Following an appearance in last year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice, Wonder Woman, in the form of actress Gal Gadot, will be stepping into the spotlight with her first solo big screen adventure this June. And to herald that arrival, director Patty Jenkins and Geoff Johns, President and Chief Creative Officer at DC Comics, recently took to the stage of the Anaheim Convention Center at Wondercon 2017. What follows is an edited transcript of the conversation between them, which was punctuated by several effective sequences from the film.
Wikipedia describes the plot of Wonder Woman as follows: “In the early 20th Century, the Amazon princess Diana, who is living on the island of Themyscira, meets American military pilot Steve Trevor when he is washed ashore. After learning from him about the ongoing events of World War I, she leaves her home for London to bring an early end to the war.” Chris Pine (Captain Kirk in the JJ Abrams-produced Star Trek films) plays Trevor, with David Thewlis as the god of war, Ares.
Geoff Johns: “First off, Patty, I thought we could talk about why you were so excited about going back to the basic story of Diana, who is the daughter of the queen of the Amazons on this island. It's her story of leaving the island and coming to our world. Why was the origin story so important to tell?”
Patty Jenkins: “I love any superhero origin story, because it allows you to connect with these kinds of characters who end up getting the opportunity to make a difference in the world and be powerful. When I was seven-years-old, Superman: The Movie came out and I couldn’t believe the effect that movie had on me. I was Superman. It didn’t matter who I was, and it didn’t matter where I was. I was that little boy who picked up a car. I was the Superman who ripped his shirt open to expose the ‘S.’ I was that character who faces those challenges and felt human. I'm a big believer in the tradition of using these stories as a way to explore every single kind of person's hopes and dreams for being a better person and a more powerful person in the world, and making a great choice when they get that chance.”
“Then when it comes to Wonder Woman, it's Wonder Woman. She's my favorite superhero. She's one of the biggest, most well-known classic superheroes of the genre. The fact that nobody had gotten to make her origin story ... First of all, it's so important that every superhero get their day of their origin story, and hers is beautiful and wonderful and one that deserved to be told. I was just so honored to get to do it.”
Geoff Johns: “We talked a lot about was the essence of the character, who Diana is, and the essence of DC is really heart, humor, and heroics. Those three H's. With Diana in particular, she embodies all that and more. You were very specific on how much training Diana should have. Why did you feel it was so important to have Diana go through this rigorous training she does in the movie?”
Patty Jenkins: “Diana is a special character. She has special powers. She's obviously given all of those things. Also, she wants to be a hero and that kind of training is integral to the learning skills that she needs to not just be a super-powered person, but to be somebody who understands what it is to fight and how it is to fight and what the rules of fighting are. We often get to see superheroes learn their skills. There's a great tradition in most kinds of fighting and martial arts and boxing and MMA and anything, of learning the honor and the restraints and the discipline of fighting. I thought that was a wonderful thing about her — she's a fighter. She's a trained fighter. She's not only a special superhuman person. She's a trained fighter with all of the respect and longevity that that comes with. I loved the world of Themyscira and the Amazons and the fact that they had freed themselves from the enslavement of man, which meant that at one point they had to become incredibly furious bad asses to free themselves and get themselves where they did. That's such an incredible story to be told of who they are. Then from that point on, of course, they're going to have various different points of view about how to move forward as anybody would.”
“I love the fact that Hippolyta [Diana’s mother, the queen, played by Connie Nielsen] had been one of the fiercest, most amazing warriors and the most courageous, and yet she has decided to believe that maybe they will never have to go back and they can stay on this island forever. Whereas Antiope [Diana’s aunt and a general, played by Robin Wright] knows that it may very well not last and they need to stay vigilant and training and on top of their skills. There's a collision as far as what they should be doing and how they should be approaching the world. Diana, who very much wants to be as great of a warrior as they were, but doesn't have the experience to know the great darkness and responsibility that comes with it, gets caught in the crossfire of the two of them. One who wants to protect her from that, and one who knows you can never protect anyone from the truth of the world. Watching that storyline play out is such a great part. It's a classic coming of age story. Your parents want you to succeed in the world, but they're also afraid for the dings and the hits that they know you're going to get once you get out there.”
