PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN
The realization of writer/director Robinson's vision of Professor Marston & The
rested squarely on the shoulders of its three protagonists, the eponymous
Professor, his wife
Elizabeth and their lover Olive Byrne. According to Robinson, the chemistry
between the three
principals was vital to relaying both the literal story and the symbolic story
of how Wonder
Woman grew out of Marston's theories on women and psychology.
Producer Terry Leonard mentions that Robinson fought hard to cast the ideal
actors in these
roles. "She could have made it easier on herself by attaching one or two big box
But she was right. The story called for actors who would embody the characters
and not be
overshadowed by their movie star personae. Her script was made for the actors
she chose. They
became these parts and I can't imagine anyone else in them."
Adds producer Amy Redford: "It was important to find actors who were compelling
charismatic and could handle all the difficult places these characters had to
go. I'm still pinching
myself at the dream cast Angela assembled."
The titular character was particularly risky. In the wrong hands, Marston could
come across as
insensitive and exploitative. The choice of Luke Evans, an actor who is as
comfortable in period
epics like The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and Beauty and the Beast as in
action and drama like The Fate of the Furious or The Girl on the Train, struck
"I was looking for someone with a strong masculine energy, but also with the
intelligence required to play Marston," says Robinson. "A younger Russell Crowe
Ford, which is surprisingly hard to find. For that reason, I was passionate
about Luke, who I'd
been tracking since Dracula Untold; and fortunately, he became available."
Observes producer Redford, "As an actor, Luke is inherently empathetic and
emotion on the level that this character requires. He immediately sunk his teeth
into the role and
never let go."
"Luke is a real star," says producer Leonard. "He completely delivers on this
story of a man
driven by passion and love and the storytelling talents he had inside of him.
Luke brings that all
out in a powerful way."
What fascinated Evans about the project is how the three main intertwined
characters managed to
survive at a time when their relationship was not accepted or understood. "They
sacrificed a lot
to be with each other," Evans observes.
Marston's feelings for Elizabeth and Olive expanded his world view, Evans
believes. "There was
a lot of love there. And though at times, their problems tore them apart, he
fought for that love
and pulled them back together. Marston was one of the country's first vocal male
believed women were more loving and nurturing and if they were running the world
it would be
a better place. And I think this all grew out of living with two women and
watching the love they
had for each other and for their family."
Marston himself hailed from an upper-class historical Boston family. He was a
researcher whose invention, the lie detector test, as well as the character of
Wonder Woman were
influenced by his DISC theory, says Evans. "He believed that all human
interaction was broken
down into four emotional categories, dominance, inducement, submission and
he stood by it his whole life."
In studying those theories, Evans discovered "how much fun it was to dig deeper
into the mind
and life of someone who actually existed on this planet and left his mark in two
ways. It wasn't difficult to slip under the skin of a man who lived his life to
the fullest. He was
extremely intelligent and loved his wife and Olive immensely. He had an
enthusiasm for living
and for discovery. He was also brave, unafraid to reach out and grasp at the
For the witty and brilliant Elizabeth Marston, Robinson zeroed in on actress
Rebecca Hall who
has shown her range in films as varied as Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Town and
"When Rebecca said she was interested in the role, I danced a little jig,"
laughs Robinson. "She's
intelligent, sexy, bold and charismatic. And we were totally of the same mind
Robinson and Hall discussed some of the brilliant women they knew whose lives
didn't turn out
the way they wanted mainly due to lack of opportunity. "And for both of us,
was a perfect example of that struggle," says Robinson.
The beauty of an actress like Hall, according to Redford, "is her ability to
twenty-five different things on camera in an efficient way and in a concentrated
amount of time.
She has an instinct of where a scene needs to go and what the tone should be,
not only for herself
but for the other actors. She understood that Elizabeth was a character we had
to fall in love with,
because in the film she's fighting an uphill battle, and women in that position
come off as shrill in the eyes of the public. She accomplished that by bringing
heart, humor and
sensuality to the character."
