Wonder Woman is finally cool again, and it’s been a long time coming.
While I’ve never been a big follower of William Moulton Marston’s creation, I’ve always believed that the character has deserved her moment in the spotlight. It’s been close to four decades since we’ve seen a live-action version of Wonder Woman do her thing in the form of TV’s Lynda Carter. Like many others, I thought Gal Gadot’s embodiment of the character in BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE was a bright light in an otherwise dark movie, and it makes me very happy to hear that the new WONDER WOMAN origin story delivers the goods.
Hollywood has been toiling for years to bring Wonder Woman back to live action in film or television. Industry players ranging from GHOSTBUSTERS producer Ivan Reitman to THE MATRIX producer Joel Silver have been involved at one point or another to put William Moulton Marston’s creation onto the big screen. In 1999, Silver attached Sandra Bullock to star and hired Joss Whedon to write the script — but executives balked at Whedon’s take on the character. During that time, Warner Bros. failure to spin off Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman from BATMAN RETURNS — and notoriously too-little-too-late 2004 box-office bomb starring Halle Berry — made the studio gun shy for any film with a female superhero lead. In 2011, an NBC series pilot produced by ALLY McBEAL creator David E. Kelley starring Adrianne Palicki was widely ridiculed and never picked up for series. And another show for The CW, a prequel called AMAZON, was developed but never made it to production as the studio focused on cultivating their big-screen version that ultimately cast Gadot.
As a child of the ’70s, my one and only Wonder Woman was, and remains, Lynda Carter. Her physique, her take on the character, her colorful star-spangled costume, all felt like a true translation from comic strip to weekly serial, with a purity and integrity very much in line with Christopher Reeve’s big-screen take on Superman only a few years before Richard Donner’s memorable SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE took flight. Carter’s piercing blue eyes sealed the deal.
Back in 2013 when I was at ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT, I spoke with Carter about her glory days as the lasso-wielding icon, and she had some choice words about why she thought so many Wonder Woman projects were failing.
“They miss the point of Wonder Woman,” Carter told me. “I think they try to just make her a female version of a male superhero, and that’s not what she is. She is an Amazon Princess and she’s got really strong sisterhood values. She’s smart, and she just happens to be beautiful and super strong, and she has these great cool things like these bracelets and boomerang headband and non-lethal kinds of ways of dealing with people. She’s just saying, like, ‘Get a grip!’ all the time. … She slaps the hands of the bad guys.”
Carter continued, “Maybe they need a female writer who gets it. I’ve often tried not to say that, but I think it’s the truth. It’s like, ‘Hellooooo guys, get a female that understands what that’s all about.’ You look at any society that suppresses women, and it’s violent. Look around the world. … There’s a humanity that they’re missing. There’s got to be a sweetness, a kindness, a goodness in the character. The rest takes care of itself.”
Carter didn’t quite get her wish with the new WONDER WOMAN movie as the screenplay credit goes to SCANDAL and GREY’S ANATOMY writer Allan Heinberg. But having award-winning MONSTER director Patty Jenkins at the helm gives the project the feminine credibility it requires. Jenkins says she asked for Carter’s blessing to pass the torch, and Carter’s been very present and vocal with her support of Gadot and the new take on the character at a variety of WONDER WOMAN events.
Carter’s WONDER WOMAN TV series ran for three seasons from 1975 to 1979 on ABC and then CBS. “I have very fond memories [of doing the show],” she beamed. “I loved the character.” But before the show was a pop-culture hit, Carter remembered naysayers telling her that portraying Wonder Woman on television was going to work against the forward momentum of the women’s liberation movement. “People were cautioning me,” she explained. “[They’d say], ‘Women are not going to like you,’ and, ‘Boy, it’s going to be hard.’ But I wasn’t brought up that way. I was determined to create a character that thought of herself as just a regular person; she just happened to have these powers, but she wasn’t impressed with herself. I think that probably was what the key to it is: You can’t really play a superhero – if someone’s trying to act heroic in normal acting, it would be like a cartoon.”
Of the male perception of the character, she also faced an uphill battle: “[Wonder Woman] was empowered. They were very worried about too strong of a women’s lib message, but it’s implied anyway. You don’t need to pound someone over the head with [the dialogue]. Understatement can be very powerful.”
These days, Carter has found pop-culture credibility once again with her stunt casting as the president of the United States in SUPERGIRL, and she is still going strong with her music career, having done the original game soundtrack for FALLOUT 4 and released a trio of studio albums, the most recent being 2011’s CRAZY LITTLE THINGS. She loves to perform live, focusing on blues and country with tunes from a variety of eras. She’s also been known to cover the WONDER WOMAN theme song every now and again, and hummed a few bars for my listening pleasure when we chatted. That seriously made my day…
As for her Wonder Woman fame, the incredibly ageless 65-year-old star has very much come to terms with her lifetime association with the character, and she even shared her excitement over seeing a Wonder Woman bobblehead made in her image: “Having a bobblehead made after you is like the ultimate compliment,” Carter said with a laugh. “I thought, ‘God, I’ve really made it if I’ve got a bobblehead with my little face on it.’ I was very excited about it. I mean, I’ve had dolls and everything, but I’ve never had a bobblehead!”
And looking back at that spectacular – and spectacularly revealing – star-spangled costume, Lynda unleashed a wide grin: “What I think is, ‘She looks goooood.’ Oh my god, I totally took it for granted.”
Get more fun genre pop-culture tales on IT CAME FROM… including Zach Galligan’s GREMLINS memories, Mark Hamill’s STAR WARS stories, and James Cameron’s exclusive ALIENS interview.