Patty Jenkins Discusses Decade-Plus Journey To Direct ‘Wonder Woman’

Patty Jenkins, the director of Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot as Diana Prince, talks about the decade-plus journey she went through to land this big gig.

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For years, fans of the DC Comics icon Diana Prince, a.k.a. Wonder Woman, have been waiting for the Amazon Princess to finally get her own film and have her story be told, something that is finally happening. After making her debut in the DC Extended Universe last year, the world is getting ready for Gal Gadot’s return as Diana Prince as her highly anticipated summer film approaches.

Last week, Heroic Hollywood and other outlets were invited to London for a special edit bay visit with Patty Jenkins, the director who is getting close to wrapping post-production on the project with her team. We were fortunate to see some new footage from the film and learn a little bit more about the secrets behind it. What some people may not know is that Jenkins has been meeting with Warner Bros. about directing Wonder Woman for over ten years.

When asked during the Q&A session of the visit about that long journey, Jenkins explained that she had made superhero short films in order to get her debut film Monster made, a true story about female serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Ironically, that film’s success pigeonholed her as a “super-dark” director, but she said it was more “shocking” that she made Monster, given her background, than it is that she made Wonder Woman.

“My first meeting with Warner Bros [was in] 2004, they said “Hey, so we’re interested in [hearing] what you want to do” and I said “Wonder Woman! I want to do Wonder Woman!” Since then, I came in every year to have a meeting about it at some point. Then interestingly and funny enough, my mom sent me the script that I got framed, but I have a copy of a submission to me that said “Patty! We’d love for you to think about writing and directing Wonder Woman” I was pregnant when I got it, in 2008, and I was like “I can’t now, now is not the time to do it” Then it went on its own various journeys and I kept going in meeting on it, talking about it with different ideas.

So then when it came back around, I had been around the block now and almost did Thor, saw how it turned into something that I thought I wasn’t the right director for. You just start to respect things to have the right director and the right thing.  So when it first came back around, it was about finding its place in the universe and so it was more speculative than maybe I’m or maybe I’m not [suited to], I’ve always wanted to do Wonder Woman, but now it’s complicated. Because it’s now in a whole other thing, it’s not just me coming in and doing it. But they went on their journey and it turned out that they found themselves wanting to exactly what I had wanted to for all those years, which was the straight-up origin story, I just want to do the origin story and be really straightforward about it.

They came back to me and said “we want to do the origin story” and I said “so do I, let’s go!” It’s interesting because it was both a sudden thing, but also an easy sudden thing because I had been talking, thinking and pulling photographs about it, my assistant who is here with me today, he and I have pulled photos for this movie, put together visual presentations and how it would have been done many times! [laughs] So in a way, it was like “Boom! I know exactly how I want to do this film.”

The female representation in media has without doubt changed over the past 10 to 20 years. Jenkins was asked during the Q&A about the changes that the media has gone through and how it affected her vision of wanting to keep Wonder Woman true to the source material. She explained that it was absolutely important that the film lets Diana be who she is rather than be an altered character.

“It did change, but interestingly it changed it slightly different way, as I went in saying that she’s my Superman, she can’t be dark, angry and nasty. I kept seeing how female heroes always had to be some altered character, they couldn’t just be the main lead, they had to be made more interesting somehow and I was like “No, no, no, not her! Let her be Wonder Woman, she is Wonder Woman, I love her, let her be.” The thing that surprised me was that I came in naively thinking like “let’s make that”, but there was more fear in the world at every studio about doing that kind of thing. Just a belief that only boys liked action movies and boys didn’t like female characters, so what do you do to address that? That was what changed, was that things like The Hunger Games started to show something else was possible. I think the way that I always wanted to do it became possible. I grew up in a little bit of a feminist fantasy with a single mom. I was totally shielded in a way from an idea that I couldn’t do something or that there couldn’t be something. So I felt that it became more of an education for me where I was like “why can’t everybody see that it doesn’t matter if it’s about a dog or a woman or a person from another country, it’s about the story you are telling” We have told universal stories about different things. So I think that’s what people were more nervous about that than they are now.”

With all the meetings that she had with Warner Bros. over all these years, it was natural that pitches and ideas would change from time to time. Jenkins was asked about what things from all her various ideas made it into this version of the film. The director explained that the pitches changed every time because it was always depending on whether the studio wanted to do a film in modern times or not.

“It changed every time because it was always depending on, I have a couple of versions which were [set in] modern day and you find someone who is the long lost great-great-great grandchild of this Wonder Woman or great-grandchild. And you go “oh there was a story in the 60’s about this person who used to be Wonder Woman”, so you are referencing Lynda Carter more and kind of saying there was this superhero who walked the Earth and did all these things. Then as the story progress, she says “Yeah she was my grandmother” and there is this moment when you realize that it’s her [Diana], she is just immortal, she went into hiding for all this time. It was always various ways whether it had to be the original origin story or do we jump to modern times. I didn’t want to do her origin story in modern times so it was depending on which way it could be done. If it was about making it a modern movie, like Thor is fine to go into modern times because people don’t really associate with him with the 60’s or the 70’s. But [with] her, she is kind of associated with [those times], so she is a little bit of a time stamp [in terms of her origin story], so I didn’t want to start that story now.”

One of the great people behind the DC Films division at WB is Geoff Johns, president and chief creative officer of DC Entertainment. At one point, Jenkins talked about her working relationship with Johns for whom she had nothing but kind words for.

“Geoff and I are very close, super-close, so since my first meeting ever [with Warner Bros.] years and years ago, I pitched in a room, I pitched a storyline [to him] and Geoff Johns’ eyes lit up and he said “That’s what Dick Donner did for Superman!”, he and I went “ding!”. We have become super-close, we have very similar goals for this movie and I love him and his work, I’m so grateful that he’s around.”

Directed by Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman also stars Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, Lucy Davis as Etta Candy, Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta, Robin Wright as General Antiope, Lisa Loven Kongsli as Menalippe, Danny Huston as General Erich Ludendorff, David Thewlis as Sir Patrick Morgan, Elena Anaya as Doctor Maru, Ewen Bremner as Charlie, Saïd Taghmaoui as Sameer and Eugene Brave Rock as the Chief.

Wonder Woman opens in theaters on June 2, 2017.

Andy Behbakht

Andy Behbakht

Andy Behbakht is an online entertainment journalist who has been covering television and movies since 2010. In addition, he is also a podcast producer.