Gal Gadot has just finished a training session at the gym when she joins our video call, gasping as she catches sight of herself on screen. “I look like I’ve spilled out of a storm!” she laughs, apologizing for having dashed straight from her workout. In truth, Gadot looks just as stunning as ever. She is gregarious and fun to speak to from the get-go, laughing and joking with a joy that’s immediately infectious. “I try not to take myself too seriously,” she smiles as she sips on a cool drink. “I’m an entertainer, and I like to have fun and laugh. I think when we start taking ourselves too seriously, that’s when all the fun goes out the window.”
The daily training Gadot does certainly came in useful for her latest film, Netflix’s new action-romp, Heart of Stone. In this, she plays Rachel Stone, a secret agent for a mysterious organization of elite peacekeepers called ‘The Charter.’ Gadot is seen variously gliding down a steep, snowy mountain, diving off a high cliff, and parachuting into the desert. It’s a breathless watch, but all in a day’s work for Gadot. “Every film I make in this genre, I always say to myself at the end of the film, ‘It can’t get any more physical than that,’ and then along comes the next film to prove me wrong,” Gadot smiles, recalling some of the many stunts she took part in on set. “It really bumped up this time,” she adds, raising her hands as she describes the action that continued to go “up and up and up” throughout the production. “From fighting in the air to diving into the sea to the mountain [chase], it’s been full-on physical.”
Speaking about the impressive array of stunts in the film, Gadot says she does “a lot of it” herself but admits some just aren’t possible. “When people say: ‘I do all of my stunts by myself,’ I’m like, ‘Really?!’” she smiles suspiciously, saying the only exception “is Tom Cruise, who really, really does them,” she laughs. She says it’s important for her to applaud her stunt teams in an industry where they often don’t get the recognition they deserve. “I always try to celebrate my stunt women and men,” she continues. “The amount of work and the risk they take, the dedication—everything they give is just incredible. They’ve become like a second family to me. They should be celebrated because they really make us look like the best version of ourselves.”
Some members of the stunt team Gadot worked with date back to both her breakthrough role as Gisele Yashar in the Fast & Furious franchise to her outings as Wonder Woman in the Patty Jenkins-directed DC blockbusters. In between these action-packed offerings, Gadot appeared in the action-comedy Red Notice and the stylish Agatha Christie whodunnit, Death on the Nile, while also setting up a production company, Pilot Wave, with her husband, Jaron.
As a teenager, Gadot studied dance (something she says has proven invaluable in helping her master complex stunt choreography) and spent time working as a trainer in the Israeli forces during her compulsory national service. She was studying law at university and moonlighting as a model (she was crowned Miss Israel in 2004), when the Fast & Furious offer came in. She ended up leaving university to fly to Hollywood and the rest, as they say, is history.
Gadot recently made a shock return to Fast & Furious in Fast X despite her character being seemingly killed off in an earlier film. “A few friends went to see the movie and they sent me their reactions from the theater,” Gadot says, mimicking their shocked expressions. What can she tell us about her return? “Not much,” she smiles coyly, saying she is sworn to secrecy, but does tell us more about her decision to return. “I mean they were the first to give me an opportunity in Hollywood,” she reflects with palpable joy, saying the series remains close to her heart. “I still get emotional with the love from the fans. For years, I’ve been asked by so many different fans to ‘Come back, come back!’ And they even did a campaign for me to return. It was mind-blowing to me, and these are things I don’t take lightly. So, I was like, ‘Okay, maybe now it’s time, maybe now is the right time to return.’ It’s really exciting, and it feels right.”
Gadot thinks the franchise played a significant part in what followed next in her career, on account of it being a series where women were often equals with men in action sequences and in terms of the cast’s global diversity. When she started out, she says both were still in short supply in Hollywood. “Fast was this very strong, dominant franchise that allowed women to be celebrated as well [as men] and not just sit at the back, literally in the passenger seat. They let them drive,” she recalls. “I feel like they were the first that really went for a global cast. It brought in talent from different places in the world. We’ve tried to do that with Heart of Stone too–we didn’t want to make this an American-only film. We wanted it to feel global, international, to have as many people from around the world being able to see themselves on screen. Going back to Fast, I feel like this is something they were pioneers of.”
