In exciting news for fans of old Hollywood glamour and/or primitive wi-fi technology (yes, we’re vastly oversimplifying it, we know), this afternoon Showtime announced that Wonder Woman herself, Gal Gadot, is “near a deal” to star in and executive produce a series for the premium cable network based on the life of Austrian-born actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr, who in 1942 patented a frequency-hopping system designed to aid the Allies in World War II that was later incorporated into Bluetooth and early wi-fi technology.
A documentary called Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story premiered last fall and is currently on Netflix, so if you want the whole story we suggest checking that out. (It’s not a great documentary, but it gets the job done.) In short: Born in Vienna, Lamarr first made a name for herself as an actress under her birth name of Hedy Kiesler, where she became notorious for performing one of cinema’s first nude scenes in the 1933 film Ecstasy. She then married a wealthy arms manufacturer, who encouraged Hedy’s interest in science—or, as she modestly called it, “tinkering”—that she first developed as a child. In 1937, unhappy in her marriage and fearful of the gathering cloud of Nazism, she left her husband and fled to London, where she persuaded Louis B. Mayer to sign her to a contract at MGM. He obliged, billing her as “the world’s most beautiful woman.”
She remained popular throughout the 1940s, arguably peaking with Samson And Delilah in 1949, the most popular film of that year. Her film career declined in the 1950s and ‘60s, and by 1981 she had retired to Florida, where she eventually went into seclusion. Meanwhile, in the 1960s, the U.S. Navy—which had initially dismissed Lamar and co-inventor George Anthiel’s invention—adopted their frequency-hopping spread spectrum technology, beginning a series of innovations that eventually led to wi-fi. At the very end of her life, Lamarr’s work as an inventor was acknowledged in scientific communities, but it wasn’t really celebrated until long after her death in 2000.
It’s obvious what the appeal of Lamarr’s story might be to someone like Gadot: She’s the archetypical example of someone whose intelligence was underestimated because of her beauty. Gadot and Lamarr also have some parallels in their lives, given that they’re both Jewish and both actresses who came from another country to work in Hollywood. They both even have aspects of their pasts they’d rather keep quiet: Lamarr’s first husband, though half-Jewish himself, did business with fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, and Gadot’s service in the Israel Defense Force during the 2006 war with Lebanon resulted in Wonder Woman being banned in that country. (To be fair, Hedy left him in disgust and strongly supported the Allies in WWII, and Gal’s service, like that of all young, Jewish Israelis, was compulsory.)
Showtime also seems enthusiastic about the possibility of a series, written by The Affair co-creator Sarah Treem. At today’s TCAs presentation, Showtime programming president Gary Levine said, “if Hedy Lamarr and Gal Gadot and Sarah Treem come together on Showtime, we would be very happy about it.” In fact, the only person pissed about this news is, presumably Diane Kruger, who bought the rights to the book Hedy’s Folly: The Life And Breakthrough Inventions Of Hedy Lamarr, The Most Beautiful Woman In The World last fall with the intent of developing a TV miniseries with herself in the starring role. Google, which dedicated one of its signature doodles to Lamarr on what would have been her 101st birthday in 2015, was involved with that one. But hey, if we can have multiple Robin Hoods, why not multiple Hedys?