After reading Jill Lepore's 2014 article in the New Yorker about the genesis of
Hall had herself flirted with the idea of making a movie about Marston. "Until
that time, my
understanding of Wonder Woman had been that she was a token female superhero,
who had been
sexualized, objectified. After reading Jill's article, I realized that actually,
she'd been written as
feminist propaganda, a tool to convince young boys that it was acceptable for
women to be
powerful. When I explored getting the rights, I learned that Angela had been
working on this
story for several years before Jill's article was written. Six months later, I
heard they were
looking for someone to play Elizabeth, and I immediately phoned Angela."
Hall's attraction to Robinson's depiction of Elizabeth was immediate. Her screen
career to date
has included playing both introverted and extroverted characters and Elizabeth
definitely the latter. "I was drawn to Elizabeth because she was so charming,
but also infuriating,
loud, outspoken and dominant. It was very appealing playing someone who had so
within the social dynamic."
"Elizabeth is definitely the more dominant partner in the marriage, more open
continues. "When her husband develops a crush on one of his students, her gut
response is to say
she isn't jealous, though she is. But she becomes progressively interested in
Olive herself, until
she decides that the best way to deal with the situation is to suggest that they
all have a
relationship, which is a very complex truth to represent on film. Still, Olive
maintained a relationship for more than thirty years after Marston's death, so
they must have had
strong feelings for one another."
Yet, despite her outward bravado, Hall contends that Elizabeth was engaged in an
with herself and society at large. "She fought a deep-rooted puritanism and fear
of being what
she actually was, which today we would call someone on the queer spectrum," Hall
fluid in her sexuality and, in a way, the film is her journey to accepting that
and submitting to it
on some level."
Olive Byrne, the third member of this unorthodox triangle, was a character that
actress who could balance youthful innocence with sexual curiosity and daring,
since it is she
who declares her intentions to both Marston and his wife. All those attributes
were found in
actress Bella Heathcote, who recently co-starred in the erotic hit Fifty Shades
Darker, and before
that, The Neon Demon and Tim Burton's Dark Shadows.
The role of Olive Byrne, says Robinson, was perhaps the most difficult to cast
auditioned numerous actresses before meeting with Heathcote. "It's a deceptive
Olive had to demonstrate different aspects of femininity as the film progressed:
sexuality and maternity."
"I was blown away by Bella," Robinson reports. "Like the character of Olive, she
surprising depth and a very pure way of conveying emotional honesty."
According to Redford, Heathcote committed to the role with dedication and a
refreshing lack of
vanity. "She had a huge arc to play in this movie in a story that spans
decades," says Redford.
"Bella managed to be strong and yet did it with grace, two elements that
shouldn't be seen as
mutually exclusive but, sadly, sometimes are."
"When Angela told me the Marston family story, I was shocked," Heathcote says.
"When I told
friends what it was about, they thought it was fiction."
In preparing for the role and discussing it with Robinson, Heathcote came to
realize that in many
ways she had the easiest part to play. "Olive's arc is right there in Angela's
script," she said.
"The other two characters sometimes play games, but Olive is always honest. She
heart on her sleeve. There's a lot of me in her, an openness and vulnerability."
Heathcote describes the three-way relationship as a tripod in that it needed all
three legs to work
in order to survive. "Olive and Bill try to manage Elizabeth's feelings, and
Bill and Elizabeth
make Olive feel safe. And both women love Bill despite his eccentricities, or
perhaps because of
In addition to being a three-way love story, and a record of the man who
invented the lie detector
test and Wonder Woman, Heathcote sees the film as "a coming of age tale. All
grow so much over the course of the narrative, especially Olive. At the
beginning, she is just a
student, very unsure of herself. But over the course of the narrative, she
figures out who she is
and becomes comfortable with her sexuality. Her sense of self becomes more
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