GAL GADOT had some serious competition to play Wonder Woman.
Over the years, the contenders included Hollywood heavyweights Angelina Jolie, Beyonce, Sandra Bullock and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
But the relatively-unknown Gadot had an advantage over those A-listers.
At the age of 20, two years after she was crowned Miss Israel, she did two years’ mandatory national service as a soldier in the Israel Defence Forces.
In the army, she excelled in the gruelling boot camp and as a result became a physical training instructor, specialising in gymnastics and calisthenics, saying: “The soldiers loved me because I made them fit.”
It was perfect preparation to play a butt-kicking superhero, so no wonder the training she received for Wonder Woman — including swordsmanship, Kung Fu and Brazilian jiu-jitsu — was a walk in the park.
Gadot says: “Since I started training, and before I was pregnant, I gained 17 pounds and it was all muscle. When you feel strong, it changes everything — your posture, the way you walk.
“I look at photos from five years ago and think: ‘Whoa, I was too skinny.’ Not cool.”
Now 32 and a mum of two, she says of her time in uniform: “The army wasn’t that difficult for me. You give two or three years, and it’s not about you. You learn discipline and respect.
“The things I’ve been through as a soldier prepared me to deal with career things as well — the military gave me good training for Hollywood.”
Though she became a model after leaving the army, that background helped Gal get her break in the cars ’n’ guns Fast And Furious franchise, in which she did her own stunts.
As she admits: “The director really liked that I was in the military, and he wanted to use my knowledge of weapons.”
Gadot was five months pregnant with her second daughter when she was called back for Wonder Woman reshoots and had to wear a green cloth over her stomach so her bump could be digitally hidden in post-production.
The film tells the story of an American pilot, Chris Pine, who crash-lands on a mysterious island populated by Amazon women.
When he tells Gadot’s character about the First World War which is ravaging Europe, she sets off to try to end the conflict.
Gal explains: “She is the ultimate symbol of strength.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d grow up to be in a movie playing someone who has influenced as many women as she has.
“Nowadays, being a woman is hard.
“So often, we have to be the best wife, best mother, best worker — the best everything, it seems.
“But I truly believe we are more empowered,” the actress adds.
“We’re also stronger, sophisticated and can achieve what we want.
“That’s what I would like my daughters to know.
“It is so important for girls and boys to have a female, strong superhero to look up to.”
Wonder Woman is in cinemas now.