Wonder Woman is one of our most beloved superheroes and – especially after the 2017 smash hit film – very much at the forefront of pop culture. But while we may know the origin story of Princess Diana of Themyscira, most are not familiar with the origins of the Wonder Woman comics. That’s where Professor Marston and the Wonder Women comes in.
This biographic drama is based on the true superhero origin story depicting the creation of the beloved comic book character ‘Wonder Woman’ in 1941 by Dr. William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans), the Harvard psychologist who helped invent the modern lie detector test. Marston’s polyamorous relationship with wife Elizabeth Holloway (Rebecca Hall) and their lover, Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote) was key to the creation of Wonder Woman – their feminist ideals were ingrained in the character from her inception.
Written and directed by Angela Robinson (True Blood), Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is the remarkable true story of “the women behind the man behind the woman.” It is a compelling story that is gorgeously shot and will enrich your experience of Wonder Woman.
The film also boasts some truly beautiful costumes, which took center stage last week when we attended the Professor Marston and the Wonder Women Costume Exhibit and Conversation with Writer-Director Angela Robinson and Costume Designer Donna Maloney in Los Angeles.
Marston’s development of the DISC theory of psychology – and his later revelations about the parallels of BDSM and burlesque to this theory – form an important part of this film and the origins of Wonder Woman. So it was especially apropos that this event took place in a vintage lingerie store, What Katie Did.
The venue was so fun and formed the perfect backdrop for the costume exhibition. (We even got to leave with our own corset, which is a fabulous party favor if you ask me.) In addition to the burlesque outfit with clear ties to Wonder Woman’s most iconic look – which plays a very important part in the film – we got to see several of the other stunning period outfits Maloney created for the movie.
Maloney and Robinson spoke of creating this iconic costume in an in-depth conversation about all things Professor Marston.
The scene in question is truly the centerpiece of the film, so the Wonder Woman-esque costume had to be perfect. “I always had the idea that it should be leather,” Donna explained. “I initially was going to do a top and high shorts. I had it made and I put it on Bella for the screen test, and it just didn’t work.”
So what happened next? “My costume supervisor found a woman named April McCoy who made costumes for the ballet in Boston,” she said. “If I could begin to tell you the underpinnings of that piece, where there’s like a band here that holds her in, and then there’s a lot of spandex… Things that would hold the form and hold Bella [Heathcote] in that form. I must have had four or five fittings. Initially the leather was sort of a bright silver. We had so many meetings.”
Maloney had the leather painted and found the winged metal accents on the breast at the last minute “in the bottom of the bin,” adding them to finish the look in a way reminiscent of the eagle wing accents on Wonder Woman’s outfit. The final look is stunning, especially in the film when the red and blue lights hit it.
Robinson’s discussion of the origins of this project were also fascinating. While it would be easy to allow Marston – who created the lie detector test and Wonder Woman – dominate the story, both Elizabeth and Olive have so much visibility and power in this movie. As it turns out, this was just as much of a surprise to Angela as it may be to viewers.
“I actually set out thinking this was a story about a guy who had a wife and a mistress, then got into bondage and created Wonder Woman,” she said. “I set out starting to write a biopic, and then I came across this crazy detail – which is that Marston died in 1947, but Olive and Elizabeth stayed together for 38 years after that, until they both died. Elizabeth lived to be 100 years old. I was like, What? Why would a wife and mistress – I don’t care who you are – stay together after the dude dies?”
This revelation turned out to be the key to the story. “I started doing more research [and found that] Elizabeth named her only daughter after Olive. It kind of exists pre- our contemporary notions of identity, but I was like, Oh, it’s a love story between all three of them,” Robinson said.
For more amazing insights into this story, don’t miss the Blu-ray and Digital versions of Professor Marston. They include revealing bonus material including deleted scenes, two behind-the-scenes featurettes (one with Robinson and one with stars Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall, and Bella Heathcote), and a special motion comic revealing “The Surprising Secret Identity of Charles Moulton,” a.k.a. Marston.
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is available now on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital.
Featured Image by Claire Folger / Annapurna Pictures