'Wonder Woman': Revisit the Many Failed Attempts to Bring Her to Movies/TV Before Striking Gold in 2017

Gal Gadot in ‘Wonder Woman’ (Photo: Warner Bros.)

By Oliver Lyttelton, Yahoo Movies

After 75 years watching her DC Comics comrades Batman and Superman star in countless movies, Wonder Woman finally got her first chance to headline a feature film this past weekend — and after magic-lassoing $103.1 million at the U.S. box office and putting the DC Extended Universe on solid ground with critics for the first time, it’s a safe bet she won’t need to wait anywhere near as long for Wonder Woman 2.

Sure, the Amazonian princess with the bulletproof bracelets had a hit TV show in the 1970s, and a popular big-screen cameo in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. But it’s only with this new superhero blockbuster, directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot in the title role, that she finally got Hollywood’s full attention. Still, it’s not for lack of trying: Wonder Woman’s path to the top of the box office in 2017 follows several unsuccessful attempts in the past. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most notable tries that didn’t pan out.

The Early TV Versions
If you have a small-screen connection with Wonder Woman, it’s probably from the hit 1970s series starring Lynda Carter. But there were actually two attempts before that to bring the character to TV. The first, which came after Batman became a smash in 1967, was a five-minute pilot called Wonder Woman: Who’s Afraid Of Diana Prince?, starring future Planet Of The Apes actress Linda Harrison as Wonder Woman, and Ellie Wood Walker as her human alter-ego. It never made it past early stages (watch the whole thing below). Seven years later, former tennis player Cathy Lee Crosby starred in a pilot that aired as a TV movie on ABC. It departed from the comic book origins significantly (including making the heroine blonde). Perhaps as a result, ratings were underwhelming and the show was recast and heavily retooled before making it to air with Carter in the lead role the following year.

The First Movie Attempts
In the mid-’90s, the blockbuster success of Batman Forever seriously ignited big screen interest in the Caped Crusader’s DC Comics stablemate, Wonder Woman. Original Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman announced in 1996 that he was planning to produce, and possibly direct, a Wonder Woman movie. Nothing came of it (though Reitman gave a glimpse at what his take might have been with his 2006 Uma Thurman comedy My Super Ex-Girlfriend), and the property ended up, a few years later, in the hands of producer Joel Silver, then hot off the success of The Matrix. He hired Minority Report co-writer Jon Cohen to take the first pass at a script, with Sandra Bullock rumored to star.

Joss Whedon’s Turn
Silver’s project went through a number of iterations, including a well-liked script by Shutter Island scribe Laeta Kalogridis, but never quite got to the starting line, even as fellow DC characters came back with Batman Begins and Superman Returns. But then the producer revealed, much to the excitement of the internet, that Buffy The Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon would write and direct a Wonder Woman movie. Whedon’s take on the character (who he later said was “a little bit like Angelina Jolie,” though likely would have starred a newcomer) won approval from Silver, but not the studio, as the producer explained last year: “He wrote a great script. For whatever reason, the studio didn’t like it and didn’t want to do it. We were close, at one point.” Whedon, of course, went on to direct the biggest superhero movie of all time with The Avengers, and now has stepped in to complete Justice League after a family tragedy caused Zack Snyder to step aside.

Justice League Mortal
After the Whedon project fell apart, we came tantalizingly close to seeing Wonder Woman on the big screen for the first time in a DC team-up movie from Mad Max: Fury Road director George Miller (who Joel Silver had also wanted to direct the solo movie a few years earlier). Justice League Mortal would have paired Diana Prince with the rest of her team in a battle against villain Maxwell Lord, with a cast including Armie Hammer as Batman, Adam Brody as The Flash, and Australian actress Megan Gale, who would later play Valkyrie in Fury Road, as Wonder Woman (see a test shot of her as the character below). It was days away from filming in 2007 when Warner Bros canceled it, partly due to issues with Australian tax incentives, partly because of the WGA writers’ strike, and partly for fear the project would step on the toes of the then-upcoming The Dark Knight.

Megan Gale in test shot as Wonder Woman released in 2015 (Photo: Marc Rogers/ComicBookMovie.com)

(Not Quite) Reborn on TV
With movies having stalled, TV renewed its interest in Wonder Woman, though ultimately with no greater success. In 2011, Ally McBeal and Big Little Lies creator David E. Kelley penned a pilot for NBC that starred Friday Night Lights actress Adrianne Palicki as the hero, Elizabeth Hurley and Cary Elwes as the villains, and future Game Of Thrones breakout Pedro Pascal as a friendly cop. But fan reaction to Palicki’s costume was strongly negative (“shiny, cheap, and tacky,” wrote Vulture), and response to the pilot from critics wasn’t much better (“Embarrassing,” said Alan Sepinwall), so the network passed. Two years later, The CW, having found superhero success with Arrow, developed a Wonder Woman prequel series called Amazon, but couldn’t get the script right and ultimately shut the project down.

A False Start, Then the Breakthrough
In the meantime, other filmmakers had pitched their takes on Wonder Woman (including a comedic version from Bridesmaids helmer Paul Feig that would have seen the heroine battling superhero sexism). In the end, Warner Bros decided to wrap the character into their emerging DC Movie Universe. Even then, the solo film wasn’t smooth sailing. As many as six different screenplays were written. Then, acclaimed Breaking Bad director Michelle MacLaren was hired, only to quit less than six months later. Creative differences were blamed, with MacLaren said to have wanted to make a Braveheart-style action movie, and even, if rumors were true, give Diana a talking tiger sidekick. Patty Jenkins stepped in, and now she’s the wonder woman who finally brought Wonder Woman to big-screen paradise.

‘Wonder Woman’: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, and Patty Jenkins on the Invisible Jet and Jumpa the Kangaroo:

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