During Saturday’s Warner Bros. panel at San Diego Comic-Con, the annual gathering of the nerds, director Zack Snyder unveiled the first image of Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot. The photo, depicting a sword-wielding Xena-like warrior—or perhaps, something out of Sucker Punch—drew mostly cheers from the fanboy crowd.
But the day before, Gadot drew a far more mixed reception. On July 25, the actress posted the following message to her Facebook page in support of Israel and the IDF, while condemning Hamas as those “hiding like cowards behind women and children”:
Gadot’s Facebook post, posing with one of her daughters, received 5,600+ shares and 187,000+ likes, and has received comments ranging from support, e.g. “Hamas is using the people of Gaza as pawns, as shields,” to condemnation: “Considering Israel is bombing schools and hospitals I'd say it's pretty bold saying such things about Hamas.”
The 29-year-old actress was born in Rosh HaAyin, Israel, a small city whose name translates to “fountainhead”—her first name, Gal, translates to “wave”—and grew up in a Jewish household.
“I definitely have a strong sense of my Jewish and Israeli identity,” she told the website Totally Jewish. “I was brought up in a very Jewish, Israeli family environment, so of course my heritage is very important to me. I want people to have a good impression of Israel.” She added, “I find that people in the U.S., especially in Hollywood, tend to have positive opinions on Israel—both Jewish and non-Jewish people alike.”
Gadot also served two years as a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces—conscription is mandatory, making Israel the only nation that requires military enlistment of women. There, she was a physical fitness specialist. According to a 2007 photo spread in Maxim dubbed, “The Chosen Ones: Israeli Defense Forces,” Gadot said of her time in the IDF, “I taught gymnastics and calisthenics. The soldiers loved me because I made them fit.”
Prior to that, she was a fashion model for various brands in Israel, and was crowned Miss Israel in 2004 before competing on behalf of Israel for 2004’s Miss Universe. Upon completing her mandatory military service, she enrolled at university where she studied law, but then through her Israeli modeling agent, was offered to audition for the role of Camille Montes, a Bond girl opposite Daniel Craig in Quantum of Solace.
“I did not get the part at the end of it, but throughout this process I started to enjoy the acting,” she told the UK blog Bring the Noise. “It was like, ‘Oh, my God, this is so much more fun than Law School!’ I said to my agent, ‘Let’s give it a try!’ A month later I got the lead part for a show in Israel and three months later this lady called and said that they were looking for the new Fast and Furious girl… and I tested. I had a match with Vin Diesel and it went great and the rest is history.”
As for how she landed the role of Gisele Yashar, a carjacker/Mossad agent in Justin Lin’s 2009 film Fast & Furious, Gadot said, “I think the main reason was that Justin really liked that I was in the Israeli military, and he wanted to use my knowledge of weapons.”
Gadot is also no stranger to controversy. In 2012, she appeared nude—with parts blurred out—in a TV commercial for the Israeli clothing brand Castro (she’s the face of the company). The ad proved too racy for prude legislators, and nine members of the Knesset signed a letter of protest against what they called the “pornographic commercial.”
Two years later, she got flack for another Castro ad that featured Gadot twerking in a pair of jeans. The regulatory body The Second Authority for Television & Radio reportedly received a number of complaints about the ad, but found them unfounded.
Of the ad, Gadot told Israel’s Channel 2 News: “I am very much in favor of women's rights, being a woman myself, and I support intelligent, successful, independent working women. I shot the commercial from a place of having fun and amusement. Not every commercial comes with a certain agenda. For me, it was fun, and I had no intention of hurting anyone.”
Gadot also enjoys posting videos to YouTube of her goofing around. Here she is lip-synching to the Israeli dance tune "Lie" by Noy Alooshe and Saar Badishi:
Then last year, she won the lottery and was cast by Zack Snyder as Wonder Woman. Gadot reportedly signed a three-picture deal, the first of which will be Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, in theaters May 6, 2016. She said she was paid $300,000 for the first film.
When she was cast as Wonder Woman, some Internet trolls—as is their wont—voiced their disapproval, bashing Snyder and co. for choosing a Jewish Diana Prince, and also criticizing her figure for not being voluptuous enough (oh, fanboys).
“I represent the Wonder Woman of the new world,” Gadot told the Israeli program Good Evening with Gai Pines. “Breasts… anyone can buy for 9,000 shekels and everything is fine. By the way, Wonder Woman is Amazonian, and historically accurate Amazonian women actually had only one breast. So, if I’d really go ‘by the book’…it’d be problematic.”