Mimi Leder Discusses ‘On The Basis Of Sex,’ Apple Morning Show Drama & The Long Road Toward True Gender Parity

Read on: Deadline.

While Ruth Bader Ginsburg origin story On the Basis of Sex is Mimi Leder’s first feature in 18 years, it isn’t a return. In the mind of the director, who was making groundbreaking television long before it was in vogue, she never really left. When she …

Yes, ‘On the Basis of Sex’ Screenwriter Wrote Those Love Scenes About His Aunt Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

A version of this article about Daniel Stiepleman and “On the Basis of Sex” first appeared in the Actors/Directors/Screenwriters issue of TheWrap’s Oscar magazine.

If most screenwriters told their aunts that they wanted to make a movie about them, the response would probably be, “Why me?” But Daniel Stiepleman’s aunt happens to be one of the most celebrated women of our era, pioneering lawyer and current Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who’s already been the subject of a hit documentary, “RBG,” earlier this year.

So when Stiepleman told Ginsburg about his movie idea, her big question wasn’t why he wanted to do it, but why he wanted to center the film on the 1972 Moritz v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue case, in which she and her husband, Martin Ginsburg, set a precedent that helped overturn sex discrimination.

“She said, ‘Why that case?’” Stiepleman said. “She said, ‘I argued bigger cases, I argued cases in front of the Supreme Court.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, but this is the only one you ever argued with Uncle Mark.’ And to me, that was the crucial angle — figuring out how they lived at home what they were fighting for in court. It was important for people to know that the political and the personal were intertwined.”

Also Read: ‘On the Basis of Sex’ Film Review: RBG Biopic Celebrates the Political and the Personal

Stiepleman didn’t know about the case until he heard about it in a eulogy at his uncle’s 2010 funeral. “I immediately thought, ‘Wow, this would be an incredible movie,’” he said. “And my second thought was, ‘What kind of asshole am I? I’m sitting here at my uncle’s funeral — I can’t mine his life for material.’”

But Stiepleman was so taken by the story of that case, and of a marriage in which he said his aunt and uncle “were real equals,” that he overcame his qualms and got Ginsburg’s permission to delve into her files at the Library of Congress to research the case and her life at the time. “I’d look at her lecture notes and the drafts of her briefs and her letters to other lawyers, and then at night we’d eat dinner and drink wine and talk about her marriage,” he said.

“On the Basis of Sex” follows Ginsburg as a young mother struggling to be taken seriously at Harvard Law School, then struggling to be hired by any law firm while Martin (played by Armie Hammer) enjoys a flourishing career. But her directive to Stiepleman, he said, was not to overstate her importance in using the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution to strike down institutionalized sex discrimination.

“She said, ‘I don’t want people to think I invented this area of the law,’ as if it had never occurred to people before me that women should be considered people under the Equal Protection Clause. I built my career on the shoulders of a generation of women lawyers who came before me.’”

: ‘On the Basis of Sex’ Star Felicity Jones Says Hollywood Should Embrace Director Mimi Leder’s Patience (Video)

Because the film spends plenty of time on the dynamics of the marriage, it also ventures into areas in which its screenwriter was not entirely comfortable. One of the scenes that Stiepleman found hardest to write shows his aunt and uncle flirting, then adjourning to the bedroom.

“I just wrote, ‘They fall into bed together,’ but [director] Mimi Leder said, ‘I need something to shoot,’” he said. “I went home, poured a drink and called Aunt Ruth.’”

He laughed. “No, that did not happen. That would have been weird. But I thought about the dynamics of their relationship, which was not something I necessarily wanted to think about, and then wrote the scene. I understand that Mimi shot two versions of it, the one that’s in the movie and one that goes a little further. I was not on the set that day, which was not an accident.”

Also Read: Felicity Jones Is Ruth Bader Ginsburg in First Trailer for ‘On the Basis of Sex’ (Video)

With President Trump frequently lashing out at judges whose decisions he doesn’t like, Chief Justice John Roberts recently decried the politicization of the judiciary, saying, “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges.”

But Ginsburg has become an inherently political person (and icon), and Stiepleman knows it. So does he consider “On the Basis of Sex” a political film?

“Here’s what I learned from writing the movie, and from being Ruth’s nephew,” he said. “Ruth is someone who has ideals, and those ideals for some have made her a hero and for others have made her divisive.

“There is a perception of my aunt by some that she wants to tear down the system, but my experience is that she reveres the system, and who agrees with the idea that there should not be Obama judges and Trump judges and Clinton judges.

“What I see, and what the movie explores, is a young woman figuring out how to articulate her beliefs in a way that’s persuasive — she finds the balance between not alienating the male authorities and also being true to herself. Which is inherently political. She’s trying to persuade the people who disagree with her, not destroy them, and I think that’s what we’ve stopped trying to do in his particular political moment.”

