Wonder Women: Kristen Wiig in conversation with Gal Gadot

This article appeared in Harper’s Bazaar UK, published on December 22, 2020. Interview by Gal Gadot. Conversation moderated by Ella Alexander.

“Gal? Oh I love Gal, I could talk about Gal all day,” Kristen Wiig told us on the set of her Harper’s Bazaar UK digital cover shoot earlier this month. Indeed, the pair, who face off in the new superhero sequel Wonder Woman 1984, have become firm friends. Despite not knowing each other beforehand, the on-screen enemies have now very much become off-screen allies after eight months of filming together in London; so much so that Wiig requested Gadot interview her for this story. The pair connected – as so many of us have become accustomed to this year – via Zoom: Gadot in Los Angeles and Wiig in New York.

Below, we play a fly on the wall to their conversation, in which they discuss the pressures of starring in a beloved franchise, the insecurities they both experience and the difficulties of working apart from their children.

Gal Gadot: Hi Kristen!

Kristen Wiig: Hi Gal, it’s so good to see you. Thank you for doing this.

GG: Where are you right now?

KW: I’m in New York.

GG: Oh really, why?

KW: I’m getting ready to do Saturday Night Live. I’ve been quarantining and going a little stir-crazy, but I’m excited because I’m seeing everyone – well, some people – tonight socially distanced.

GG: I’m just thinking, how private should I go for this interview…? The first time you’re away from the kids and you’re working, it can be hard.

KW: That’s not easy, it’s really hard. For some of it Avi [Rothman, her fiancé] was sending me videos of when they were born and I’m like, ‘Why are you doing this? Please stop, you can’t send any more of these!’ He said, ‘I just found these.’ I was like, ‘I’m away!’

GG: The first time I was away from Alma, it was the hardest.

KW: It’s so hard. There’s FaceTime, but, you know, they’re one.

GG: The only thing I can tell you is that it’s OK because they won’t remember any of this, do you know what I mean? Try to forget about it and enjoy the sleep and experience because they won’t remember when you come back. They’ll just be like, ‘Mummy!’ That’s what helped me. It’s getting worse as they grow older.

KW: Yes, they know what’s happening. They know you’re making a choice when you leave.

GG: I can’t imagine what it means and takes to be a mother of twins in 2020. I mean this is the first year of their lives.

KW: Their social life is non-existent, and the hardest part is that they can’t see family. They’re not walking yet, but they’re crawling really fast. Once I put them down, they both go in different directions.

GG: When they wake up in the night, who do you go to first? It’s so hard, but you just do it, right?

KW: They’re pretty good sleepers actually, but it’s just really hard to be away.

GG: That’s OK, they won’t remember, and you’ll send them videos, it’s all good. Anyway, to the film! This experience that I’m so grateful for, which brought us together. I’m so glad that I now have you in my life. Do you remember the first time you got the call for the role?

KW: Well, it was mysterious because I got a call from my agent who said, ‘Patty Jenkins [the director] wants to talk to you, but they won’t say what it is – they won’t say what the film or the role is.’ I was like, ‘Is it Wonder Woman?’ I had to sign an NDA to even talk to Patty. I had to fly to London to do a camera test and read for the part, but I couldn’t tell anyone, and I was so paranoid about it. I went by the rules, and said, ‘I’m going to London for a thing and I can’t talk about it and I’ll be back in a few days.’ I thought the Warner Brothers police would come knocking on my door.

GG: It’s funny because we knew you were going to get the part.

KW: I didn’t! I was so stressed out.

GG: I wish I knew you then. I would have broken my NDA to tell you that the role was yours.

KW: It was so elaborate. I did hair and make-up, they made a set with tables and even had an actress there who looked like you.

GG: Really?

KW: Yes! I had to read everything, and it was really intense.

GG: Have you had to do anything like that for a different project?

KW: I’ve had to do a couple of camera tests, but auditioning like that…

GG: The secrecy of it all!

