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Wonder Woman 1984 director Patty Jenkins had to break up on-set Diana & Cheetah singalongs
Fashion montages — love 'em or hate 'em, they’re usually inevitable in films with female leads. Wonder Woman 1984, however, turns the trope on its head. Director Patty Jenkins gives us a twist on the trope that involves a fanny pack, parachute pants, and a certain long-deceased pilot. The sequel to 2017’s Wonder Woman has tons of fun moments with this reverse fish-out-of-water story. “He’s very picky about what he’s going to wear,” Jenkins says of Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor. Jenkins, along with Wonder Woman herself, Gal Gadot, spoke with SYFY WIRE about the musical moments on set, '80s blockbuster nostalgia, and making sure that Kristen Wiig’s villain, Cheetah, was a fitting match for the hero.
Speaking to a group of critics during a roundtable interview ahead of Wonder Woman 1984’s Christmas premiere, Jenkins reveals that she wrapped the film the day before COVID-19 lockdown and that she was so excited to finally be able to speak about it to someone outside the production. In the film, which is obviously set in 1984, Diana is carrying on with her life, taking down criminals and working at the Smithsonian museum in Washington, D.C. She strikes up a friendship with new hire Barbara Minerva (Wiig), but things take a turn with the surprise return of her long-ago love Steve Trevor (Pine) and the nefarious plans of TV personality and businessman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal).
Jenkins says that the goal was not to pack the film with 1980s references, but instead to make it feel like a film from the '80s. "It’s funny. I was worried that I wasn’t giving people enough '80s because the temptation is to go ''80s, haha,' and make all these '80s jokes and put in '80s tracks. We don’t have [a lot of] '80s tracks because as soon as you do that, you’re being self-referential,” Jenkins explains. ”This should be like you’re going to a massive tentpole in the '80s that’s completely authentic, so if you throw away the '80s part of it, it ends up feeling very '80s... just throw that away and make a great movie.”
She adds that the goal for the highly anticipated sequel was “to try to aim for the sky and try to do the biggest thing we could possibly do, so thank God they let us.”
“I think that in the first movie... it was the birth of Wonder Woman,” Gadot explains “She discovers her full powers and then she was born. From Diana, she became Wonder Woman. Also, in the first one, she was looking at humanity from the outside, right? And she was the one to say, ‘This is not right. This is not how it should be.’”
When we see her again, now in 1980s America rather than on Themyscira or engaged in World War I trench warfare, she’s integrated into our world, which Gadot says makes for a big contrast from Diana’s first outing.
“This time, she is completely understanding the complexities of humankind. She is part of them now. She’s lonely. She’s in her full powers. She suffers from the same problem that everyone else suffers, and for me, it gave me a lot to play with. It was a different experience than being the fish out of water in the first one.
"I love strong, powerful women and I love to see it on the screen and I love to play them, but there is something that is more interesting to me, [which] is to show the flaws and the imperfections and the vulnerabilities,” Gadot continues, hinting at a different sort of arc for Diana compared to the first film.
Without spoiling anything, one of the major themes in Wonder Woman 1984 is the consequences of getting your greatest wish. Jenkins reveals that Diana makes a big mistake in the film, one that makes the superpowered princess — and the villains she faces — more relatable. “I wanted to walk you as the audience up to that place of, ‘Oh, I want it so bad!’ And that’s true for all of us,” Jenkins says. ”When you can’t get over grief or you can’t accept what’s happening, or you can’t stop asking for the aspect of yourself that isn’t present. I love that Wonder Woman goes on the same journey as our villains.”
Speaking of villains, Wiig has been getting rave reviews in early critics’ responses to the movie. As Cheetah, arguably the most iconic member of Wonder Woman’s rogues' gallery, Wiig plays a different sort of villain from the first movie’s soldiers and war gods. ”It’s not a purely feminine arc, but it is an arc that makes a lot of sense to women and the friendships they’ve had in their youth... your friend who turns into your frenemy,” Jenkins says of Barbara and Diana’s relationship. “You realize that they were coveting something about you.”
While a strong emotional arc and unique relationship to the hero are central to any truly great villain, they need to look good, too. For Cheetah, this was especially tricky, as Jenkins readily admits. “Executing Cheetah was harrowing,” she says. “I knew I wanted Cheetah to be in it, but from day one, I was like, ‘Woo! This has got to be right.’ I was so scared about not getting it to look right, and it took every second from the moment we started from the moment we locked picture to get it there.”
Even on a smaller TV or computer screen — the way many people will likely first view Wonder Woman 1984 when it streams on HBO Max on the same day it premieres in pandemic-stricken movie theaters, Barbara Minerva’s transformation into Cheetah looks incredible.
Gadot is effusive in her praise of her co-star. “Kristen is freaking amazing,” she says. The two were often off in the corner doing musical performances together during the eight-month shoot, and Jenkins reveals that she often had to pull them back on to the set.
“I love her so much," Gadot continues. ”She came on set and we clicked immediately. We just have such a good chemistry, and it was pure fun. You know, we have to work out the entire production. We have to do so many stunts, and it’s physical and you’re tired and all of that, but as soon as we get to set and we’re all together, it’s delightful. It’s electric.”
It’s fitting that Wonder Woman 1984’s stars loved making the movie, as that’s one of the qualities of the iconic hero that Jenkins finds so appealing. It’s what drew her to these two movies — and if she has her way, more to come.
“We have a superhero who... stands for love and teaches love to mankind,” Jenkins says. “That’s why I feel like I could make 700 of these movies.”
Wonder Woman 1984 will premiere in theaters and on HBO Max on Dec. 25.