U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has evolved into a role model, even an icon, to many Americans. This year, she has been honored with the documentary “RBG” and a new fiction film, “On the Basis of Sex.”
While the documentary covers her life story, “On the Basis of Sex” — written by her nephew Daniel Stiepleman and opening Christmas Day — is about a precedent-setting sex discrimination case.
“Part of the reason I felt I had to write this movie is that she’s not a superhero. She’s a person. If we prop her up as a superhero, it means that we can’t do what she’s done,” says Stiepleman, who visited The City to promote the movie with Armie Hammer, who portrays Ginsburg’s husband Marty.
Hammer and Felicity Jones, who plays Ruth, were invited into the private chambers of the Supreme Court to spend a little time with RBG.
“Felicity says that Ruth couldn’t take her eyes off of Armie,” Stiepleman laughs.
Hammer, smiling, says, “One thing I learned being with her is that, when they’re in session, the justices eat lunch together every single day. It’s this wonderful time to remember that ‘We’re just people, doing our job. We’re going to enjoy a meal together and then after that, we’re going to go back to arguing.’”
The real Marty Ginsburg, who died in 2010, was a fine cook who prepared all the family meals. One of his specialties was cooking boar that Justice Antonin Scalia killled on annual hunting trips.
Hammer, who also loves to cook, was given a book of Marty’s recipes. The boar recipe, he says, concludes with: “And then throw away the meat and drink the juice.”
To prepare for playing Marty, Hammer made a practice feast of Marty’s dishes for the cast and crew, spending two days prepping and cooking.
He admits that he called upon his sister-in-law, a professional chef, to refine his knifework for the movie.
But Hammer further explores Marty’s courage and self-confidence as a partner to such a powerful woman.
“There was such a sense of pride that I feel that Marty had for Ruth,” he says. “He makes us all look bad. That was the strength, I feel, that Marty possessed. He wasn’t the domineering one in a relationship. He exercised his strength by saying ‘I’m willing to go up against 300,000 years of homo-sapien history.’”
According to Stiepleman, the real Ginsburg has seen the movie a few times and says she loves it more and more each time.
“We did a friends-and-family screening in New York, and my mom told me that the moment Armie came onscreen, she and my mom held hands for the rest of the movie,” he says.
Ginsburg also reportedly loves Jones’ portrayal. “There’s such a particular alchemy to Ruth,” says Stiepleman. “She’s so smart and deliberate and intense, but she’s also joyous and full of optimism. That’s such a hard thing to capture, and I think Felicity captured it perfectly.”
Of course, the real Ginsburg makes a small appearance in the movie as well.
“(Director) Mimi Leder gets all the credit,” says Stiepleman. “She called me and asked, do you think your aunt will do this? I said, ‘If you shoot it, you better put it in, because I don’t want to be the one to tell her that she’s been cut out of her own movie.’”
IF YOU GO
On the Basis of Sex
Starring: Felicity Jones, Armie Hammer, Justin Theroux, Sam Waterston, Kathy Bates
Written by: Daniel Stiepleman
Directed by: Mimi Leder
Running time: 2 hours