KW: No, I’m afraid even now to talk. I’m afraid I’ll get in trouble.

GG: They can’t do anything now. What was the thing that got you most excited or scared, or that you felt challenged by during this project?

KW: I have an answer for each of those words I think. Excited: well, that was just for the whole thing. I loved the first one so much. Just to pack up my stuff and go to London for eight months and know that I was working on this movie, it was such a life-career dream for me. I was also nervous about it all too, because it’s such a big world that I was stepping into and you guys had already established such a great character and tone. I just thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to be in this movie and there are so many fans.’ It was so nerve-wracking.

GG: It’s so funny because the perspective that people have of themselves and actually how people perceive them to be… There’s often a gap between the two. Your character was so complex – she went through the biggest transformation, from pure goodness to the darkest evil. It’s funny for me to see someone as talented as you get so insecure, just like I do all the time. Meanwhile, I’d do a scene with you and see you doubt yourself and I’m like, ‘No, it was fucking gold!’ Watching the film as a whole, seeing it all come together, to see you soar in what you do… Now talking about your nervousness seems so crazy because you were so good from the get-go.

KW: Thanks Gal.

GG: Always.

KW: I wasn’t sure how much of myself to put into the first Barbara that we meet – how funny she should be as a character.

GG: Were you afraid to make her funny?

KW: I was because I didn’t want it to seem like me. I’m not saying I’m funny…

GG: You are.

KW: I didn’t want her to be the Kristen people have seen. I thought, she’s not funny, she’s sad. One day Patty said to me, ‘If you just let yourself go, and just be this person and see if the awkward funny giggly stuff comes out, you’ll feel better.’ Then it clicked.

GG: What was the most challenging part about this job?

KW: Probably the physical stuff.

GG: For sure! I can’t believe you had to think about that.

KW: The schedule was so crazy. The full days… and seeing the schedule where you’d have four hours of stunt, choreography and movement, and that’s after you’d worked out with a trainer. My body went into shock at the beginning. I couldn’t move. I was staying in a place with stairs and I was like, ‘Oh no.’ My legs were so sore. But when people ask me about the rewarding aspects of it; we got through it. You and I would turn up and see the crazy things we’d have to do, think ‘What?!’ and then we’d do it. It was so fun.

GG: In these type of huge movies, you can’t take it as a whole. It’s day by day. It’s not even a week-by-week project because every day is full to the max. Do you remember the water work we had to do and the rashes that came out over our faces? Then they had to put milk in it and it just stank. People see the final, polished thing, but we had to do diving and you were cold.

KW: I had to make sure I didn’t go down too far because of my sinuses. I had a really bad cold, and it happened to be the day we were shooting under water and scuba diving.

GG: London in the winter made it more challenging. All the projects I’ve shot have been so demanding, but this is the hardest project I’ve ever made.

KW: Even just being there so long… It sounds glamorous – ‘Oh, you moved to London, and you’re living and working there’ – but you are leaving your extended family, you’re lifting everything up and lifting it over.

GG: With your partner.

KW: Yeah, with your partner. There are so many other challenges then just going to shoot a movie for eight months. We’re complaining a lot!

GG: OK, let’s talk about the good stuff. Let’s talk about the cast and Patty. Were you nervous coming to work with us after we’d had the first film or were you super comfortable from the start?

KW: Well, I think you know the answer to that! I was scared. Whenever you go into something that’s already established… and you and Patty are so close. Chris [Pine] obviously was in the first one, Pedro [Pascal] and I felt like the new ones. That lasted for a day.

GG: We were just so happy to have you guys. It was like we’d been together since for ever. It never felt like you were the new people in the bunch.

KW: It did to me! I was going through so many firsts, being on a shoot that long, doing a role like this, doing all the physical stuff, being in this big superhero sequel, there were so many firsts that I was like, ‘Oh my god, what do I do?’ Actually, the working out did help with the stress.

