Gary Collinson looks at the actresses who have portrayed Wonder Woman in live action…
With the release of All Star Comics #8 in October 1941, William Moulton Marston and DC Comics introduced the world to Princess Diana of Themyscira, better known as Wonder Woman, who would quickly go on to establish herself as the most iconic female comic book character of all time. And now, some 76 years later, the Amazon Princess is about to headline her very first feature film, as Gal Gadot reprises her role from last year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
While her appearance in Batman v Superman marked the character’s big screen debut, there have been several other live-action incarnations of Wonder Woman over the years, and here we take a look at the actresses who’ve had the honour of portraying the legendary superhero…
Ellie Wood Walker / Linda Harrison
The first attempt to bring Wonder Woman to the screen came in 1967. Spurred on by the success of the Batman TV series, producer William Dozier and Greenway Productions commissioned a five minute pilot entitled Who’s Afraid of Diana Prince?, which starred Ellie Wood Walker as Diana Prince and a pre-Planet of the Apes Linda Harrison as her superhero alter-ego/mirror reflection Wonder Woman. You can watch the pilot here…
As with Dozier’s Batgirl pilot starring Yvonne Craig, Who’s Afraid of Diana Prince? was never broadcast. However, unlike Craig (who would return as Batgirl in the third and final season of Batman), Walker and Harrison never got the opportunity to reprise the role and it would be another seven years before we actually got to see Wonder Woman on the small screen.
Cathy Lee Crosby
The first time the general public got to see Wonder Woman in live-action was in 1974 as Cathy Lee Crosby took on the role for an ABC TV movie, which was intended as the pilot for a potential series and was heavily inspired by the ‘Diana Prince’ era of DC Comics. Gone was the trademark costume, tiara and lasso, with Crosby instead portraying Wonder Woman as a powerless Emma Peel-style government agent. ABC executives weren’t impressed enough with the results to green light a full series, and the decision was made to retool the character with a new approach more in tune with the comic book superheroine.
Wonder Woman finally found success on the small screen in 1975 with former Miss World USA Lynda Carter starring as Diana Prince in the TV movie The New Original Wonder Woman. Much more faithful to its comic book source material than its predecessor, the movie proved to be a ratings hit, with ABC then ordering an additional two one-hour specials followed by a further eleven episodes for a full first a first season. With the show proving expensive due to its World War II setting, ABC stalled on picking it up for a second season, prompting rival network CBS to snap it up and relaunch it as The New Adventures of Wonder Woman, shifting the action to the then-present day of the 1970s. It would run for another 46 episodes across its second and third season.
Following Lynda Carter’s iconic portrayal, Wonder Woman found herself stuck in limbo for the best part of the next four decades. There were rumblings of potential new TV pilots during the 1990s, although nothing materialised, while the producers of Smallville also hoped to have Diana make an appearance, but the idea was nixed due to a feature film adaptation that Joss Whedon was developing for Warner Bros. When this too came to nothing, WB tapped David E. Kelley for a new pilot, with future Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. star Adrianne Palicki subsequently signing on for the title role. This one actually did make it to pilot, but NBC passed on picking it up to series. The CW would take a stab at another small screen project the following year, titled Amazons, but it was put on hold when the network decided to launch The Flash and eventually abandoned in 2014.
And so we come to Gal Gadot, the current incarnation of the Amazon Princess, and the first to appear on the big screen. First announced as securing the coveted role of Diana Prince back in December 2013, Gadot’s casting was initially met by a fan backlash, with many criticising the actress as physically unsuitable for the role of the Amazonian warrior. However, Gadot soon won the majority of her critics over with her supporting role in Batman v Superman, and will now look the make the role her own with her critically-acclaimed solo film, which – at the time of writing – is currently sitting on 97% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, some 3% higher than Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.
Gadot will be reprising the role of Wonder Woman for November’s Justice League movie, and assuming the solo movie proves as popular with audiences as it does critics, a second Wonder Woman film is surely on the horizon too.