Heart of Stone, which Gadot has also produced, sees women leading the action. As well as Gadot’s central character, it has an impressive cast that includes Sophie Okonedo, Alia Bhatt and Jing Lusi, all of whom are central to the action and have prominent roles and responsibilities. Gadot says it was important that the characters weren’t just carbon copies of male action heroes. “There are so many scripts that I get offered personally where they say, ‘Let’s just swap the man for a woman’...With this, it was a real no to that,” she explains. “We wanted to build a really strong character who is a woman, telling this story from her perspective, a female perspective. So many things were informed by the fact she is a woman.”
Gadot says it was seeing the success of Wonder Woman that gave her and her husband confidence to develop an action movie with a female lead. “I love movies, I love storytelling, and I love this genre,” Gadot begins. “I grew up watching Bond, Mission: Impossible, Bourne, Die Hard—they were all perfect escapism...I always wanted to play in one, but it’s something that you don’t dare to dream...But after the success of Wonder Woman at the box office, my husband and I realized people will go and watch these films with a [female lead]. It gave us a really big boost of confidence to go and try it.”
Talking of Wonder Woman, there has been much speculation around whether a third installment of the series is on the way with many fearing there wouldn’t be. However, Gadot says she recently spoke to filmmaker James Gunn— who has now moved from Marvel to DC—and was assured that there will be another edition of the franchise and that she will be a part of it. “I was invited to a meeting with James Gunn and Peter Safran [co-chairperson and CEO of DC alongside Gunn] and what they told me, and I’m quoting: ‘You’re in the best hands. We’re going to develop Wonder Woman 3 with you. [We] love you as Wonder Woman— you’ve got nothing to worry about.’ So time will tell,” Gadot smiles, confident about her future with DC.
Gadot thinks films like Wonder Woman initiated a shift in the industry, showing big-budget studios that as well as having female leads, female directors and producers should also be given more opportunities to make movies too. The films were directed by Patty Jenkins, someone she’s reunited with recently while working together on a new film about Cleopatra (Jenkins will produce, Kari Skogland will direct). “There’s so many incredible women directors out there,” Gadot says. “Patty Jenkins, Kari Skogland, Greta Gerwig, Alma Har’el. I feel like it’s always been about money, power [in Hollywood]. I think now, people are starting to understand that they can trust...female filmmakers with their money. They know what they’re doing and it’s great to see there are more and more opportunities for them out there now.”
Gadot says it’s still a mixed picture when it comes to the scripts she’s offered though, despite Hollywood having a reckoning with equality in the post #MeToo era. Has she noticed a significant difference? “Sometimes I do, and sometimes I really don’t,” she shrugs. “They go on top of so many scripts that are just so similar. It’s still not balanced, but I think it’s slowly going towards a place that would be better for women, for actresses.”
She’s determined to work on projects where the female characters are well-written, developed and not defined solely in relation to men—like her work on Cleopatra. Unlike the iconic 1963 version starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton that was written and directed by a small group of men, this version will be led by a team of women. Gadot says they’re aiming to show a different side to the character that focuses on her abilities as a leader. “Cleopatra has been done a few times before in a brilliant way, but I know that our generation and youngsters know very little about Cleopatra. They know she was a seductive person who had an affair with Mark Antony and Julius Caesar, but really when you read about Cleopatra and her life and legacy, and the empire she ruled, she was brilliant. There’s so much that we’ve never heard about her and I just want to celebrate that.”
Gadot says they’re taking their time with the film. “It’s a big task. I don’t want to [rush] making it— it’s something that needs...so much thought and care because it’s Cleopatra. We have incredible writers working on the script—before and after the writer’s strike—like Laeta Kalogridis. It’s a beautiful script. We’re not rushing ourselves because you have to be responsible when you deal with such an incredible, iconic, legendary woman.”
