One of the most fun Wonder Woman stories I ever read has never been filmed or illustrated, and may never be read by most Wonder-fans.
It was a big-budget, live action thriller featuring Diana, Hippolyta and the Amazons. It had exciting scenes on Themyscira. It opened with Diana on the hunt. It was, in short, a ton of fun.
And it will probably never be made.
The name 'Laeta Kalgrodis' may not be known to all comics fans, but it belongs to a terrific writer with a serious love of comics, and someone I'm really proud to know. She's a producer of some shows that didn't get room to grow, "Birds of Prey, The Bionic Woman" and a high-profile writer who worked on many films.
I get asked about the Birds of Prey show constantly-it has a lot more fans than you might think. I asked Laeta about Wonder Woman and Bop, and here's how it went, an insider's look at the WW film that almost was!
1) Okay, first, let me say that I've been fortunate enough to read your WW script and I think you're a terrific writer. I am often asked about Birds Of Prey, a series you were instrumental in bringing to the small screen. Can I ask how that came about, and what made you want to adapt that particular series?
Loved the writing of the comic (J), loved the characters, was esp. enamored of the idea of pre-Crisis Earth 2 Helena Wayne, who I had always been fascinated by. Helena B. was just never as compelling to me. Even though the primary relationship in BoP comics was Dinah and Barbara, and I loved it, the potential for anger and edginess with Helena was too good to pass up. Dinah was always more of a well-adjusted gal to me (who else can pull off those fishnets???) and I thought I could have more fun with Helena and Barbara mixing it up.
That put us in the odd position of trying to figure out the best way to utilize Dinah’s character, and both the demographic of the then-WB, and the idea of exploring apprenticeship in this kind of life, led me to changing Dinah’s age (although we ultimately ended up using the mother-daughter tradition of canon, although we reworked it for the age we had made her.)
Also, “Killing Joke” was a seminal story for me, in that it asked questions about what heroism really was, and what it would mean to have been a hero and then be trapped in your own body in a way that made it impossible for you to live the same life you had before. For Barbara to then become responsible for a ward, in the form of Dinah, had great potential storytelling. Would she encourage Dinah to go in the same direction she had? Would she try to stop her? She was more than a mother, mentor, trainer, handler, all at once – and sending Dinah into situations where she might not survive on a regular basis. What did that do to her head?
In short, I loved those women. Still do. They deserved their own series.
I will say that since I was pushed off the project shortly after the pilot was shot (and I was unhappy with elements of the pilot as well,) I felt the direction the show took didn’t come close to the potential it had. I had some great writers on staff – they have since gone on to write on Heroes, Fringe, Lost, Dexter – one of them is the screenwriter of the Twilight series, all the films. They’ve changed out directors but not her!
I think my team could have made something exceptional, and I’m sorry that BoP didn’t live up to that for fans.
2) That's a pretty impressive group of resumes! Additionally, I know that you were asked to write a Wonder Woman script for a potential live action film, which I enjoyed very much, as I said. Did you have some particular history or background with the character? How did this come about?
Always, always, always loved the character, the comics, Lynda Carter, all of it. (I even saw the Cathy Lee Crosby version, although I spent most of the time as a kid going “What? She’s *blond*? And what’s up with that *dress*????)
I’m Greek, so that made her backstory particularly compelling to me. And let’s not forget, in the world of superheroes, she’s *it*. The first, best, and strongest of the women heroes. The primary 3 of DC always have been and always will be Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. She plays with the boys and she rules.
I went after the job and got it out of passion.
3) Can you give the readers a general idea of what the film's tone was, what it was about?
It was set present day, Steve Trevor was an Air Force fighter pilot who crashed his jet during a run-in with Korean jets. He sacrificed himself to save his team, and in doing so tore a hole through to Themiscyra. (It turns out later that there was some interference by the Fates to get him there, cause let’s face it: Greeks! Mythology! It would be wrong without it.)
Diana is a 19-year-old rebellious teenager (whose physical age is over 2,000 years) who is the only of the Amazons to be born on the island. She’s the only one who’s never seen a man, and the only one who didn’t experience the slaughter of the Amazons that her mother, Hippolyta, lived through. She finds Steve on the beach, and, well… you know the rest. Fights with Mom, decision to go to Man’s World, etc etc.
The villains aren’t Nazis. It’s Ares, who is the last of the Old Gods surviving in the present day in our world, living as an insanely wealthy arms dealer who foments wars all over the globe. The more conflict, the stronger he gets.
And it just goes from there. Diana ends up in our world and the first thing that happens to her is she’s arrested – she gets into a fight with a guy who’s roughing up his girlfriend, and the police take one look at her outfit and decide she’s a prostitute. They lock her up with the rest of the pros in the drunk tank, and she makes friends with them (although she has no idea what they do for a living, the concept is completely foreign to her). They think she’s a little soft in the head, until she breaks them all out.
Well, anyway, the tone was meant to be kind of Iron Man (as opposed to the brooding quality of, say, Dark Knight). I wanted to make something that would be fun and adventurous, that would deal with war (as Iron Man does) but also with the hope for lasting peace which I think is the message Diana has always tried to bring to our world.
And it was fun! And Steve was hot! And there was a big final showdown between Ares’ army and the Amazons! Eye candy! Women in skimpy clothing with heavy weapons!
4) Why do you think Wonder Woman in particular has had such a difficult time getting a film made? Do you think it will ever happen?
Personal opinion: the performance of female-lead superhero movies at Warners (Catwoman) and Fox (Elektra) helped feed into the erroneous perception that women can’t be the leads in superhero movies.
This perception, btw, ignores the fact that both Catwoman and Elektra are antiheroes at best, villains at worst, and the movies themselves had other issues. No one looks at the box-office non-performance of, say, Daredevil or Ghost Rider, and says “Well, that’s it for male leads in superhero films/supernatural hero films.”
5) What is it about Diana that you find appealing?
Kind of everything… A big part of it is that she is a fantastic character for viewing our world from the outside. Unlike Superman, she wasn’t raised here. She sees the insanity of how we live, and what we do to each other, more clearly than we ever can. And yet she still loves Steve, and finds wonderful things about Man’s World.
She’s a great role model for girls and women. She plays with the biggest of the boys, and it’s a complete non-issue. She more than holds her own.
And in every iteration of her character, I think she’s always been the moral compass of the DC heroes. The JLA, certainly.
And finally, if you can just say what projects you are currently working on that you can mention, of course, that would be awesome!
Well, James Cameron’s Avatar is something I worked on with him (sort of the writing version of pinch-hitting) and we’re in post for a December release. Shutter Island just got pushed from October to February, which is too bad, but the experience of working with Martin Scorsese and Leo DiCaprio was one of the best of my professional life. I can’t complain. I’m looking around now to see what I want to do next.