'Wonder Woman 1984' Director Patty Jenkins on Bringing Wonder Woman Into the '80s: 'I Was Craving My Wonder Woman'

'Wonder Woman 1984' director Patty Jenkins talks bringing Wonder Woman into the "quintessential" '80s era, Kristen Wiig stepping into an action film, and more.

Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot behind the scenes of 'Wonder Woman 1984'
Warner Bros.

Image via Warner Bros.

Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot behind the scenes of 'Wonder Woman 1984'

For all of the talk surrounding Warner Bros' massive decision to release their entire 2021 film slate simultaneously on HBO Max and in theaters, it's as if people forgot that director Patty JenkinsWonder Woman 1984 was going to be the first Warner Bros. film to receive that dual release. Earlier this month, Jenkins mentioned how there was "no good option" for what to do with the latest Wonder Woman film, given the massive theater shut down due to the COVID-19 epidemic. That said, fans of Diana and the DC Universe are getting a massive Christmas present in the form of Wonder Woman battling for good while surviving the excess of the 1980s, which is something Jenkins had been longing for.

"I loved Wonder Woman in the late '70s and '80s," Jenkins shared with Complex during a conversation at a (virtual) Wonder Woman 1984 junket, "and so even though I loved making the first movie in the period that we did, I was craving my Wonder Woman." Jenkins also spoke on Kristen Wiig stepping up to the superhero plate, the random difficulties shooting this film, and her optimism for the future of cinema.

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As an 80s kid, it was great to see that '80s life once again, in the mall, especially with Wonder Woman. I felt like this film really gave me the Wonder Woman that I grew up with. Was that what you were looking to do going into this film?

Yes, absolutely. You're hitting the nail on the head and not everybody understands that, so I appreciate that. It was. I loved Wonder Woman in the late '70s and '80s, and so even though I loved making the first movie in the period that we did, I was craving my Wonder Woman. I was creating that poppy Wonder Woman that we got to see. So that was the genesis of the beginning of thinking about what the story would be and what we would do with it. It was the exact reason for the mall. Even though her story gets much more complicated as we go, I'm craving that on top of the world Wonder Woman in action in that period of time, so we wrote the whole mall scene just for that reason.

Was 1984 always going to be the year? Talk a little bit about why you chose that year and that particular conflict that was going on in the world.

I thought that 1984 is like the quintessential top of the '80s. It's the most extreme version of our commercial capitalistic society. We hadn't started to pay the price in any way yet, and we thought it would just go on forever. What was funny is I could really feel that when I was in the mall. I remembered how light-hearted it was—other than fearing a potential nuclear war, everything else was great. There was nothing else to worry about. That was what the '80s were telling us. So to collide Wonder Woman with her values with our capitalist society, I was really interested to see what kind of villains would be born out of it and what her point of view on that would be.

I remember how interesting it was to see Kristen Wiig joining the cast. Knowing her from Saturday Night Live, I'd never seen her work in this capacity at all. Was there a learning curve for her, especially in terms of the physicality of it all?

No, there was not. Here's the funny thing about Kristen: If you look at all of her characters on SNL, they're all very, character-based. They're all based on some sort of complex story of who this person is, so I always saw a tremendous actress there. She's a strong person. But of course, she's not done it before. I think it is kind of brutalizing grabbing this person's body that hasn't been thrown around and scrapped up into things. But that's true with so many actors when they start doing these kinds of movies, it's a brand new experience.

Very good point. With SNL and just her personality and charisma in general, Kristen slips in a lot of random jokes and random one-liners. How much improv comes into her playing a role like this?

Yeah, a lot of people did little pieces of improv. We wrote the whole script and that was shaped for everything. Some scenes you would think were improved were written. I really let all of them let loose and play around with stuff. Any time, if they're getting the feel for something and they have something great to try, I'm super into that. I love that kind of way of working.

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Now, this is a film that opens big. Huge action with a lot of space for people to really get dirty. For you, what were some of your favorite scenes to bring to life?

Ooh, so many, and they were all hard. There was literally almost nothing in this movie that I wasn't worried about [or] came easily. Even Steve's apartment. For some reason, we shot that in the summer in England, and it was like 120 degrees inside of that apartment. What should have just been a normal day [of] shooting was difficult, but also hilarious, too. That's the amazing thing [with] the entire movie: We were laughing and laughing and having a great time, but every single thing was a 16-sided Rubik's cube to try and put together. It was so hard to figure out.

With the way the pandemic has been going, you're in an interesting time. Wonder Woman 1984 hits HBO Max at the same time it hits theaters. I read about you coming to terms with that and really understanding what's going on before making that decision. What are your thoughts on your next film? Are you going to be taking time to really kind of evaluate when you're going to start picking things up?

Because of the kind of movies I make, they take a couple of years [anyway]. I actually feel confident with the vaccines that we will be on the other side of it. I still super believe in the theatrical business and giving them a window first before they go elsewhere. But yeah, it's such an odd year. We even had to say to fans, "This is not a perfect plan. We're having a hard time getting the movie to everyone in the world because there aren't streaming deals all over the world and everybody's working on it, but there was no perfect plan." Every plan we looked at was so deeply flawed, [but] I really believe in this plan this year. It feels like the right moment to release it. And if we could give communion to anybody with something we made, what a great thing to do when so many people are struggling. It makes me so happy.

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