Gadot grew up in Rosh Ha’ayin, a small city in central Israel which an Israeli friend of mine describes as being “like a typical middle-class California suburb.” Her father, Michael, was an engineer, and her mother, Irit, was a gym teacher who taught sports to Gadot and her younger sister, Dana, insisting that they run around outside rather than stay in and watch television.
You can imagine Gadot being very like that active little girl in the opening of Wonder Woman 1984, running, jumping, preparing physically and mentally for her future. Her own athleticism can be seen all over both Wonder Woman films, in which she famously performs many of her own stunts. “We try to avoid as much as possible using CGI in the fights,” she says. One of the more extraordinary moments in Wonder Woman 1984 involves a scene in which she fights off several bad guys with her golden lasso while doing a back-bending high kick, which manages to be both badass and elegant.
After high school, Gadot spent two years doing her mandatory service in the Israel Defense Forces, where she was a fitness and combat readiness instructor, before entering college. (She has often been criticized for her service in the IDF, as well as a Facebook post supporting the troops during the Israeli army’s air strikes on Gaza in 2014.)
“I came from a home where being an actress wasn’t even an option,” she tells me. “I always loved the arts and I was a dancer and I loved the movies, but being an actress was never a discussion. My parents were like, You need to graduate university and get a degree.” She had planned on becoming a lawyer.
But “dadadada,” as she often says whenever glossing over complicated or unnecessary details (such as some stints on Israeli TV shows), she was cast as Gisele Yashar, the sultry weapons expert in 2009’s Fast & Furious, and so her career in Hollywood began.