Joss Whedon couldn’t do it. Neither could David E. Kelley. In fact, no one has been able to bring the Amazonian Princess to life since the Lynda Carter series from the 70s. So imagine the shock on the faces of the Warner Brothers executives as they watch this fantastic fan-made Wonder Woman short from Rainfall Films, and wonder why they can’t make something this cool.
Heather Green designed the costume.
Starring Rileah Vanderbilt (Team Unicorn and Saber 2 on the Nerdist Channel) as Diana of Themyscira (that’s Wonder Woman to you), the super-short teaser cuts between a modern city where Diana faces off against a group of nameless SWAT guys and the top of Mount Olympus in Themyscira, where she is joined by several other Amazonians (Clare Grant, Alicia Marie, America Young, Kimi Hughes, Christy Hauptman) as they’re confronted by an army of mountain-sized minotaurs. The flawlessly designed costume comes from costumer Heather Green, who collaborated with director Sam Balcomb to deliver an iconic and original take on the famous threads.
Director Sam Balcomb has posted a short statement on the teaser’s YouTube page:
Firstly, thanks for watching. Whether you like, or dislike, our live action interpretation of Diana of Themyscira, Wonder Woman, born of clay, I think (quite a few of) you will agree she is a character just as vital and crucial to our understanding of humanity as any other superhero… if not more so.
We spent the majority of 2013 working on this — the look, the feel, the aspects we most wanted to portray. It’s a scant two and half minutes, but in the end, it’s one hundred and fifty seconds of pure fantasy, where I get to consider the two sides of my favorite warrior: a crusader in man’s world, and a paragon of virtue told through Greek mythology.
It’s a fun world to hang out in. I hope you enjoy it.
We spoke to Rileah this afternoon to capture her reaction to the positive response the video has received, as well as to learn a little more about the origins of the project…
NERDIST: That video is awesome!
RILEAH VANDERBILT: Thank you so much. It’s so weird, because it is still so surreal to me that I’m Wonder Woman.
N: Yeah, dude, you ARE Wonder Woman!
RV: I mean, it’s weird, because when I watch it, I just don’t even see myself. It’s funny to say, but I watch it as a fan and I’m like, “Yeah… that’s exactly what Wonder Woman should be.” But then I’m like, “Oh, wait, that’s you in the costume!”
N: How did you get involved with Rainfall? Take us through the origins of the project.
RV: Sam (the director) has been doing fan films for a while. They try to do one every year — they have a Legend of Zelda one and they did some of the visual effects for the Truth and Journalism short film, so they have a history of fan films. But the way I got involved is that Sam’s wife recommended me for Wonder Woman. They were trying to get it cast and it just wasn’t happening, and then she suggested me to Sam. The funny thing is that Joe Lynch, who did Truth and Journalism is really good friends with my husband (director Adam Green), so when he heard from Sam that I got the role, he was, like, “oh, yeah it’s Adam Green’s wife.”
N: This was prior to seeing you in the Wonder Woman costume at San Diego Comic-Con this year?
RV: yeah. This was way before like March or April, that costume from Comic-Con was the one in this film. That was sort of like our coming out party.
N: So when did you first discover Wonder Woman, as a fan?
RV: I was a little girl. There weren’t that many female superheroes when i was a little kid. I was young at the time, so it wasn’t like I was watching Ellen Ripley in Alien. I only had certain heroes to look up to and most of them, to be honest, were male. You know or like male action stars like Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones or Han Solo. So other than Princess Leia, Wonder Woman was the only female I could look up to. I remember the first time I saw her in a JLA comic and I was, like, “Whoa, this chick is legit.”
N: Did you see the Linda Carter version of the character or were you introduced mostly through comic appearances?
RV: Comics. And I never read a Wonder Woman comic; It was always through Justice League or other guest appearances when I was a kid.
N: Once you got the part, what was the rest of the process like? You do a lot of cosplay, so did you have a hand in the design of the costume?
