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‘Wonder Woman’ Makes History: How Patty Jenkins Lost the Chance to Direct One Big Superhero Movie and Landed a Better One

"This movie is the movie I'm more prepared for than anything I've ever done, because it was always something I wanted. It was worth the wait."

Patty Jenkins on the set of “Wonder Woman”

Warner Bros.

Still, she found her way to an upside. “As heartbreaking as it was, I was also like, ‘Oh my god, I can’t do something I don’t believe in, in that big of a scale,'” she said. “I knew that that was going to set [not only] me back, but also women directors back.”

No one is more cognizant of the rarefied place she holds in the industry right now than Jenkins herself, and while she wishes the circumstances were different and her choices didn’t have to automatically stand for the choices of “female filmmakers” everywhere, she’s up for the task.

“It mostly adds an extra layer of responsibility that mostly effects me with what I choose to do,” Jenkins said. “I know that I’m carrying a bit of a weight on my shoulders of what I do represents more than just myself as a director. I wish that wasn’t true, but it is. It makes me think about doing work that I believe in and that I believe I can do well, probably even a hair more than I would otherwise.”

That “Wonder Woman” is a female-centric superhero story also breeds questions about Jenkins’ gender and how it comes into play with her work.

“I never want to set a belief that a woman has to direct a woman’s film, meaning she can’t direct a man’s film,” Jenkins said. “If only films can be directed by people who are exactly the same as that, it’s only gonna limit all of the women more.”

She added, “I don’t believe that any movie has to be directed by someone like it. In this case, I do think that my perspective on it probably as a woman really changed it and was helpful to this.”

For one thing, Jenkins is a veteran of sturdy, uncompromising portraits of strong-willed women. This is, after all, the filmmaker who directed Charlize Theron to an Oscar for her “Monster,” a gritty look at a real-life serial killer. Jenkins used that sensibility in a different way to craft her Diana Prince.

“I am super-comfortable with powerful women,” Jenkins said. “I feel completely relaxed about where the latitude is of that. Like can she still make a joke? Of course she can. Can she still be sexy? Of course she can. That all makes sense to me.”

A Diverse (And Bright) Future

“Wonder Woman” is already earning stellar reviews, and the film currently holds an enviable (and mostly unheard of in superhero land) 95% rating over at Rotten Tomatoes. If Warner Bros. can capitalize on that buzz to make a killing at the box office, it will inevitably spawn imitators, and Jenkins can’t wait.

“I’m thrilled for more female-centered superheroes, more women doing them and what they will be like,” she said. “More people of color doing them, maybe people who identify with other kinds of struggles, doing superheroes that have those struggles, I think that’s all fucking amazing. Anything that teaches the world to find a hero in themselves that speaks to them is all good to me.”

Her one-time employer is finally getting hip to the possibilities of female-led superhero films, too. Marvel’s Brie Larson-starring “Captain Marvel” snagged a female director in Anna Boden, who will co-direct the film alongside her creative partner Ryan Fleck. Sony recently tapped Gina Prince-Bythewood to direct their “Silver & Black” spinoff. Jenkins, for one, is hopeful that will be just the beginning for more diverse superhero films.

“We don’t have just one superhero for a reason, we have every kind of superhero, because everybody has a hero for them, who speaks their language,” she said. “I feel like that has not been demonstrated in superhero films yet. Sometimes you’ll hear superhero things are dead or should be gone away, and I feel like we’re just getting started.”

“Wonder Woman”

Jenkins’ future in the genre is a little more murky, though, but perhaps not for long. While a sequel to “Wonder Woman” hasn’t been announced yet, she is eager to throw her hat in the ring should the opportunity arise.

“I am absolutely in love with this group of people that I made this movie with and with Wonder Woman and her potential in the world,” Jenkins said when asked about her ideas for a sequel. “It looks like an incredible opportunity to really have more fun with Wonder Woman, because she now exists at her full power – what a blast! – and simultaneously, really engage in the world as we know it. I’m absolutely delighted to get into that sort of thing.”

READ MORE: Profile in Courage: A Guy Bought a Ticket to Alamo Drafthouse’s All-Female Screening of ‘Wonder Woman’

Until then, Jenkins is focused on appreciating the present, especially when it comes to the outpouring of affection the film is receiving. Twitter is abuzz with excitement for the feature (which has its own emoji on the social media platform), and film critics have come out en masse for the film.

They’re not the only people in awe of what Jenkins was able to accomplish with the feature. In a recent Entertainment Weekly interview, Gadot gushed about her bond with her director and the experience of making the film together.

“Working with a woman is a different experience…We talk about emotions,” she told the outlet. “With Patty, it’s a thing now, we communicate with our eyes. She doesn’t need to say a thing. If I’m hurt, she feels the pain. It’s a whole different connection that I have with her. She’s also brilliant, she’s bright, she’s fierce, she’s sharp. She knows exactly what she wants ‘Wonder Woman’ to be.”

If the “Wonder Woman” team sounds histrionic about their efforts, it’s not unfounded. “I will get emotional talking about it because the thing is, the things that are being reflected back to us, I hoped someone would do,” Jenkins said. “I kept saying to Gal, ‘I hope that somebody sees the film that we set out to make,’ but for so many people to reflect it has blown me away.”

“It’s so insane,” Jenkins added. “I don’t even know what’s up and what’s down but it has been, thank God, good.” And worth the wait.

“Wonder Woman” opens in theaters on Friday, June 2.

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