Gadot works with writers frequently as part of her production company role, and has many writer friends in LA. She is sympathetic as many of them are currently on strike in the US after union members failed to strike a deal over pay this summer. “Some of our greatest friends are writers and for me, I understand what they are going through from within,” Gadot says. “I know their subjective, personal stories and I support them,” she continues, saying that despite the onset of streaming and a plethora of new content, little has changed for writers despite demand continuing to grow. “It’s time [for change],” she adds. “I just hope they break a deal that would work for everybody and be fair. And the sooner the better.”
When Gadot isn’t working with writers, acting or producing, she is a mother to three young girls. “Having three children is messy and chaotic in the best way possible,” she smiles, lighting up when speaking about her daughters. She says having “guilt trips” is a “default” of being a working mother. “If you’re at work, you want to be home. Then, when you’re at home with the kids, you worry you’re not working enough,” she sighs. “It can be a vicious cycle—but you have to mute those feelings.”
“What helps me is [accepting] that I can’t be a perfectionist. I told myself that I can only do my best and that I’m being the best mother I can be. On the other side of that, as long as I’m fulfilling myself and continuing to do what I love and not just giving up on it, then it also services them because they see a mother who is happier, who has interest in her life—and then you’re modeling that to them as well.”
How do her daughters feel, knowing she is one of the biggest movie stars on the planet? “It’s always weird because to me, they’re the stars,” she laughs. “I’m just their mother. They are starting to recognize it,” she says of her day job, but adds that like all children, they’re at the age where they still never listen to their parents anyway. “You have to say everything twenty times!” she smiles. Gadot says the industry is doing better when it comes to supporting working mothers, something that’s been a problem historically. She took her daughters to the sets of Wonder Woman and Heart of Stone where they spent time there with the cast and crew.
She recalls her own parents being nervous about her leaving school to pursue acting. “They were like: ‘What are you doing?! Finish your studies! Get your degree!’” Gadot laughs. “I was brought up in a very normal, simple, happy home. First you study, then you get your career—you don’t become a model or an actress.” She says her parents thought it was “temporary” until the offer came in from Fast & Furious—soon after, she was on a plane to the US. “At the time, I was like ‘maybe they’re right, maybe I should go back,’” Gadot admits now. “Because I never wanted to become an actress. [Before that], I was a dancer—that was my passion. I loved the performing arts, but I never knew that being an actor was an option for me.”
It was her husband, Jaron—they met long before she was famous—who encouraged her to follow her heart about acting. “He was the one to give me the courage to do it, to travel with me,” she smiles, acknowledging the close bond she and her husband have. “He’s the dreamer–he’s the kite that will reach out to the sky whereas I’m the root, the tree that the kite is connected to,” she laughs, acting out her tree-anchor analogy. “I would never be where I am without him,” she continues. “When success arrived, my parents—well, they never imagined [it could be like] this. So now they’re my number one fans and they’re very supportive—but it took them a bit.”
Gadot “misses home a lot” but keeps in constant contact with her family via video call. In January, Gadot says her family all shared an emotional moment after she took part in a narration project that had close links to her own family history. Gadot was asked by director Steven Spielberg and his Righteous Persons Foundation to narrate a video that visitors to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland would hear on their arrival. Gadot’s Jewish grandfather, Abraham Weiss, was incarcerated in the concentration camp as a teenager alongside his mother and brother, both of whom died there. His father, Gadot’s great-grandfather, was killed in the war, while her grandfather survived.
Gadot says it was a hugely emotive piece to work on, thinking back to her grandfather (he died in 2013) and what this would have meant to him. “My grandfather said nothing about Auschwitz for the longest time,” she remembers. “Until my grandmother passed away and then it was like a river—it didn’t stop. I think he realized life has a deadline and he [needed] to talk about it and the horrific memories.” Her grandfather eventually went back to Auschwitz where he spoke about his experiences of the Holocaust to visitors there.
Gadot remembers visiting Auschwitz in her teens as part of a school visit. “When they told me I’d be the voice on the headphones that you put on as you go around there, immediately I was full of goosebumps,” she continues, becoming understandably emotional. “I was thinking about my grandfather, almost 80 years ago, being a teenager in this death camp. I [wished] someone [could have] whispered in his ear at the time that his granddaughter would be there 80 years later, [recounting] what happened. It got me so emotional, just the full-circle moment of it. I spoke to my mum and she started crying.”
