With “Wonder Woman 1984,” Patty Jenkins just scored the biggest opening weekend for any film since theaters reopened. As a victory lap, she came on the WTF with Marc Maron podcast to talk about her journey toward making blockbuster superhero films, something that a lot of outside observers didn’t think was likely after her 2003 indie drama “Monster.” One pivotal pitstop along the way was her brief time at the helm of “Thor 2,” which ultimately became 2013’s much-maligned “Thor: The Dark World.” She left that project, to be replaced by “Game of Thrones” director Alan Taylor, but Jenkins hasn’t commented much in the past about exactly why she did.
“Word got out that I wanted to do a superhero film and to Marvel’s credit — on a movie that didn’t require a woman at all — they hired me,” Jenkins said. “So, I’ve always been super grateful to them even though it didn’t work out. They wanted to do a story that I thought was not going to succeed, and I knew it couldn’t be me. It couldn’t be me that had that happen. If they hired any guy to do it, it wouldn’t be a big deal, but I knew in my heart that I could not make a good movie out of the story they wanted to do.”
So Jenkins walked away from the project, even though directing “Thor 2” would have made her the first female filmmaker to direct a big-budget superhero movie. The implication here is that helming a high-profile comic book dud would have derailed her prospects of directing other blockbuster tentpoles, something that wouldn’t be as likely to happen if she were a man. Given the double standards of the industry, Jenkins felt she had to navigate the world of blockbuster filmmaking almost perfectly to achieve and maintain a level of success. And also achieve her real goal: directing “Wonder Woman,” which she signaled to Warner Bros. she wanted to do immediately after the success of “Monster” in 2003.
“I wanted in,” she told Maron. “I wanted to do a big superhero film after ‘Monster.’ And I started saying that right away after ‘Monster.’ People were confused… I got every ‘woman’ film, any story about women. And I was like, ‘I want to make movies about women but I don’t want to make movies about being a woman, that’s so boring. I want to make movies about women doing all kinds of things.”
Someone once told her that she could be like a female Woody Allen, but that wasn’t what Jenkins really wanted. “I wanted a shot at the big emotions.”
Following her initial meeting with Warner Bros about “Wonder Woman” in 2004, Jenkins met with the studio about once every two years thereafter, during which time she suggested 30 scripts were commissioned for the movie. The studio “didn’t know what to do with Wonder Woman,” and “were freaked out by previous female superhero films that failed,” she said, and she even walked away when they insisted on a direction for the story she didn’t want to be a part of. That’s when she went to Marvel Studios.
Jenkins’ journey toward superhero filmmaking began much earlier, however. On the podcast, she cited Richard Donner’s “Superman: The Movie” as a formative experience for her when she was seven years old, her fighter pilot father having just recently been killed.
“I was profoundly rocked by that movie, and then the release when he goes on to be a superhero,” she said. “I always had an appreciation for the — not for all tentpoles — for the certain archetypal, massive movie that can affect an audience in that way. It has loomed large in my subconscious.”
Jenkins invoked her father’s career as a fighter pilot in a teaser produced by Lucasfilm for her next movie, 2023’s “Star Wars: Rogue Squadron.” She’s also attached to “Wonder Woman 3.”