The biopic, On the Basis of Sex, also bulks up its cast with some key players. But one woman is spearheading the entire operation.
In July, it was announced that Felicity Jones (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) would replace Natalie Portman to play Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in an upcoming biopic titled On the Basis of Sex. EW now offers both an official first-look photo of Jones’ transformation into the formidable activist as well as updates on several casting choices filling the roles of various people in Ginsburg’s life and career.
On the Basis of Sex will follow Ginsburg’s early years as a young lawyer fighting for gender equality and women’s rights. The film will especially focus on a milestone gender discrimination case brought before the Supreme Court.
Playing historical figures isn’t a new thing for Jones. She played Nelly Ternan, mistress of Charles Dickens, in the Ralph Fiennes-directed drama, The Invisible Woman. Jones’ turn as Jane Hawking in The Theory of Everything went on to earn her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.
Could playing Ginsburg mean more nominations for Jones down the line? It’s certainly a question worth entertaining. Jones was up against some serious competition at the Oscars that year, but she was one of the best parts about The Theory of Everything. Her capacity for empathy and unwavering chemistry with co-star Eddie Redmayne was a hit among critics, even those who didn’t necessarily favor the film as a whole. Indiewire wrote: “her role as Jane marks the pinnacle of her abilities for the subtle means she conveys her affection for Hawking even as the couple face insurmountable events that challenge their future.”
Of course, portraying Ginsburg seems like an entirely different beast altogether. While Jones has always managed to bring quiet strength and dignity to her roles even when playing women in the periphery, she will be at the forefront of this particular story. That being said, we have nothing to worry about either, as Jones has effectively led an entire Star Wars movie just last year. Jyn Erso is a heroine for the masses, and although she meets a dire fate, her legacy remains one of hope for a better future. Getting to walk in Ginsburg’s shoes is a much more complementary role than one would imagine, and a worthy follow-up to leading a franchise (and overall having a pretty big year in 2016). Ginsburg herself has been transformed into a popular culture icon over the years too. Jyn Erso has an action figure, Ginsburg has plenty of Notorious R.B.G. t-shirts.
Memes aside, there are concrete, vital reasons to bring Ginsburg’s life to the big screen. In a statement, director Mimi Leder details just that fact:
“Our story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg resonates with me on so many levels — from the inspiring partnership she found in her marriage, to overcoming adversity as a woman and discovering the strength of her own voice, to her empathetic commitment to those in need of a voice no matter their gender, race, status, or religious beliefs. In these tumultuous times, stories like this speak to the heart of humanity and remind us what it means to lead with love and compassion as the way forward.”
Jones has a lot on her plate with such an influential role, but will at least have some fantastic talent backing her up. Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name) will be playing Ginsburg’s husband and legal partner. Further casting includes Justin Theroux (The Leftovers), Kathy Bates (American Horror Story), Sam Waterston (Grace and Frankie), Jack Reynor (Detroit), Stephen Root (Get Out), and Cailee Spaeny (Pacific Rim: Uprising). According to Variety, Theroux will be playing Melvin Wulf, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. Bates will tackle the role of attorney and activist Dorothy Kenyon. Finally, Waterston will portray Erwin Griswold, who served as Solicitor General of the United States under Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. Working from Daniel Stiepleman’s script (which made the 2014 Black List), production is currently ongoing in Montreal with a goal to premiere the film in 2018.