“I think all wars should stop and people should [get] to the table and talk,” she says, reflecting on history both then and now. She says being “further and further away from when World War II happened” means people don’t “remember”, “acknowledge” or “forget” what happened, which is why projects like the film are still important. “I believe in humanity and I wish there is nothing but peace in the world because I think at our core, every parent wants the same thing for their children. They want them safe, happy and [to] have prosperity. No one wants to send their children into the army.”
She turns again to her own children and how she will broach the subject of her family history with them one day. “How do you even start?” she wonders, but says through school and some “very PG” educational videos she is already starting to have those conversations.
Going back to her own children and career, Gadot says she thinks about her roles carefully with “having the next generation living in my home,” adding that she wants to take on more roles where women are front and center. After Wonder Woman, she became a role model for many young girls watching around the world. How does she cope with the responsibility that brings, as well as thinking about her children? “When I film a movie...I’m just focusing on the story, the character. I’m just a vessel for the Wonder Woman story and I’m so lucky to wear her shoes... because I think we all need those inspirations,” she explains. “As much as people are talking about equality and these things, there is still a long way to go as far as how much girls see themselves on the big screen, and also boys seeing girls on the big screen too—and being inspired by it. I think that’s important for everybody.”
One such role she was sadly forced to turn down because of filming commitments elsewhere was an appearance in the new Barbie movie. Margot Robbie, who both stars in and produces the Greta Gerwig-directed film, said Gadot was one of her first choices for playing Barbie in a recent interview, saying she radiated “Barbie energy” and was a template for their Barbies. “I adore Margot,” Gadot smiles, days before she attended the LA premiere of the film. “Margot is one of those women who you just want to be friends with,” she continues, saying she saw her “the other week” where they spoke about Robbie’s comments. “She is so funny, warm, fun and smart and obviously so talented. She brings so much to the table. I would love to do anything with Margot and was very touched [by her comments]. She warmed my heart with everything that she said about me. I’m super excited for them, and I’m so excited for Barbie.”
In the meantime, Gadot’s schedule shows no signs of slowing. She’s just finished work playing the original Disney villain, The Evil Queen, in a new musical adaptation of Snow White, a role she says was “delightful and delicious” to play. “She is so far away from me and it was so much fun to play,” admitting that she enjoyed playing a baddie for once. “I’m so used to playing the good guy, but there’s something so liberating [in a role] where you can break all the rules.”
She’s also working on a new, present-day version of Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief, again with her production company. “I’m a huge fan of Hitchcock,” she gushes, before talking about her love of his “intricate camera work.” “It’s going to be another exciting one, a fun one,” she says, admitting that for now, she is sworn to secrecy about this project too.
As the call comes to a close, Gadot says she has a busy few days ahead. As well as preparing for the Barbie premiere, she has a trip to London planned to talk about all things Heart of Stone. After spending years developing the film with her husband, she says it’s “huge” for them both that it’s soon to be out in the world. There are rumors it could even birth a new franchise in the vein of Mission: Impossible, Bourne and James Bond. “Coming into this, we knew we didn’t want to mimic anybody,” she says, adding that it had to be “a totally fresh idea” for it to work. “But I’m very proud...the mere fact [people] are putting Heart of Stone alongside such big, iconic, movies is an incredible compliment.” Would she like to do a follow-up? “If I get so lucky, I would love that!” she beams.
But for now, her focus is on one thing. “I want to bring good to the world,” she continues. “I just want to have a positive effect with whatever it is that I’m doing... in whatever role comes next.” And with that, she leaves, off to plan her next great adventure.
This interview was completed prior to the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike.
Written by Liz Aubrey
Digital Tech: Meredith Munn
Creative Producer: Mui-Hai Chu
Flaunt Film: Chevy Tyler
Flaunt Film Editor: Leila Lorenz
Set Designer: Isaac Aaron
Production Coordinator: Chloe Cussen
Location: Dust Studios