Daniel Stiepleman didn’t have a tough time arguing the case to his famous aunt to let him write a movie about her.
“In fairness to her, I had never gotten a movie made. This was my first screenplay, so I’m not really sure she believed I would get a movie made,” Stiepleman said of his aunt, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, when he pitched her the idea for a biopic. “What she actually said, ‘If that’s how you think you want to spend your time…'” he recalled, laughing.
Stiepleman did of course get the movie made. On the Basis of Sex, directed by Mimi Leder, follows a young RBG (Felicity Jones) through Harvard Law School (which both she and her husband, Marty, played by Armie Hammer, attended) and up until her first major case, a 1972 sexual discrimination case — against a man — that she believed would open the floodgates to contest all the inequality women faced legally at the time. (Spoiler alert: She was right.)
“I always knew it was this case, this was the story I wanted to tell. Her reaction was, ‘Why this case?’ She’s like, ‘I argued bigger cases. I argued cases in the Supreme Court. I argued landmark cases,'” Stiepleman recalled. “And I said, ‘Yeah, but this is the only one you ever argued with Uncle Martin.’ Because for me, this was always the story of a marriage, it was them fighting in court for what they had also found at home, which was real equality.”
The screenwriter believes they found the perfect RBG in Jones, the Theory of Everything Oscar nominee and star of Rogue One.
“Ruth has a very particular alchemy for her personality, that you really get to see when you see her in private moments with people who she loves and trusts. Because on one hand, she’s that tough, steely, precise woman that we all know. But under all that is just this joy and this humor and this optimism. And I can’t think of anybody who would’ve brought that together the way Felicity did.”
RBG agreed. “When the lights came up and Ruth saw the movie for the first time, she looked at me and said, ‘I’m so glad it’s Felicity,'” Stiepleman recalled.
On the Basis of Sex opens in select cities Christmas Day. Watch Felicity Jones talk about the role:
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