Who Is Gal Gadot, Hollywood's Next Wonder Woman?

The actress might be relatively unknown in the U.S., despite playing roles opposite Tom Cruise and Vin Diesel, but in Israel, she is a household name.

Gal Gadot in a campaign for the Castro clothing label.
Goran Lyubonucic

You have probably asked yourselves this question: Who is the young woman with the strange name who was chosen to play Wonder Woman in the upcoming film "Batman vs. Superman?" Hundreds of thousands of Americans scoured the web in recent days for photos and stories about the Israeli who just landed one of the most desirable roles in Hollywood, and who is about to snatch the lasso from Linda Carter.

Israelis, on the other hand, know her well. Gal Gadot, 28, is a well-known actress and model here, famous for her sharp features and direct manner of speech. She is married with one child, and lives in the upscale and chic neighborhood of Neve Tzedek in Tel Aviv. In addition to starring in local television shows, she is also the face of Castro, a popular clothing label.

Gadot, who was born in Rosh Ha’Ayin in central Israel, first rose to fame in 2004, when she won a title that can still launch the careers of local models – that of Miss Israel. Her face and body first hit the pages of an international magazine three years later, when she participated in a contentious campaign launched by the Israeli Foreign Ministry together with the men’s magazine Maxim. For this campaign, she was photographed wearing a skimpy bathing suit, with the skyline and beaches of Tel Aviv as a backdrop. In subsequent interviews she gave to international media outlets, Gadot was not shy about taking pride in the country she represented, or about the way she came off in the photo.

Her slim figure, and the fact that she came out of the maternity ward following the birth of her daughter wearing skinny jeans, led to numerous media discussions about the weight of models and actresses.

Looks aside, Gadot preferred to focus on her acting career. Her first role was that of a model in the Israeli telenovela “Dolls”, which dealt with the shady world of modeling agencies. She went on to star in other Israeli TV series, including the legendary "Asfur."

Dudi Hasson

International audiences may recognize her from the blockbuster franchise “Fast & Furious." In 2009, she was cast as the tough Giselle, alongside Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, who died in a car accident last week. She reprised this role in some of the film's sequels. Her character appeared to have died in the last movie in the series, but several weeks after the movie came off the screen, it was disclosed that she signed on to play Gisele in the next instalment. Gadot also played a seductive agent alongside Tom Cruise in the 2010 film “Knight and Day," and an Israeli model in the 2010 movie "Date Night," which starred Mark Wahlberg, Steve Carell and Tina Fey.

In good company

Gadot now joins a list of Jewish actors and actresses who have starred in recent years in movies about comics-based superheroes: Scarlett Johansson in the “The Avenger” movies, Natalie Portman in “Thor,” Andrew Garfield in “Spiderman,” Jennifer Connelly in “Hulk” and Ayelet Zurer in “Man of Steel” (to which Batman vs. Superman is a sequel). Her Hebrew name has a specific meaning. Gal means wave, and Gadot means a riverbank or shore. Perhaps she should have been cast for Aquaman.

Only last week, Gadot finished filming her first Israeli feature – a summer comedy called “Shoshana , center-forward," directed by Shay Kanot and produced by Moshe Edri. In the movie she plays a Mafioso's girlfriend who cheats on him with a soccer player.

“Gal is very sweet and graceful," says Kanot, “and this radiates from the screen. She is very special and a good actress. She has a tremendous presence on screen. There were a few action scenes we filmed in which, when she was on the monitor, it looked like a scene from Fast & Furious.”

Kanot says that Gadot was planning to continue her acting career in Israel and was considering joining a new series, but the new Hollywood role has changed all that. “She took a break from filming and went off to audition for a few days. When we saw the competition we told her that she was sure to win, but she was stressed and didn’t believe us.”

Kanot has nothing but confidence that Gadot is right for the iconic superhero role. “She’s charming, warm and pleasant towards the crew. She charmed us. There is something captivating about her.

"I really see her as a Wonder Woman. I’m American and grew up with Wonder Woman on TV. Just as James Bond in 2013 doesn’t resemble the one from 30 years ago, so will Wonder Woman look different than previous ones. She will be more beautiful and athletic. She will be a charming Wonder Woman.”