The Heroic Career of Wonder Woman 1984 Director Patty Jenkins
One of cinema’s mightiest superheroes returns to the big screen this year, in WONDER WOMAN 1984. As you can probably guess from the title, this new Wonder Woman story is set in 1984, and follows Gal Gadot’s iconic hero as she battles new villains and (somehow!) reunites with her lost love, Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor.
Another familiar face returning for this awesome new adventure is one you won’t see on the big screen: director Patty Jenkins. You may already be well acquainted with Gal Gadot’s superhero, but before she heads back to theaters, let’s get to know the woman behind Wonder Woman with a look at the career of Patty Jenkins.
Once Upon a Time in… San Francisco
When Patty Jenkins was a kid, she wanted to become an environmental scientist, so her mom moved the family to San Francisco. There, a young Jenkins planned to eventually attend college and pursue her dream. But in 1978, Jenkins saw something that would change the course of her life. In an origin story fitting for the woman who would go on to direct WONDER WOMAN, Jenkins went to a screening of the classic SUPERMAN movie starring Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel.
Jenkins says the superhero flick inspired her to pursue a career in filmmaking, and that’s exactly what she did. In 2001, while studying for a Master’s degree in directing at the American Film Institute’s AFI Conservatory, Jenkins directed a project that would also offer a glimpse into her future. “Velocity Rules” is a short film about an accident-prone housewife inspired by superhero movies and the work of acclaimed Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar.
A Daring Debut
[Image Credit: Newmarket Films]
In 2003, Patty Jenkins released her feature directorial debut. MONSTER is an unforgettable drama starring Charlize Theron as serial killer Aileen Wuornos. The film was a huge critical and commercial success, thanks in part to the star-power of Theron and its thoughtful, provocative exploration of the life of one the only female serial killers in history.
Theron, who underwent a startling transformation to play the role, won an Oscar for Best Actress. In the years that followed, Jenkins tried to get a few more movies off the ground – including a drama starring Ryan Gosling – but none of those projects came together.
Small Screen Success
[Image Credit: TNT]
Jenkins took her talents to television, where she directed episodes of "Arrested Development" and "Entourage," as well as a segment in the 2011 TV movie FIVE, an anthology story about the lives of women.
That same year, Jenkins executive produced and directed the pilot of AMC’s "The Killing." The hit series follows a pair of detectives as they investigate the mysterious murder of a teen girl in Seattle. In addition to establishing the look and tone of the show with her acclaimed pilot episode, Jenkins also directed the season two finale. More recently, she reunited with Chris Pine for the TNT true-crime series "I Am the Night," seen above.
And Then: Wonder Woman!
Finally, in 2015, Jenkins signed on to direct WONDER WOMAN – her first film since MONSTER. Released in 2017 and starring Gal Gadot in the title role as DC’s iconic superhero, WONDER WOMAN blew away even the sky-high expectations of fans who had waited decades for the character to leap onto the big screen. Not only was it the first female superhero movie for DC, but it made Jenkins the second woman to direct a live-action superhero film – the first being Lexi Alexander, who directed 2008’s PUNISHER: WAR ZONE.
To say that WONDER WOMAN’s success was massive might be an understatement: Thanks in no small part to Jenkins’ work on the film, more women have starred in and directed superhero movies in the short time since. Marvel released CAPTAIN MARVEL, starring Brie Larson and co-directed by Anna Boden. Cate Shortland directed the upcoming BLACK WIDOW, which gives Scarlett Johansson’s hero the solo movie fans have wanted to see since her introduction. Cathy Yan recently directed BIRDS OF PREY, starring Margot Robbie, reprising her role from SUICIDE SQUAD. And Chloe Zhao directed Marvel’s ETERNALS, which arrives next year and features an all-star cast including Angelina Jolie and “Game of Thrones” star Kit Harington.
And then there's WONDER WOMAN 1984, directed by Jenkins herself. The sequel pits Gal Gadot’s superhero against two new enemies: Wealthy businessman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) and Cheetah (Kristen Wiig). The time period and new set of characters give Jenkins the chance to do something different in this movie, compared to what we saw in the first WONDER WOMAN, and we're excited to see the result!
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All images courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures, unless indicated otherwise.