WONDER WOMAN EXCLUSIVE: An Interview with Cathy Lee Crosby
Back in 1974, Wonder Woman made her first live action appearance in the TV movie starring tennis star Cathy Lee Crosby in the title role. That film arrives on DVD December 11th, and in this exclusive interview Crosby reflects on it and her role of Wonder Woman.
By 1974, Cathy Lee Crosby had decided she needed a change from her career as a professional tennis player, and looked towards acting. She had scored a role in the Walter Matthau feature film The Laughing Policeman, but then got what she thought was a dream role: that of Wonder Woman in a TV movie/backdoor pilot of the same name released on DVD December 11th.
Says Wikipedia of that film, "The first serious attempt at adapting Wonder Woman to live-action TV starred Cathy Lee Crosby as a blonde Amazon with superhuman agility (à la Captain America) and gadgets, similar to those used by movie super-spy James Bond and secret agent Emma Peel of TV's The Avengers, both of which were still somewhat popular at that time, when the script of this pilot movie was in its early stages of development. Though this version owed much to a brief period in the Wonder Woman comic book, in which the Amazon heroine had lost her powers, it did not stray completely from its comic inspiration. This Princess Diana could communicate with animals; run, leap, and swim faster than normal humans; and was agile enough to deflect bullets from her Amazon bracelets, which, by some unrevealed means, she could trigger to explode. In lieu of the magical, golden lasso in the comics, she kept a golden cable concealed in her belt, which was used as a grappling rope and to ensnare fleeing enemies. While the Wonder Woman comic being published at the time of the pilot's screening featured the heroine with her traditional powers intact, no explanation for the differences between the film and the comic were ever given."
"It was my first real job," reflects Crosby, "so the significance of the project was that I was acting, but then, to have the opportunity to play a character that you grew up with as a little kid was so meaningful to me. At the time I was a professional tennis player and a lot of that, but as a little girl - actually a girl of any age - you couldn't help but love a woman who looks great, who has an invisible plane and some amazing bracelets. What a great fantasy."
She admits that she was a little surprised that she was cast in the role. "I would have thought they would have gone with a brunette," says the blonde Crosby, "but then I realized that the original movie was actually jointly owned by Warner Bros. and ABC. From what I understand, Warner Bros. wanted to do it more James Bond and ABC wanted to do it more comic book. So I guess it went halfway down the middle, because in a lot of ways this Wonder Woman was more like a female James Bond.
"For me," she continues, "it was an interesting opportunity and an amazing character. I think she was capable and she had all of these great tools. she kind of had fun with the whole thing; she could do whatever she needed to do and was completely what you would think of as a superhero. She tried to right wrongs, and who wouldn't love to be able to do that? And then when you're in trouble, you call upon your bracelets or your lasso to pull you through. I loved that concept, and the fact that her enemies would try to stop her in every way that she could and he was able to meet the challenge. I think that's a great image to represent."
Today, Crosby is at work on a number of projects, including the pilot for a reality show from the producers of Extreme Makeover titled Oh Yes You Can; and a feature film she's cowritten and will star in called Kiss of the Butterfly. "It's about a selective mute woman and it's a true story," she explains. "It's extraordinary how she comes to talk again and it's a beautiful story."
For the moment, though, it's the return of her Wonder Woman (released through the Warner Archive Collection) that is the matter at hand, for which she admits to feeling a bit of pride due to the fact that she has become part of the character's legacy. "The more than I have worked on other jobs, other films or whatever it may be," she closes, "the more you begin to see these fans come out of nowhere and they feel that you are a part of this history. It's a wonderful feeling, and not something I expected."
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