Geoff Johns: “Throughout the whole process, the elements of compassion, love, but with strength and power are there. Do you want to tell everybody what the essence of the character is? Why this character is so, I think, uniquely different than every other superhero out there?”
Patty Jenkins: “She's not the only character who has a strong moral compass and a belief system, of course. What I like about her is that that is her mission. Her mission is a belief of mankind and what they can be. It's a moral belief system. I feel like there are a lot of superheroes who are chosen and find themselves in these positions and want to stop crime or save people or things. She's one of the very few who believes in goodness and kindness and justice and love; who comes to our world hoping to instill that in other people, but is willing to use force if that's what she must do to keep mankind safe. I just think it's so interesting, and such a unique perspective to have a character who really is so strong and powerful, yet essentially is all about love and truth and forgiveness and kindness and compassion. What a great role model for all of us of how do you save the world? Well, you have to think for yourself at every moment and try to be a better person, and none of that means you're not just as strong and powerful as the next person.”
“When people say, ‘Is the superhero craze going to die?’, I always think it's so much bigger than that. It's not about superheroes. It's that this is the method of universal storytelling that we have; all people have. It's not of one religion or one thing that America ended up inventing as a way to tell these metaphors about all different kinds of states of being. To me, they're the same as the Greek myth or the Roman myth or figures of every religion. These are our common characters that we use to express stories about being a better person or what you would do if you were faced with various things. For me, that's an incredibly powerful thing. There's a million movies to be told with common characters.”
Geoff Johns: “What’s your feeling about the relationship between Diana Prince and Steve Trevor, and how it progresses throughout the film?”
Patty Jenkins: “We wanted Steve Trevor to be the greatest version of Steve Trevor we could ever think of. We're sort of basing him on Indiana Jones. He's a super tough guy, but he's also self-deprecating and a little world weary and a little tired and doesn't believe anything is possible. Now you collide that with Wonder Woman, young Wonder Woman, who is like, ‘Oh, you'll see it is possible. You're going to see what's going to happen.’ He's, like, ‘Okay, that's great. I like you a lot.’ Then you start putting them in these situations where they have a great sense of humor and they have a great dynamic between the two of them. It's their world views, like any great love story, but also they're a perfect embodiment of any great story of a superhero in man's world. Not unlike often times superhero and their earthly counterpart, whoever it is, where it's like there's a worldliness to the counterpart, but then that person's perspective is changed by this superhero just as they learned from them about the world.”
Geoff Johns: “I think this is the best performance Chris Pine has ever done by far.”
Patty Jenkins: “The learning process between both of them is, I think, part of the fun of the movie. Again, the heart, humor, and heroics is built into Steve, really. Chris was so awesome. He's one of the greatest actors I have ever worked with. He is so skilled and wonderful and funny. Just such a talented guy. He brings a performance that I think is stunning to this film, because he does something so tricky where he brings all the comic relief and a wonderful love story, but he also ends up really symbolizing all of the depth of man. Chris has those skills to call upon and when we needed it, we were able to go somewhere pretty incredible with him. I think it's a stunning performance.”
Geoff Johns: “During the making of the movie, we talked a lot about Superman: The Movie, but another film we talked about is Casablanca and how important the emotional heart of a movie like that influenced your take on this, too.”
Patty Jenkins: “I was excited about the idea of going for grand classic cinema. Just a grand love story. It doesn't relegate it to being a rom-com or anything. It's just got a grand love story at it's core, and that love story embodies and acts out all of the real issues of the time. That's where Casablanca comes in. It's because Casablanca is a great love story, but why is it a great love story? Because it's about this period of time and real politics and real struggle and decisions that were being made within them. That's what we went for here.”
Geoff Johns: “Can you talk a little bit about how the action of this film all came together?”
Patty Jenkins: “What was fun about this action was that I really cared about doing it all as a character piece. The entire movie is really a character story, and a character journey. Every time we got to an action scene, it really clarifies what it is, because it's all from a point of view from Diana. It's not about stepping back and watching action for action's sake. It's, ‘Here she is and here's her journey and here's what she's seeing and here's how that affects her.’ It was a fun way to approach it, because it always gave such a very strong understanding of how we should go about it.”
Wonder Woman will be released on June 2nd.
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