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Gal Gadot is in Charge of Her Own Destiny

Gal Gadot can’t sit still, both literally and figuratively. On a recent Zoom call from her sun-drenched Los Angeles home, the Israeli actor punctuated her thoughts on everything from action heroes to Disney villains with unrestrained hand-waving, chin-rubbing, and even face-clawing. Gadot, 38, who broke through in 2017 with the smash hit Wonder Woman, admits she struggles with unwinding. “I’m itchy. I can never really sit still,” she says. “Either I’m making babies or making a project. I feel like life is too short, and I want to devour everything.”

As an actor, producer, entrepreneur, partner, and mother, Gadot is always juggling at least a few roles on any given day. At present, she’s wearing actor and producer hats as she gears up for the release of Netflix’s spy thriller Heart of Stone, in which she stars as Rachel Stone, an intelligence operative tasked with saving her supranational organization’s most valuable asset; Gadot nurtured the project from concept to screen. Post–Wonder Woman, Gadot is invigorated by getting her hands dirty, ready to play an active role in every project she signs onto. Not only is she diving into the deep end as a producer on Heart of Stone, and a founder of the better-for-you mac-and-cheese brand Goodles, but she’s taking leaps in the acting world, too, entering her villain era in next year’s Disney live-action musical Snow White alongside Rachel Zegler, and directed by Marc Webb. (And those are just the projects she can talk about…) Gadot spoke with L’OFFICIEL about her forthcoming projects, impostor syndrome, and carrying on the legacy of her Holocaust survivor grandfather. 

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L’OFFICIEL: You recently narrated a video for visitors at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the camp that your grandfather survived. What was it like for you to do that?

GAL GADOT: Where do I even begin? To do the narration was a no-brainer. Steven Spielberg’s foundation [Righteous Persons Foundation] reached out and asked if I would do it. I didn’t even know what I was about to narrate. I didn’t know they were gonna play it [at Auschwitz]. My grandfather lost his entire family there. When he was 14 or so, if someone would have whispered into his ear that his granddaughter would tell the story of what happened in this hellish place in just a few decades…it really struck me. For the longest time he never talked about it—it was too painful. When my grandma passed away, I think he realized that life is too short, that it’s gonna end one day. He completely opened up about everything and told us the entire story. It was very traumatic for obvious reasons. The way he overcame it was with love, with forgiveness, with teaching people to be good people so this never happens again, and with compassion. He was like the loveliest teddy bear of a grandfather, with a smile in his eyes and not a gram of anger or frustration. I feel very lucky that I had the opportunity to do this and come full circle with my grandfather.

L’O: It’s such a powerful legacy to carry as a grandchild of a survivor. So many of these stories are lost. 

GG: Totally, and it’s true. I feel like the human soul never really changes. I feel like the theme of love, compassion, acceptance, and community—all these ideas are the things that would make society better. Not division, not hate, not fear, not envy. It’s what actually is gonna bring us further to a better life. 

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L’O: You’re not only starring in Heart of Stone, but also producing. What interested you in this project from a producer perspective, and then as an actor?

GG: The whole idea of starting the production company with my husband [Jaron Versano] was to be in control of my own destiny. I’m not the type of person who likes to sit and wait for the next offer. Heart of Stone was one of the very first ideas that we had. I realized that we always feel like female protagonists are more for female audiences. With Wonder Woman, we really managed to prove that as long as the story is universal, it’s good. I felt like there was room for a female-protagonist action movie that would be for everybody, but more gritty and raw and grounded, rather than a polished superhero movie. Usually, as an actor, you get the script, and you can discuss the script with your filmmaker, but that’s kind of it. In a way, it’s super easy; you don’t have to worry about anything. But there’s something so stimulating and exciting in creating something from scratch.

L’O: You and your husband are also producing partners. What is it like to work alongside your spouse?