Meanwhile, he’s hoping that “On the Basis of Sex” educates people, and maybe even changes a few minds. “At one test screening,” he said, “a man wrote down on his comments card, ‘I never understood why sex discrimination was a big deal until now. Thank you.’

“And I immediately called her up and said, ‘Guess what? We did it!’”

To read more of TheWrap’s Actors/Directors/Screenwriters issue, click here.

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Felicity Jones Isn’t Afraid to Take Risks as She Juggles Diverse Roles

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‘On The Basis Of Sex’ Trailer: Felicity Jones Fights Gender Discrimination In Ruth Bader Ginsburg Biopic

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In the beginning of the new trailer for the Mimi Leder-directed On the Basis of Sex, Felicity Jones is seen as the trailblazing Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her days at Harvard Law School. When a man (Sam Waterston) leading a welcome di…

Notes On The Season: AFI Fest Opens And Ruth Bader Ginsburg Steals Spotlight; Crazy Rich Actors Hit Early Awards Circuit

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A column chronicling conversations and events on the awards circuit.
Welcome to a new Oscar season of Notes on the Season, my weekly column and roundup of various events and interviews from the endless awards circuit. For the next few months, right up …

Oscars: RBG Biopic ‘On the Basis of Sex’ Met With Mixed Reaction, But Zeitgeist Gives It a Boost

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‘On the Basis of Sex’ Film Review: RBG Biopic Celebrates the Political and the Personal

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

How do you make a biopic about one of the greatest living legal and political legends of our lifetime? For one, you don’t. It’s far too great a task to summarize in just two hours the work of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the impact she has had on an entire country and on generations of women. Instead, director Mimi Leder’s “On The Basis of Sex” is an imperfect — at times too formulaic, but still engaging — love letter to women everywhere by giving them a peek at not the Ginsburg the Justice, but Ruth the woman, the mother, and the pioneer.

Ginsburg’s nephew, first-time screenwriter Daniel Stiepleman, uses his insider knowledge not only to feature Ruth’s journey to becoming the woman that pioneered gender equality within the law but also to take us inside the home life of Ruth (Felicity Jones) and Martin Ginsburg (Armie Hammer), where the two are equals in every way.

The film spans a period of 15 years, beginning in 1956, when Ruth is one of the first women to attend Harvard Law School, where her husband Martin also studies. Ruth faces many challenges: Martin’s cancer diagnosis, raising two children, trying to make a career as a lawyer in a sexist culture which let her become an attorney but refuses to let her practice it.

Watch Video: Felicity Jones Is Ruth Bader Ginsburg in First Trailer for ‘On the Basis of Sex’

The story culminates in 1970, when Ruth finds the case of Charles Moritz (Christian Mulkey), who has been denied a caregiver tax deduction because of his gender.The country is in a period of cultural change, and Ruth hopes that by making a case around the gender discrimination of a man, she could end gender discrimination for women as well.

From Ruth’s journey as a Harvard Law student to the attorney who challenged sexist laws, “On the Basis of Sex” reflects on the struggles this ceiling-breaking woman faced in contrast to those her husband didn’t, but it doesn’t dare stomp on their love story as something that was just a sidebar to either achieving success. Neither does it try to win audiences over by the couple’s courtship. We meet both on equal plane — new parents and law students, with individual goals and dreams, yet aspiring to success together.

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Leder and Stiepleman show Ruth pursuing a career with the same passion she gave to being a wife and mother, which is refreshing to see. It’s rare that a film about a strong woman displays her home life in anything but disarray, typically subtly pointing towards her career or other aspirations as to why she fails at being a caring or loving spouse or parent. But “On the Basis of Sex” doesn’t do that. In the Ginsburg home, no one is less than the other, and with the chemistry and likability of Jones and Hammer, it’s very easy to believe this was the case. Together they work as equals, supporting each other professionally as they do personally.

It’s actually Ruth’s relationship with her daughter Jane (Cailee Spaeney, “Bad Times at the El Royale”) to which many women will relate, and it’s the one I found most believable. Mother-daughter relationships are complicated, and Ruth and Jane are no exception. Both are progressive, intelligent and unapologetic in their beliefs about equality, but they are from two different eras. As many modern women know, the feminism of our mothers is not necessarily the feminism we ourselves believe in. It’s a subtle but interesting observation on the evolving views of feminism and gender equality, displayed beautifully between Jones and Spaeney.

