiftly. Case in point: The race into no-man's-land at first seemed boring, because it involved Wonder Woman running in a straight line from Point A to Point B. Jenkins had Heinberg greatly improve Diana's discussion with Steve Trevor about saving the people of the village. Jenkins and the producers also discussed at length how to make Wonder Woman's charge seem more thrilling and death-defying. (Even so, the producers and studio execs were not convinced and wanted the sequence removed. Jenkins had to storyboard and pre-visualize the scene herself before the producers were convinced. Additional pre-viz had to be done to convince Warners executives.)

Although Heinberg had the framework of the script already fleshed out, Jenkins' input helped put flesh on each scene – welding the film into a unified whole. In fact, the script was so tight, no deleted scenes were filmed to add for a "director's cut". Reshoots involved only small bits here and there. These occurred in November 2016 and mostly involved minor revisions to scenes to clarify plot points and to improve action sequences that weren't turning out well in CGI. One of these was the race into no-man's-land sequence, much of which was reshot. Gadot, then five months pregnant with her second child, had to wear a green cloth over her stomach to hide her pregnancy (which was removed in CGI).

How does Gal Gadot fit into this?

Gadot won the Miss Israel beauty pageant at the age of 18 in 2004, and competed in the Miss Universe pageant. She studied law for a year (Israel has an undergraduate law degree), and the fulfilled her mandatory two years of military service when she was 20 and 21. She returned to law school, and during the year did a Maxim magazine cover shoot.

After the school year ended, she was asked to audition for the part of Bond girl Camille Montes in the film Quantum of Solace. She lost the part to Olga Kurylenko. The casting director was so impressed, however, that Gadot was hired to play the role of Gisele in 2009's Fast & Furious (The Fast and the Furious 4). She did two more F&F movies over the next four years.

Gadot had a busy and extensive modeling career after 2008, with her earnings topping $675,000 a year by 2012.

In March 2011, Gadot was asked to try out for the role of Faora in Man of Steel. She turned down the role as she was a month pregnant with her first daughter, Alma.

In June 2013, Warners not only tapped Snyder to produce Wonder Woman but also Batman v. Superman. The studio told Snyder that the film should be a set-up for a Justice League film as well as a jumping off point for Wonder Woman, Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman films.

In November 2013, Snyder started the casting process for Wonder Woman, knowing he had to have an actress committed to Batman v. Superman before work on Wonder Woman could begin. (Remember, at this time, there wasn't any script or story and no director for Wonder Woman.) Three actresses were asked to audition: Gal Gadot, Olga Kurylenko (who had done a fistful of indie and foreign films, but nothing big since Bond), and Elodie Yung (who'd just starred and gotten a lot of drooling fanboy attention for her role in G.I. Joe: Retaliation).

Gadot won the role right away. She signed a three-picture deal in January 2014.

Chris Pine was cast in July 2015, and most of the rest of the cast in late 2015.

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