GG: Most people would raise an eyebrow. It all depends on the dynamic of the relationship that you have. Jaron and I were always on the same page. He comes from the business side of it, and we had a really great opportunity when he sold his entire [real estate] portfolio in Tel Aviv. Either he was going to continue real estate or come work with me, and I was like, “Let’s work together,” because he was the missing piece. Jaron has the business mind, and who else can take care of my interests better than my life partner? 

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L’O: What stands out about [your character] Rachel Stone is her compassion, to the extent of causing trouble. What drew you to her as a character?

GG: It was really important for me to show a character that is flawed. I’d already done and enjoyed doing the superhero of it all, and I wanted to show a real person. I wanted to create a woman who has learned to do everything by herself. She can never be an open book; she can never trust anybody fully. And that was also part of the reason why I love Tom Harper, our director, because I remember watching Wild Rose with Jessie Buckley. It’s a tiny story, but he managed to craft it in a way that was super character-driven. To me, it was more important to bring a director that cares about emotional performances and the story, rather than the way the action looks. 

“The whole idea of starting the production company…was to be in control of my own destiny.”

L’O: Obviously, we don’t see a ton of women leading spy thrillers, which we’ve touched on a bit, but what does the opportunity to lead this film—and potential franchise—mean to you?

GG: A lot of people had mentioned, “Let’s set this movie up for the next one,” and I always say, “Let’s focus on one great movie first, before we get ourselves involved with anything else.” It’s funny, I always feel like I have this impostor syndrome, because I feel so lucky and I’m so happy that I get to do what I really, really, really love. I always feel like, “I hope they’re gonna like it.” There’s never a moment when I’m like, “They’re gonna love this.” I remember speaking to Francis Ford Coppola, and I asked him, “So how does it feel to be a national treasure?” And he said, “You know, something? I’m always filled with doubts. I’m always afraid they’re not going to like it. I just follow my heart and I come into it humble.” I think this was one of the biggest lessons. I’m sitting with the legend Francis Ford Coppola, and he’s talking about how humble and insecure he can get. I was like, “Okay, I can be insecure all the time.” I feel like now it’s too soon for me to talk about what it means to me to be the lead for this franchise. Most of all, I hope people are going to enjoy it. And afterwards, if I’m lucky enough to make another Rachel Stone movie, I would be so happy, and we’ll talk about it then if we ever get to the other side.

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L’O: What movies or actors influenced your approach to creating Heart of Stone?

GG: I can’t say this is like the female Bond, because who am I to say anything like that? Bond? Such legacy and heritage! We’ve started something original. We wanted it to be thrilling and exciting and have people at the edge of their seats, not just a story where you can tell what the end is going to be. So that’s a tough question for me to answer as far as inspiration, because we’ve tried not to take too much from others. We did make a big scopey movie like the Mission Impossible and Bond films. We shot in five different locations. It was important for us that most everything that we could have done for real we’ve done for real, as far as the action goes. But we really tried to make an original piece, and I hope it feels that way. 

“It was really important for me to show a character that is flawed…I wanted to create a woman who has learned to do everything by herself.”

L’O: You mentioned filming in five locations. Which one was your favorite?

GG: [We filmed in] Iceland, Morocco, Lisbon, London, and Italy—in the Alps. They’re all special. I must say I really, really enjoyed Lisbon because I had never been there. I enjoyed everything about it as far as the people, the food, and the culture. It was so easy to film there. There was good energy.

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L’O: You’re also doing Snow White, where you’re playing the villain for a change. How was it to switch to the dark side?

GG: Amazing, written in all caps. We’re talking about Heart of Stone—everything is super realistic. The opposite goes for Snow White, and I shot them back-to-back. It was a great shift. I can’t believe I got to play the Evil Queen, the first evil villain in the history of Disney. I get to sing and explore my theatrical, evil dark side. The first four days, I was really in character, meaning like, it was hard for me to come out of the character, I was so in it. It’s like doing theater. Everything is bigger. Everything is more dramatic. It was a lot of fun.

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