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The entire cast is exceptional, with appearances by Kathy Bates as spitfire Dorothy Kenyon; Sam Waterston as the Dean of Harvard Law and, later, Solicitor General Erwin Griswold; and Stephen Root, but it’s Jones who really shines. She effortlessly embodies Ruth Bader Ginsburg with such aplomb that when she locks her steely eyes with the camera, you can feel it in your bones that this woman is about to change the world. Hammer has already proven he can play a great slimeball (“The Social Network,” “Sorry To Bother You”), but here he charm and humility and, in a way, offers a roadmap on how to be an ally to women.

Though the film does play it safe, and falls to a formulaic narrative, the flaws are less within the film itself than in our expectation of what we want it to tell us. These are chaotic times, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg is our real life Princess Leia. She inspires hope and strength and remains one of the few people who challenges the status quo, even today. What “On the Basis of Sex” does is make her human. For some, that may not be enough, but it’s nonetheless a worthwhile and emotional experience meant to inspire generations to come



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‘On the Basis of Sex’ Star Felicity Jones Says Hollywood Should Embrace Director Mimi Leder’s Patience

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Oscar nominee Felicity Jones discussed preparing to play Ruth Bader Ginsburg at TheWrap’s Power Women’s Summit in Los Angeles on Friday. She also showered praise on her director Mimi Leder, who helmed the upcoming biopic, “On the Basis of Sex.”

In the film, which will have its world premiere at AFI Fest next week, Jones plays Ginsburg decades before her appointment to the Supreme Court, back when she was on the rise as a promising young lawyer. Alongside her husband, Marty (Armie Hammer), she takes on what would become a landmark case in the fight against sex discrimination.

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Dr. Stacy Smith, head of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, noted during her discussion with Jones at the Intercontinental hotel in downtown Los Angeles that the actress over-indexes against the industry average when it comes to actors who work with female directors. When asked what she took away from working with Leder, Jones said she has a quality that other directors and Hollywood need to embrace: patience.

“I feel Mimi had an innate understanding of what Ruth went through,” Jones said. “For so much of Mimi’s career, she’s had a balance of bringing up her daughter and having a career… I feel a lot of women have been in situations where they are breast pumping before they go on set have a big action sequence, and she understands the difficulty of that.”

Added Jones: “The film industry needs to adapt for a way of working that allows child care to be part of the system, because then we can forge a way where women can push into leadership roles with that level of support.”

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When asked how she, a British actress, was able to step into the role of an American icon, Jones said she was able to turn her nationality into something that could connect her to Ginsburg rather than separate them, and that the script, written by Ginsburg’s nephew, Daniel Stiepleman, made the process even easier.

“I’m British, and I’m an outsider, and that’s what she felt starting her career as a lawyer. She too was an outsider, so psychologically that was my first root in.”

Jones said she was looking for a script about female ambition and a woman who was focused on her career. “That’s what I loved so much about the script, how verbal she was,” said Jones, adding, “I’ve read so many scripts in the past where I really have to work with directors to make sense of a female character and constantly asking questions.”

“On the Basis of Sex” will be released by Focus Features and opens in theaters on Christmas Day.

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Anita Hill, Barbara Boxer, HAIM, Sherry Lansing, Zoe Saldana, Jill Soloway Lead TheWrap’s Power Women Summit on Nov 1-2 to Achieve 50-50 Gender Equity in Hollywood 

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Anita Hill, Barbara Boxer, Alyssa Milano, Tarana Burke, HAIM, Felicity Jones, Mira Sorvino, Zoe Saldana and Sherry Lansing are among the iconic women leaders gathering on Thursday, Nov.1 and Friday, Nov. 2 at the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Los …

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Anita Hill, Felicity Jones, Alyssa Milano and More Join TheWrap’s Power Women Summit

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WrapWomen is honored to announce that Anita Hill will be joining TheWrap’s inaugural Power Women Summit, to be held November 1 and 2 at the Intercontinental Downtown Los Angeles.

She will be joining a trailblazing lineup of speakers. Academy Award nominee Felicity Jones, star of the upcoming “On the Basis of Sex,” will talk about her much anticipated role as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Alyssa Milano will be joining former U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and filmmaker Nicole Boxer on stage for a live taping of their podcast “Fight Back.”

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Additionally, “Transparent” showrunner Jill Soloway, “Steven Universe” creator Rebecca Sugar, legendary civil rights activist Dolores Huerta and Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad will discuss how they are fighting for equal representation in media, sports and beyond.

Get to know our amazing Summit speakers:

Anita Hill, an American attorney and academic, became a national figure in 1991 when she accused U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. She is currently University Professor of Law, Public Policy and Women’s Studies at Brandeis University and chair of The Hollywood Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality.

Anita Hill has made history speaking out for women. The nation was riveted by her 1991 Senate Judiciary Committee testimony detailing sexual harassment while working for then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. The impact of Hill’s televised testimony has lasting consequences that endure today, galvanizing women to take action and change conversations about equal treatment in the workplace.

