'Professor Marston and the Wonder Women' cast on how Wonder Woman's secret identity was inspired by unconventional relationship

Gwynne Watkins
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
Bella Heathcoate in Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. (Photo: Annapurna Pictures)

Everyone is familiar with Wonder Woman, the beloved superhero who has conquered countless DC Universe villains, along with this summer’s box office. The extraordinary story behind the character, though, is something most fans have never imagined. The film Professor Marston and the Wonder Women stars Luke Evans as Wonder Woman writer William Moulton Marston, who created the comic book character in 1941. Wonder Woman was inspired by feminism, psychology, and even vintage pornography, but Marston’s greatest inspirations were the two women in his life: his brilliant wife, Elizabeth Marston (played by Rebecca Hall), and their student-turned-lover Olive Byrne (played by Bella Heathcoate). At BUILD Series NYC Monday, Yahoo Entertainment sat down with the stars of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, along with writer-director Angela Robinson, to talk about the film’s unusual love story, the influence that the real-life characters had on Wonder Woman, and how the film’s sexiest moments were created.

“They didn’t have words like polyamory … they were just living their truth,” Rebecca Hall said of the three-person relationship depicted in the film. Not only did William, Elizabeth, and Olive fall in love, they raised children together — and their family lived constantly under the threat of being exposed as “deviants.” As Luke Evans pointed out, that was a big inspiration for a certain superhero’s secret identity. “Having to hide — it reflects into the story of Wonder Woman,” he said.

Director Angela Robinson, who spent years trying to bring this story to the screen, wanted to make sure that her stars were comfortable with the film’s intimate moments. Bella Heathcoate described Robinson’s brilliant technique for shooting sex scenes: “She just plays music throughout the whole scene, and we had an awesome playlist. And then it just becomes fun, which is what it should be, instead of gritting your teeth and trying to get through it and praying it will be over soon.”  Hall related the story of the first time she, Evans, and Heathcoate were nervously preparing to film a love scene; without telling them in advance, Robinson blasted Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” right after the cameras started rolling. “And then we all started laughing hysterically, and that set the tone for the rest of it,” said Hall.

The creator of Wonder Woman also had a fondness for ropes — not just as an allegory for the lie detector test he invented (Wonder Woman’s “lasso of truth”), or as a symbol of women being held back by the patriarchy, but as an accessory in his love life. The BDSM scenes in Wonder Women, as the cast told Yahoo Entertainment, required a little bit of special training. Robinson sought out female dominatrixes to give the actors rope-tying lessons and teach them the philosophy of the subculture. “It was quite a day. I have the scars to prove it,” quipped Evans. The best student in the class, by consensus, was Heathcoate. “It just came naturally to me,” she joked.

For more from the cast and director, including Robinson’s thoughts on superhero films, how the movie’s all-important lie detector prop kept malfunctioning, and how Hall discovered her character’s accent on Facebook, watch the full Build NYC interview above.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women opens in theaters Oct. 13.

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