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On the surface, Kristen Wiig might seem like an out-of-left-field pick to join a blockbuster comic book film, and as the villain no less. The actress is best known for her comedic work on Saturday Night Live and in movies like MacGruber and Bridesmaids, not action movies. But she is joining the comic book movie realm in a big way as Barbara Minerva, a.k.a. Cheetah, in next year’s Wonder Woman 1984. Director Patty Jenkins explained why she cast Kristen Wiig as Cheetah in Wonder Woman 1984, saying:
We were super fans of Kristen, and we love how funny she is, but also I've been a huge admirer of what a great actress she is for a long time. So when we needed someone to go all the way from one end of the spectrum of being funny, sweet Diana's friend, all the way to a totally different place, we knew that Kristen Wiig would kill it, and she went beyond our wildest dreams.
When casting for a specific part, you’re naturally thinking about who would be right for the role and how they could pull it off. As Patty Jenkins told the crowd at CCXP in advance of the Wonder Woman 1984 trailer premiere, she was already a fan of Kristen Wiig well before Wonder Woman 1984 came along, not just because of her comedic chops, but also because she believed her to be a legitimately great actress. Wonder Woman 1984 presented an opportunity to employ Kristen Wiig’s acting talents.
The Wonder Woman director wanted someone who had the range to play both ends of the spectrum as a character who undergoes a significant transformation. The actress had to be able to play both Barbara Minerva and Cheetah. As a fan of Kristen Wiig, Patty Jenkins knew she could handle it. So although Kristen Wiig is known as a comedic actress, it is her overall range that made Patty Jenkins cast her as Cheetah in Wonder Woman 1984.
Patty Jenkins had faith that Kristen Wiig would kill it in the role, and it sounds like she was not disappointed, with the actress exceeding her expectations. We get brief glimpses of Kristen Wiig’s character in the recently released first trailer for Wonder Woman 1984. Barbara Minerva, who is seen as Diana’s friend at the beginning of the preview, represents a Kristen Wiig we are largely familiar with. As Barbara, she is funny and sweet and awkward and above all else: harmless.
That will make her transformation into someone who is not Diana’s friend and is anything but harmless all the more stark and very fun to watch. That transformation was held back from the first Wonder Woman 1984 trailer. There is a shot of Kristen Wiig’s character coming into her own in a slinky black dress at some sort of black tie event, but her Cheetah form in Patty Jenkins’ film has not yet been revealed.
The look of Cheetah is one of the things fans are surely eager to see and Patty Jenkins offered an encouraging bit of insight about how they achieved the look of Kristen Wiig’s Cheetah, saying:
We tried to do as much as we could practically, and we pulled off most of it.
Given that Cheetah’s look as a cheetah-human hybrid is akin to Cheetara from Thundercats, you might think that Wonder Woman 1984 would have to lean heavily on CGI to transform Kristen Wiig. Yet while there will be CGI, it sounds like Patty Jenkins and her team tried to achieve as much as they could for Cheetah using practical effects.
Having not seen the end result, it’s obviously too early to say how well they succeeded, but generally speaking, it seems like CGI works best when used to augment and enhance versus as a crutch. Think of DC’s misstep with Green Lantern’s all CGI suit for Hal Jordan. If the practical effects got Cheetah’s look 75% of the way there and CGI carried it the rest of the way, we are hopefully in for a Cheetah that looks great onscreen with an actress that can really deliver on the character.
Wonder Woman 1984 hits theaters on June 5, 2020. Check out our 2020 Release Schedule to see what other movies you can look forward to next year.