The Israeli superstar who catapulted to fame when she landed the iconic role of Wonder Woman was meant to have a massive 2020. Not only is she celebrating her 35th birthday on April 30, 2020, but the highly-anticipated sequel Wonder Woman 1984 was due to hit theaters this summer with a Netflix film co-starring Ryan Reynolds and Dwayne Johnson was in the midst of filming.
And then coronavirus struck. Suddenly, all of Gal's projects were put on hold and pushed off schedule, Red Notice, the Netflix film, went into hiatus, and her parents back in Israel weren't able to travel to Los Angeles for a long-planned Passover visit meant to double as a celebration of their own big birthdays. (60!) "Of course I miss my family," she told Vogue in a May 2020 cover story, "but the biggest priority for all of us is to stay home, not get it, and not give it to other people. With all the sadness and all the big . . . missing that I feel, that's the only thing we can do right now." "Obviously the circumstances are horrible and frightening, but we're home and we're trying to make the best of it to enjoy the quality time," she told the publication. "It's so surreal. I've never been through times like these. But I'm also full of hope for when it will be behind us." While celebrating her birthday will be obviously a bit different this year, we thought we'd do our part to honor her by sharing with you all 35 of the most fascinating facts from a life well-lived.
Fascinating Facts About Gal Gadot
Gal Gadot was born on April 30, 1985, in Petah Tikva, Israel, and raised in the neighboring city of Rosh HaAyin. ""I was brought up in a very lovely, naive neighborhood," she told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2016. "We didn't have cell phones. You would go in the afternoon to see friends, you'd just walk to their house and knock on the door and ask for a play date. We were all very active as kids. In Hebrew, her first name means "wave" and her last name means "riverbanks."
Mom Irit was a teacher and dad Michael an engineer. And it was mom's job that influenced Gal's early life. ""My mother was a PE teacher so I grew up playing volleyball, tennis, basketball ... I was a high jumper," she told the Australian outlet. "I was very, very active."
While both parents were born in Israel, Irit was a first-generation Jewish Israeli. (Michael was sixth-generation.) Her maternal grandmother managed to get out of Europe before the Nazi invasion, but her grandfather wasn't as lucky. They were still in Czechoslovakia when the Nazis arrived. His father died in the army, while he, his mother and brother were sent to Auschwitz. He was the only one to survive. "His entire family was murdered – it's unthinkable," she told Rolling Stone in 2017. "He affected me a lot. After all the horrors he'd seen, he was like this damaged bird, but he was always hopeful and positive and full of love.
She has one younger sister, Dana, whom she described as a "ray of sun" on Facebook back in 2016.
Though she received modeling offers while in high school, she opted to work at the local Burger King instead. I was like, 'Posing for money? Ugh, it's not for me,'" she told RS.
After graduating high school and before her compulsory service in the Israeli armed forces, her mom talked her into competing in the 2004 Miss Israel pageant. "I got in and I never thought I would win and then I won and then it scared me," she told W Magazine in 2017. "I was like, 'What? Miss Israel? All the responsibility of being Miss Israel?'"
Winning meant she had to compete in that year's Miss Universe pageant in Ecuador, which she had no desire to take seriously. "I was afraid I might get picked again," she told Glamour in 2016. "I showed up late. I came without gowns. They tell you to come to breakfast in a gown. I was like, "No way am I having breakfast in a gown!" Who needs to wear an evening gown at 10:30 A.M.?" She finished outside the Top 20. "I lost majorly," she happily told Rolling Stone. "I victoriously lost."
At 20, she began serving her two mandatory years in the Israel Defense Services. "I was a combat instructor," she explained to the Sydney Morning Herald. "I was never on the field doing anything dangerous or with weapons. I was in the gym training soldiers and keeping them in shape. I did that for two years. I did learn to use a weapon in boot camp. But I was never in a situation where I had to use one."
While serving, she met Yaron Varsano, a real estate developer 10 years her senior, "in the desert at this chakra/yoga retreat type of party," she told Vogue in 2020. "And he was too cool for school. Like, we were in the same group of friends, but I didn't know him and he didn't know me. And something happened kind of from the first moment we started talking. When we got home, I was like, 'Is this too early to call you? I want to have a date.' Then we go out, and by the second date he told me, 'I'm going to marry you. I'm going to wait for two years, but we're going to get married.' I was like, 'Fine.'" True to his word, they tied the knot in 2008.
In 2007, she appeared in a Maxim spread entitled "Women of the IDF" that generated modeling and acting offers. A year later, she began a long stint as the main model for Israeli clothing brand Castro.
Despite the lucrative offers beginning to roll in, she decided to enroll at the IDC Herzliya college, where she studied law and international relations "because I'm so deep, and I loved Ally McBeal," she told Rolling Stone.
After completing her first year at university, a casting director asked her to audition for the role of Bond girl Camille Montes in Quantum of Solace. "I told my agent, ‘What are you talking about? I'm in school. I'm not an actress. I'm not gonna go,'" she told RS. "And he was like, 'Just show respect and go.'" She lost the role of Olga Kurylenko.
While she didn't become a Bond girl, she did make her acting debut in 2007, starring in the short-lived Israeli series Bubot, with her big break was just around the corner.
