Movies

Biopic tells Ruth Bader Ginsburg's story involving landmark case

Seven years ago, a nephew of US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked her to help him with a screenplay that would chronicle one of her early cases seeking equal rights for men and women.

That story, written with extensive input from the trailblazing 85-year-old, will be told in the movie On The Basis Of Sex, opening here on Jan 10 and starring Felicity Jones.

The Oscar-nominated English actress plays a young Ginsburg as she juggles being a new mother and trying to establish a law career in the 1960s and 1970s.

"For some people, she is a divisive person," said screenwriter Daniel Stiepleman.

"For other people, she is a superhero. For me, she is Aunt Ruth. That is the person I wrote (about) on screen with human foibles and problems and opportunities and a home life."

As Stiepleman was writing, Justice Ginsburg - who was recently released from hospital after lung cancer surgery - became a cultural icon nicknamed Notorious R.B.G., inspired by late rapper Notorious B.I.G.

A hero to US liberals, her image is seen on coffee mugs and T-shirts, and she even has her own action figure.

A documentary released last May, RBG, showed the octogenarian in the gym lifting weights, enhancing her status among fans.

On The Basis Of Sex tells the story of a landmark discrimination case that Justice Ginsburg argued with her late tax attorney husband Martin in 1972.

It involved Mr Charles Moritz, a single man who was denied a tax deduction because he was a male caregiver.

Justice Ginsburg and her husband, who died in 2010, successfully argued the denial represented sex-based discrimination.

"This film is part fact, part imaginative," Justice Ginsburg told NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg recently, "but what is wonderful about it is that the imaginative parts fit in with the story so well."

Stiepleman said he focused on the Moritz case because it was the only instance when the Ginsburgs argued in court together, and it coincided with a time when they were navigating their marriage.

Martin, played by US actor Armie Hammer, is shown as a devoted husband who helps with cleaning and cooking, an unusual partnership for the era.

Stiepleman spent several days digging through his aunt's files at the Library of Congress.

In the evenings, he asked her for insight on her marriage, and she reviewed the script's first three drafts.

Asked if Justice Ginsburg, who joined the country's highest court in 1993, would ever retire, Stiepleman said he "dare not speculate".

But he added: "You cannot underestimate the degree to which she reveres the court.

"I can't imagine why she would ever want to stop being a part of that." - REUTERS

Movies