Playing world’s biggest female superhero in one of the summer’s biggest films takes a strong woman. Luckily, Gal Gadot is just the right person for the job.
The actress, who got her start in the Fast & Furious franchise, realizes there is a lot of pressure that comes with playing Wonder Woman, who finally gets her own standalone film (in theaters Friday).
“This character is so big and the expectations that all of the fans have for it are huge,” Gadot says in the latest issue of PEOPLE.
“I feel very privileged that I got the opportunity to portray such an iconic, strong female character. I adore this character and everything that she stands for — love, compassion, acceptance and truth.”
Gadot, who made her debut as Wonder Woman in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and is already scoring raves for her smart, sensitive portrayal of Wonder Woman in the upcoming film, directed by Patty Jenkins.
Here’s everything you need to know about the 32-year-old actress playing the lasso-of-truth-wielding Amazon princess.
1. She really knows how to kick butt
Gadot served in the Israeli army for two years, working as a fitness instructor. When F&F director and producer Justin Lin learned that, he changed her character’s backstory to make her a member of the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. “[He] really liked that I was in the Israeli military and he wanted to use my knowledge of weapons,” she said in a 2011 interview.
2. She’s a former Miss Israel
She competed in the Miss Universe pageant in 2004, and appeared in a controversial photo shoot for Maxim magazine featuring sexy women of the Israeli army, which the ministry of tourism hoped would bring more visitors to the country.
She “rebelled” when she competed for Miss Universe because she didn’t want to win again.
“I really didn’t want to win the Miss Universe pageant. It was too much being Miss Israel,” Gadot tells PEOPLE. “I was 19. I wasn’t that type of girl. I rebelled. I came down late. I showed up late to everything. They make you wear evening gowns for breakfast. I didn’t wear evening gowns to breakfast. I didn’t wear my makeup. I remember Paula Abdul was part of the judges and she was asking me a question and I just said I don’t understand. And I successfully didn’t win.”
3. She loves motorbikes
The 5’9″ star rides a bike in the F&F films, reportedly owns a Ducati and once shared a video of herself from Fast Five along with the caption “Riding the Ducati Streetfighter in the streets of Rio was more than AWESOME!”
4. She’s a mom
Gadot has two daughters Alma, 6 and Maya, 2 months, with husband Yaron Versano. Her daughters are one of the reasons she’s proud to take on the role of Wonder Woman.
“I try not to think about being a role model,” Gadot told Entertainment Weekly. “I try to be the best version of myself period. For myself and for my daughters and for my family, friends. And I do believe that if each and every one of us had a little bit of Wonder Woman’s values, the world would be a better place.”
Entertainment Weekly’s “Ultimate Guide to Wonder Woman” is out now.
5. She didn’t know she was auditioning for the role of Wonder Woman
Gadot didn’t find out she was auditioning for the role of Wonder Woman until after her initial tryout, when Batman v Superman director Zack Snyder called her before she was supposed to do a screen test with Affleck and asked if she knew who Wonder Woman was.
“I think I went dead for a few seconds, came back to life, and then tried to use my best voice to casually say, ‘Yeah,’ ” she told reporters at a press junket in L.A.
She says the camera test with Affleck went great, but then she had to wait.
“It was torture,” she said. “I literally went through seven stages of grief.”
• With reporting by MIA McNIECE