GG: And as much as it was laborious, there’s something awesome about the fact that we get to work with the best people in order to be in great shape. Just maybe not four hours… How was working with Patty?

KW: Patty is the best. The relationship with the director is so intimate and you have to speak the same language. She knew my insecurities without me even saying them. She guided me. All of the things she’d tell me were what I needed to hear; she was so kind and supportive. In that kind of environment, you start taking risks and trying new things and that’s when it’s really fun.

GG: You’re a fan of comics, right? Did you read comic books or watch superhero films?

KW: I watched the movies and the TV shows; the Wonder Woman TV show, the Batman TV show, the original Superman movies…

GG: What was your favourite superhero movie when you were young?

KWSuperman with Christopher Reeve. It’s fun and silly and scary and now it’s nostalgic to watch it.

GG: I know what you mean. As an actress, did you ever…

KW: Oh my god, every time I’d watch one, I’d think, ‘Oh, that would be so cool!’

GG: Really? I didn’t know that about you.

KW: Really! I’m not kidding when I say this was a dream for me. I mean that.

GG: That’s amazing. I wonder if you could write a script of a female superhero. How amazing would she be? A female superhero with a really, really good sense of humour – that’s something I’ve never seen before. I’m just throwing it out there…

KW: Hmmmm…

GG: Why do you think it was important that this film had a female director and what did Patty bring to the table that a man wouldn’t have? I have been asked this question a lot; the problem is the question. Do you think a male director would ever be asked, ‘Why do you think it was great that he did Batman and what did he bring that woman couldn’t bring?’

KW: The business is changing slowly and there are more opportunities, and they come with those questions – separating the female and male and making it more of an issue. I’m telling you, the term ‘female comedy’ makes me want to explode.

GG: What does it even mean?

KW: Well there’s no male comedy.

GG: What is the difference? Do you feel changes in the industry as a writer and actress or is it still very slow? To me, being a feminist is equal pay, equal opportunities.

KW: I don’t think we’re there yet. Like I said, it’s changing but not at the pace that I think it should.

GG: Not at the pace you’d want. I wonder how long it will take, and what and if the impact of these types of movies – Wonder Woman and even Bridesmaids – will have on that pace.

KW: They have an impact as long as we keep them in the same category, so that it’s not always a female superhero movie, or a female comedy. Ultimately, it’s about a comic-book hero.

GG: I’m with you. Back to the film, you really showed the humanity of your character as a villain. Why was that important to you?

KW: Truthfully, that was in the script and through conversations with Patty – the conflict that the audience feels along with Diana: I like this person, but I know that they’re evil. It’s an interesting question to ask yourself: is it a good person who has gone bad or is it a bad person who has finally revealed themselves? It was a different way to see a villain. At the beginning, Diana doesn’t connect with people… how can Barbara be this one person who she is willing to take a chance with and befriend? Showing that warmth was important for that.

GG: What do you like best about Cheetah?

KW: The tail. No, I like that she’s still in there; you still see her. There’s a scene where Diana is talking to Barbara even though she’s Cheetah and you see this struggle still. I like that it wasn’t black and white.

GG: You made her complex and relatable. We can be Barbara.

KW: We all have a little Barbara in us.

GG: What empowers you, Kristen?

KW: That’s a good question. Being a mum is a big one. Completing something that you were really scared to do, being nervous to do something and then that feeling you get when you do it. Hopefully I’ll have that feeling on Sunday after SNL. I’m always nervous to do that.

GG: There you go again! This is why you’re so talented – you’re always searching and you never think, ‘That’s it, I’ve got it figured out.’ Even though you were part of the SNL panel for many years! Out of the population of the universe, I would have thought that you would be relaxed about appearing on it. But no, you’re such a perfectionist and care so much and are always searching for the best thing you can give, you’re amazing. This is a good question to end on.

KW: Thank you so much for doing this for me. You did it as a favour and a friend and I appreciate that so much.

GG: You’re my friend and I love you. It was good to connect and do something nice on Zoom.