Felicity Jones is best known for her Academy Award, BAFTA, SAG and Golden Globe nominated starring role in “The Theory of Everything.” Jones will play Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Focus Features’ “On the Basis of Sex” which will open at AFI Fest.

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Actress and activist Alyssa Milano has been behind the #MeToo movement which sparked a viral movement of women fighting against sexual harassment and assault and she has been involved in TimesUp since its inception. In the wake of the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, Alyssa became one of the founders of NoRA, a coalition dedicated to combating the NRA money in political campaigns so that common sense gun reform can be enacted.

Until the day she left the United States Senate in January 2017, Barbara Boxer has been a forceful advocate for families, children, consumers the environment and her state of California. Boxer served 24 years in the Senate, 10 years in the House, and 6 years on the Marin County Board of Supervisors.

Nicole Boxer is an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker and political influencer. Boxer believes in the unique power of social impact media advocacy as a tool to create positive change in the world. That belief is the central focus behind Boxer’s media portfolio which spans multiple platforms, including TV, film, podcast, and magazine journalism. Currently, Boxer is directing a new feature documentary film, “Barbara Boxer Gives a Damn.”

Jill Soloway is the author of the memoir “She Wants It: Desire, Power and Toppling the Patriarchy.” “Transparent,” Jill’s autobiographical television series, was the winner of eight Emmy awards and two Golden Globes. Jill’s feature film, “Afternoon Delight,” won the 2013 Directing Award at Sundance and their television series, “I Love Dick,” was nominated for a Golden Globe.

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Ground-breaking, creative juggernaut, Rebecca Sugar is an animator, director, screenwriter, producer, and songwriter. She is best known for creating the Emmy-Nominated series, “Steven Universe,” on which she serves as executive producer, head writer, storyboard artist, and songwriter. Rebecca and her work have been praised for its delicate and poignant discussion of LGBTQ+ themes and embrace of diversity.

Dolores Huerta is a civil rights activist and community organizer. She has worked for labor rights and social justice for over 50 years. In 1962, she and Cesar Chavez founded the United Farm Workers union. She served as Vice President and played a critical role in many of the union’s accomplishments for four decades.

Ibtihaj Muhammad, an American sabre fencer, is a 2016 Olympic medalist, 5-time Senior World medalist and World Champion in the sport of fencing. In August 2016, she became the first American woman to compete in the Olympics in hijab and is also the first Muslim woman to win an Olympic medal for the United States.

Join us as we come together at Power Women Summit, November 1 and 2 at the Intercontinental Downtown Los Angeles. Let’s drive the conversation and effect real change, before the midterm elections.

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg Drama ‘On the Basis of Sex’ to Open AFI Fest 2018

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

“On the Basis of Sex,” the drama that tells the story of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, will open the 2018 AFI Fest, the American Film Institute announced Tuesday.

The film will have its world premiere at the festival’s opening night gala that is taking place at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on Nov. 8. AFI Fest will run until Nov. 15.

Felicity Jones stars as Ginsburg, and Armie Hammer, Justin Theroux, Jack Reynor, Cailee Spaeny, Sam Waterston and Kathy Bates also star. Mimi Leder directs while Daniel Stiepleman wrote the screenplay.

See Video: Felicity Jones Is Ruth Bader Ginsburg in First Trailer for ‘On the Basis of Sex’

Robert Cort will produce, while Jeff Skoll and Jonathan King of Participant Media will executive produce.

“AFI was founded to celebrate excellence in the art form and to ensure it for future generations,” said Bob Gazzale, president & CEO of AFI. “‘On the Basis of Sex’ brings these dual mandates together as one — a story essential to our times and a triumph for one of the first female directors at the AFI Conservatory.  It’s our honor to shine a proper light upon Mimi and this landmark film.”

Also Read: Armie Hammer Joins Ruth Bader Ginsburg Biopic ‘On the Basis of Sex’

Leder added, “As one of the first women ever admitted to the AFI Conservatory, it’s particularly meaningful to me that ‘On the Basis of Sex’ will open AFI Fest 2018. My time at the Conservatory was a life-changing experience and informed my creative journey. I am forever grateful. The origin story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in this 25th anniversary year of her appointment to the Supreme Court, couldn’t come at a more important moment in our history nor be shown at a more relevant place than AFI Fest, a symbol of artistic integrity and the enduring power of cinema. I hope girls and young women in particular will see the film and find inspiration to realize their own unlimited potential.”

“On the Basis of Sex” follows the young Ginsburg as she teams up with her husband Marty (Hammer) to bring a groundbreaking case before the U.S. Court of Appeals, hoping to overturn gender discrimination.

The drama will be released on Dec. 25, just in time for Ginsburg’s 25th anniversary on the Supreme Court.

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