At the Academy Awards ceremony earlier this month, Sandra Bullock came onstage to present one of the Oscars. The 53-year-old actress began by complaining about the bright lights in the auditorium and with her typical, sometimes self-deprecating, humor, noted: “It’s really well-lit, but can we just dim it a little bit so I can go back to my 40s?”
After her request was granted, Bullock asked that the lights be dimmed even more and quipped: “Thank goodness I’m not presenting with Gal Gadot tonight. It’d be like looking in the mirror for her.”
At that moment the cameras naturally focused on Gadot, who reacted appropriately, with a big laugh. The very mention of Gal Gadot — by someone who was one of the greatest stars of her generation and is still a beloved star with a name that carries weight in Hollywood — testifies to Gadot’s status in Hollywood today.
They say that there are faces the camera loves. They could belong to a man or a woman. They need not be faces that are above all pretty but rather a face that possesses that mysterious element that compels the camera to fall in love with it and, consequently, compels us to want to gaze at it and even share the camera’s love.
This can happen in movies, at public events like the Oscars, where movie stars face the cameras, and at other events where these faces are seen. It can also happen in still photographs. Some call this a “photogenic” face, an essential element in the creation of a movie star of either sex.
In the history of photography and in the history of the cinema there have been a number of attempts to crack the secret of the photogenic face but most of them have flopped. Either you have it, or you don’t. Gal Gadot has it.
It’s no wonder the cameras at the Academy Awards ceremony focused on her again and again as she sat in the auditorium. Nor is it surprising that the organizers of the ceremony chose her to award the first Oscar of the evening, which she did charmingly together with Armie Hammer.
On top of that, she was also selected, together with master of ceremonies Jimmy Kimmel, to lead the delegation of stars that went to the nearby movie theater to surprise the viewers and give those “ordinary people” a whiff of Hollywood glamor, thank them for going to the movies and hand out snacks. The event was squirm-worthy but Gadot glowed, with that smile that lights up her face.
Another reason the cameras focused on Gadot so often during the ceremony is that it has been quite a while since a new superstar burst onto the American film scene.
It has been eight years since Jennifer Lawrence came to our attention in Debra Granik’s film “Winter’s Bone,” for which she received her first Oscar nomination; it has been six years since Lawrence, who was 22 years old at the time, won an Oscar for her performance in David. O. Russell’s ”Silver Linings Playbook” and three years since the completion of the “Hunger Games” series of films in which she starred.
Lawrence was nominated for an Oscar two more times.She is still considered the highest-earning female star in Hollywood today but in the past two years her career has begun to slump a bit. Morten Tyldum’s “Passengers” did not succeed as much as it was expected to, Darren Aronofsky’s “Mother!” got mixed reviews and flopped at the box office and her last film, “Red Sparrow,” failed both with the critics and at the box office.
Lawrence is a talented actress and she is only 27, so there is no need to worry about her. However, Hollywood needs a new young star and, at 32, Gal Gadot has filled that niche this year, in the wake of her performance in “Wonder Woman.”
When the film was released in Israel, I noted in my review that the producers had made the right choice in casting Gadot in the role of Diana, princess of the Amazon, who subsequently becomes Diana Prince and Wonder Woman in the film directed by Patty Jenkins (which will have its television debut here on Saturday on Yes 2). Gadot comes across as affable, and is appropriate for the film, which I defined as “more moderate and less aggressive than most superhero movies.”
Awareness of Gadot on the big screen has developed gradually. Her performances in a number of the “Fast & Furious” films did not make much of an impression on me and at the moment I can’t recall anything at all from Shawn Levy’s “Date Night” and James Mangold’s “Knight and Day.”
I missed the season of the Israeli television series “Asfur” in which she appeared. In Shay Kanot’s “Kicking out Shoshana,” she played the “property” of the head of a Jerusalem crime organization, with whom a soccer player falls in love — and there she looked to me like someone who couldn’t contribute to the cinema anything more than her good looks.
A considerable achievement
Gadot played Wonder Woman for the first time in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” directed by Zack Snyder but the few minutes she appeared in that film seemed to be only a teaser for the movie that would make her its heroine and a superstar.
Gadot’s achievement in this context is considerable. She is the first female actor to play a comic book heroine in a film focused entirely on her character — and she became a huge success. One can recall a similar attempt in 2004, in which Halle Berry played Catwoman, a total box office flop.
In a different context, a film based on a video game, there was the success of “Tomb Raider” from 2001, in which Angela Jolie played Lara Croft, and its 2003 sequel, which was less successful but also significant. (This weekend, Lara Croft comes back played by Alicia Vikander and it will be interesting to see how it does at the box office.) Berry, Jolie and Vikander have all won Oscars and the question is whether Gadot is also likely to stand on the stage one day accepting a golden statuette.
Gadot played her role in “Wonder Woman” effectively and it is almost certain she will play Diana Prince in the sequels with the same degree of effectiveness.
However, it is not yet clear whether this effectiveness includes anything more than a very charming presence and a willingness to do what she is required to do, including Wonder Woman’s transformations.
Because of the superheroine’s bizarre outfit, these transformations might have become camp and even a bit ridiculous, but for the most part Gadot overcame this obstacle. But is all this enough to eventually win her an Oscar?
There is no reason Gadot would want to disassociate herself from the character of Wonder Woman, the source of her superstardom. However, insofar as she has the skills to play other roles, and if indeed she has a desire to prove her acting talent, her role as Wonder Woman is liable to be a trap for her. If she aspires to go beyond playing Diana Prince, Gadot, like Jennifer Lawrence in her day, will have to maneuver between effect-laden action films in which she plays the same superheroine and very different kinds of films, even independent low-budget films.
I would like to see how Gadot performs in a well-written romantic comedy (a rare commodity), in which she could deploy the charm and even the wit she displays in interviews. And is a dramatic role within the range of her skills? Will Gadot be able to or even aspire to test her abilities in this direction?
As of now, I haven’t seen any such sparks in her performances or the complexity needed to go beyond the range of her roles to date. However, surprises are always possible. Another question is whether Gadot will be so identified with the character of Wonder Woman, and Wonder Woman alone, that her fans will have difficulty accepting her in other roles.
Yet Wonder Woman is a strong woman and Gadot herself seems to be a woman of strength as well. So perhaps, if she aspires to do so, she will be able to use a sword and shield — imaginary ones this time — to break out of the golden cage in which she is today, return to it from time to time and soar away from it when she chooses. After all, she has a whole country behind her.