"When you get to see someone navigating [an intense life] with such grace and focus, you admire them."

By Patty Jenkins, as told to Sarah Cristobal
Dec 21, 2020 @ 8:45 am
Wonder Woman Comic - Patty Jenkins
Credit: Courtesy DC Comics

What brings me wonder? Many things, of course, but at the end of the day, the great unknowns of our world captivate me the most. For the past five years I’ve been in full production [on the two Wonder Woman films and the limited TV series I Am the Night] without a day off, so I worry about a lot of stuff late at night. Watching documentaries helps to quiet my mind. My favorite ones are about some obscure scientific phenomenon or ancient civilizations. There is so much we still don’t know, like what lies at the bottom of the ocean or how many species live on our planet. Or how different civilizations were able to build monolithic and geometrically perfect megastructures around the same time 7,000 years ago. That’s the kind of stuff I can’t get enough of.

Ancient Egypt in particular interests me, as it was such an advanced civilization that left so much behind that we don’t understand. Predynastic Egypt prioritized different aspects of nature, from astronomy and acoustics to mathematics. Plus, they embraced much more feminine qualities — in addition to masculine ones. And they had great female leaders, like Nefertiti and Cleopatra. There are other great documentaries and leaders who inspire me as well. Queen Elizabeth I? What a badass. Boudicca. Catherine the Great was also pretty incredible. What they were able to pull off is so mind-blowing to me.

Gal Gadot - Patty Jenkins
Gal Gadot
| Credit: Warner Bros Pictures/Everett Collection

Who is my modern-day Wonder Woman? There are so many — from my mother to [boxer–turned–actress and producer] Ann Wolfe — but on a daily basis, it truly is Gal Gadot. Sure, she’s famous and beautiful and has money, but she also has two little kids, works all the time, and has to deal with the huge physical demands that are put on her with the kind of stunt and action work we do. It’s an intense life, and when you get to see someone navigating it with such grace and focus, you admire them.

What has moved me the most is the variety of people Wonder Woman’s legacy touches. So many have shared stories with me of women who are struggling with illness and made Wonder Woman their personal inspiration. They’ll show me a picture of friends or relatives in a Wonder Woman T-shirt watching the movie to ramp up their energy to go at their disease again. Or someone who has a disability would tell me how they felt like her when they fought to overcome tremendous obstacles. Those stories mean a lot because that’s who Wonder Woman was to me when I was growing up.

Lynda Carter - Patty Jenkins
Lynda Carter
| Credit: Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television/Getty

When I found out that I got this job, one of the first people I called was [original Wonder Woman actor] Lynda Carter. I didn’t know her, but I sought out her number. I told her that she was the Wonder Woman who inspired me, and I didn’t want to change her. I simply wanted to carry the torch forward. She has been nothing but supportive and has given me amazing advice from the very start.

Before I made the first film, there were no large-scale female-led and -directed superhero movies. Do I find it wondrous that there are now? Well, no. Those kinds of changes are exciting and a huge relief, but it isn’t new or surprising that women can successfully do these things. Women have always been incredibly capable. It’s just taken the world a while to realize it.

Wonder Woman 1984 is set to release on Dec. 25.