RV: First thing I said was, we can’t shoot this right away because I have to put on some muscle. I needed like ten weeks at least to try and be more physically like her. I mean I’m a pretty fit person, but she has a weight to her that I wanted to at least try to copy. Then we worked with this amazing costume designer named Heather Green, she did work on Tron and Pirate of the Carribeen, and Sam wanted to bring her in on this. This was a total labor of love for her, this was an opportunity for the most part to get the costume right. I think that the costume, as much as Wonder Woman is an icon, I think the costume itself is an icon as well.
RV: And you can’t really have one without the other. So if you have the right actress but the wrong costume it doesn’t work, and vice versa. So we did a pretty extensive fitting process for that, and Sam, I believe, came up with most of the initial sketches. He really had in his mind exactly what he wanted as far as the costume was concerned. We went through the internet and found stuff we liked and didn’t like, and then he put together this really awesome design. I think he wanted something that was different in Themyscira than in our world, which we achieved with just a couple different pieces of wardrobe. Of course this is all up to people’s interpretation, because I’m sure there will be some who disagree, but as a big fan of Wonder Woman, I think he did a good job.
N: A great job. Anyone who doesn’t like the costume is insane… it IS Wonder Woman. Especially compared to the most recent Hollywood version for the failed David E. Kelley pilot worn by Adrianne Palicki, this version truly captures the character.
RV: Ugh. That costume felt like such a “fuck you” to all the fans that really wanted to see that show happen. It was like… they didn’t even try.
N: That’s what makes this video work so well; It was clearly a labor of love and not a quick attempt to cash in on the brand.
RV: Agreed. It was really funny, because I remember going into the final fitting before we shot, and at that point I hadn’t had the full costume on, hair and makeup and everything. I had had pieces but not the whole thing. I remember putting it on and looking at myself in the mirror and I started to tear up a little bit. It was so crazy because I was such a fan, and to see myself in such a great costume… it was a really emotional moment for me. I don’t even think I teared up like that when I found my wedding dress. (Laughs)
N: Poor Adam…
N: Now the pre-production is finished and you move into shooting…
RV: Everything was shot on green screen.
N: What about the stunt work? It looked like it was primarily you. Did you have a double?
RV: No, it was all me! I did all my own stunts, which was so much fun. There was actually more fighting than you see in the short, so the day before they spent a couple hours with me teaching me the choreography.
N: As a cosplayer who makes a lot of her own costumes, is it hard making the transition back to homemade outfits after wearing something tailor-made and incredibly detailed?
RV: Yeah. Wow. That’s a good question, I mean I haven’t actually been in a costume since, but I’m sure I’ll go back to some of the other stuff I wear and just not feel as amazing as I did in that. I mean the scale-mail was real leather. The whole costume smelled like real leather. it was made for me, like custom to my body. Sometimes I want to put it back on. I remember after cosplaying at Comic-Con that day, I couldn’t breathe and my ribs were bruised but I really didn’t want to take it off. I wanted to stay in it forever.
N: You could just be Wonder Woman.
RV: Exactly. I mean, who knows, hopefully I get to wear it again, maybe in a longer version of this.
N: That would be welcome, because this shows that visually you guys can nail it; It would be interesting to see the same treatment for the story. There have been so many failed attempts. What do you think is missing?
RV: I think what’s really important is her origins and mythology. I think the Thor movie really towed the line between fantastical and our everyday world perfectly. I think you need to do the same with a Wonder Woman movie. Also you can’t make it cheesy. You can also do a serious Wonder Woman story without making her a bitch. It needs to be character driven, and not over sexed-up. It’s a fine line to find the right person for the role, and I’m not sure why that is, because there are so many strong, beautiful actresses that would fit the part.
N: Yeah, like you!
RV: I mean that would be great, but I think the whole point of this short was to show people what could be done with the character. That’s what Sam set out to do. Obviously all of us hope this goes on to be something huge and we’re all involved, but that might not happen, and it’s okay because we already got what we wanted, which was to see everyone so positive about the direction that we’re going in. And so far the reaction has been so overwhelming. It’s really nice. So far our biggest complaint has been that it’s not long enough .
N: Well that’s a great problem to have.
RV: Hey… you gotta leave people wanting more.
And they certainly have… but that’s just our opinion. What do you think of the short? Post comments below or hit me up on Twitter and tell me your thoughts!