Just months after losing out on the Bond role, the same casting director who asked her to audition brought her in for the role of Gisele in Fast & Furious, the fourth installment in the franchise. This time, she got the gig. "I think the main reason [I was cast] was that the director Justin Lin really liked that I was in the military, and he wanted to use my knowledge of weapons," she's said of winning the role.
Appearing in four Fast and Furious films in total, Gal's performed nearly all her own stunt work in the action-heavy franchise.
In the same year she made her big-screen debut, she also appeared in an episode of Entourage as well as a few of the short-lived CW drama The Beautiful Life: TBL.
The offers soon came rolling in and she began sharing the screen with Tom Cruise (Knight & Day), Tina Fey, and Steve Carrell (Date Night).
Despite the increased profile, she and her husband still found time to open a hotel in Tel Aviv together, The Varsano. "We found ourselves staying in hotels all the time. We wanted to feel at home, which is when we discovered these apartments within a hotel in Los Angeles," she told TotallyJewish.com in 2011. "It became the inspiration for Yaron's hotel, The Varsano. I think that Yaron and I make a really good team. I understand his career and he understands mine. We help each other progress in all areas of life. We're both very career-driven." She was so involved in helping run the business, she even claimed she changed the sheets herself when in town.
When she got her first audition to play Wonder Woman in Zach Snyder's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, she wasn't told exactly what role she was vying for. "Zack [Snyder] called me and was like, 'So do you know what you're testing for?' I said, 'No,'" she told Rolling Stone. "He said, 'Well, I'm not sure if you have her in Israel, but did you hear about Wonder Woman?'" Turned out she had. "My jaw dropped," she told Glamour of the moment. "I tried to sound nonchalant, like, "Oh yeah, Wonder Woman, sure."
Prior to landing the life-changing audition, she was contemplating throwing in the towel on her acting career altogether. "I was as close as it gets," she told Sunday TODAY's Willie Geist in 2017. "There's so much 'no.' There's so much rejection in this world that I thought, 'Maybe it's not for me. …Maybe I should go back to law school instead of dragging my family with me.'" "I was in this weird career phase, going back and forth from Tel Aviv to Los Angeles for auditions. I kept getting pretty far then it would be a no. Over and over. I was like, 'God, Yaron, maybe I should quit,'" she told Glamour. "Then my agent called and said Warner Brothers wanted to audition me for something.
During a 2017 appearance on Live with Kelly and Ryan, Gal admitted that the training regimen for the role of Wonder Woman, which involved swordsmanship, Kung Fu, kickboxing, capoeira and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, was tougher than her training for the military. "I was training six months prior to the shoots and six hours a day I did two hours of gym work, two hours of fight choreography, and one and a half-hour [to] two hours [of] horseback riding … It was a lot more intense [than the army] by far," she admitted.
Gal and Yaron are parents to two girls, Alma and Maya.
When reshoots on Wonder Woman got underway in November 2016, Gal was five months pregnant with second child Maya. To hide her conspicuous baby bump, a triangle was cut from the front of her suit and replaced with a bright green cloth that would allow the bump to be digitally replaced in post-production. "On close-up, I looked very much like Wonder Woman," she told Entertainment Weekly in 2017. "On wide shots, I looked very funny, like Wonder Woman pregnant with Kermit the Frog."
While Wonder Woman was received nearly rapturously upon release, not everyone was a fan. The film was protested in Lebanon, which has tensions with Israel, over Gal's military service and support of the IDF. The film was similarly banned in Algeria, Tunisia, and Qatar.
Though a prominent face of the DC Cinematic Universe, there was a possibility that Gal could've been scooped up by Marvel first. In a 2013 interview with Reshet.tv, she mentioned she was up for a role "where I will have to shave my head and they will color me in blue paint." Weeks later, news broke that Karen Gillan had been cast as the bald and blue Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy.
Not only did Gal love to perform her own stunts, but she considered herself a massive motorcycle enthusiast for much of her life. "I enjoy doing my own stunts. I love being active and physical," she told Elle Australia in 2015. "I used to dance which was great training but I also loved motorcycles but I thought it best to give them up when I became a mother."
Speaking of dance, there was a time in her life where she thought that might be her path. "I danced for 12 years I thought I might be a choreographer," she told the Sydney Morning Herald. "I never planned on being an actress. Life just happened that way."
In October 2019, she took her career into her own hands and formed the production company Pilot Wave alongside her husband. "As producers, we want to help bring stories that have inspired us to life," the couple said in a statement. "Pilot Wave will create content that promotes the perspectives and experiences of unique people and produce impactful stories aimed at igniting the imagination."
As one of their first announced projects, Gal will star as the iconic actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr in a forthcoming Showtime limited series.
In 2020, Gal was announced as the new face of SmartWater, taking over the brand's ad campaigns from Jennifer Aniston who'd held the gig since 2008.
In 2016, Gal appeared at the United Nations alongside OG Wonder Woman actress Lynda Carter, DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson and Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins on the 75th anniversary of the character's first appearance to mark the character's designation as "Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls." The decision was met with protests and, as such, the designation was stripped two months later.
She'd never eaten a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup in her entire life until an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in 2017. Yes, really.
If you're still unclear, it's pronounced "gah-dot."
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