The ‘Professor Marston and the Wonder Women’ trailer that debuted at New York Comic Con:
Understanding the origins and inspirations of a powerful and influential leader, particularly a strong woman who isn’t afraid to pursue what she wants, is a captivating experience in the superhero genre this year. After the record-breaking success of this summer’s DCEU film adaption of ‘Wonder Woman,’ which explores the origins story of the title character, the creation of the superhero is now being explored in the new biopic, ‘Professor Marston and the Wonder Women.’
The historical drama, which was released in theaters this weekend by Annapurna Pictures, was written and directed by Angela Robinson. The filmmaker immediately became inspired to chronicle the initial development of the iconic Wonder Woman character, and share the inspirational, but not widely known, history that drove her creator.
‘Professor Marston and the Wonder Women’ tells the true story of what inspired Harvard psychologist Dr. William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans) to create the iconic Wonder Woman character in the 1940’s. While William’s feminist superhero was criticized by censors for her sexual perversity, he was keeping a secret that could have destroyed him.
The doctor’s muses for the Wonder Woman character were his wife, Elizabeth Marston (Rebecca Hall), and their lover, Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote), who were two empowered women who defied convention. Elizabeth and Olive worked with William on his human behavior research, while they also built a secret personal, romantic life with him that rivaled the greatest of superhero disguises.
Evans, Hall and Robinson generously took the time during New York Comic Con last weekend to participate in a press roundtable interview in the press lounge of the Hammerstein Ballroom. Among other things, the actor, actress and writer-director discussed that being able to tell a story about unconventional love relationships, and not make it the central focus of the plot, was a main concept that drew them to participate in the movie. They also shared that they appreciated that they were able to share the incredible story of the Marstons’ love story with Byrne with ‘Wonder Woman’ fans at the New York-based fan convention.
Robinson began the conversation by explaining why she decided to tell the Marstons’ history in a feature film. “It’s an incredible story, first and foremost. I’ve been a ‘Wonder Woman’ fan from an early age. I’ve been trying to think of my first ‘Wonder Woman’ moment, and I think it was a lunchbox,” the writer shared. “But we also all agreed that the Lynda Carter television show sealed the deal for us. She was the only female superhero that you could pick from, so I became a fan.”
After the filmmaker shot her first feature, the 2004 action comedy, ‘D.E.B.S.,’ “a friend gave me a book about the history of ‘Wonder Woman.’ There was a chapter in there about the Marstons, and I couldn’t believe the story. I was like, they all lived together?!?,” Robinson divulged with a laugh. “So I became obsessed with their story from the moment I first read about it.”
Hall then chimed in on why she believes ‘Professor Marston and the Wonder Women’ will help redefine what woman empowerment is, since Elizabeth and Olive appear to have a close relationship in the drama. “I think there’s something radical about the story in the movie, and that’s certainly what drew me to it. Being able to tell a story about unconventional love relationships, and not make it the central focus of the plot, or the problem of their relationship, like one person is jealous of another person,” was a fascinating concept to the Golden Globe-nominated actress.
“To instead tell a story about a love relationship that’s haunted by external factors, such as whether or not society will accept them, or more of a basic level of how they’re going to pay the bills and raise children, is radical. It doesn’t encourage us to look at these people and think, aren’t they crazy?,” Hall also pointed out. The movie’s story “takes us along on the ride, and encourages us to accept these people, as well as the fact that they’re in a real, loving relationship. I think that’s truly astonishing, and can’t think of many other films that dare to do that. It is a conventional romance, but what isn’t conventional is the story, and I love that.”
Hall then admitted that some audiences will question whether William “roped in his wife to accept a young lover, and if we should judge that decision. But that really isn’t feminist. There’s nothing to say that the women weren’t into this type of relationship, and that’s empowering. If you tell that part of the story in a real and honest way, then I’m in.”
Robinson then followed up on the idea of family that’s included in the drama. “What’s interesting about the gender roles in the movie is that the story talks a lot about men and women, and how they fit into white male entitlement. The movie also talks about glass ceilings, and the roles that society forces women to play. But in their fantasy lives, women transcend that,” the director noted.
“So the exploration of their sexuality in the film is more about being liberated, and being our true selves in this fantasy world that links to ‘Wonder Woman,'” Robinson further revealed. “So I do feel that the movie talks about how restrictive the gender roles are, and how uneven the playing field that the women have to operate on is.”
Evans then chimed in to point out that “From the outset, we talk about how Elizabeth isn’t able to go to Harvard. That sets up the period in which this film is based. It was a very unequal time for men and women.”
Hall also noted that William “was a champion for women’s rights, which is something that isn’t really remembered. He wrote ‘Wonder Woman’ as female propaganda for little boys to accept female authority. He believed that within his love relationship.”
“That idea was then threaded into his psychology,” Evans added. “His theory was that women were inherently loving and nurturing, as opposed to men, who are anarchist and violent…There are moments in the film where you see that they’re a family within their house. When the doors are close, there’s a beauty between them and their children, and he loves that. They were his test subjects, in a way, because he was able to observe women loving and supporting each other and him.”
“It’s not like they were loving and nurturing in a submissive way,” Hall also emphasized. “It’s more like, how did they use those things to help them be a ruler?”
Robinson added that William “was practical. The world was at war, and he really thought that if women could be put in charge, they could stop war. He had been through World War I, and had seen all of the death and crime. So it was an active endeavor for him to try to stop war from happening again,” the filmmaker further explained.
While William has been celebrated for his support of empowering women, Hall also views the real-life woman she portrayed on screen as heroic. What’s known about Elizabeth is limited, but Hall “picked up cues about her from the script that reminded me of some of my heroes, such as Katharine Hepburn and Betty Davis. I owe a lot of my interpretation of Elizabeth to those heroes, just as much as anything else.”
Since the trio was promoting ‘Professor Marston and the Wonder Women’ at New York Comic Con, Robinson experienced her appreciation that the convention supported the film. “It was really important to me when I was approaching this that I not only respected Wonder Woman as a character, but also the fandom. When Annapurna (Pictures) picked up the rights to distribute the movie, I said, ‘We have to go to New York Comic Con, and go to the fans first. We have to talk to the people who love Wonder Woman,'” the director revealed. “The movie’s for everyone, but I feel a deep connection to Wonder Woman. So I felt it was really important to share that, first and foremost, with Wonder Woman fans here at Comic Con.”