Capturing Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s fiery spirit and elegance
Actress Felicity Jones on wanting to see the US Supreme Court Justice get mad
To portray the iconic liberal legend, US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Felicity Jones met her before starting work on the new biopic On The Basis Of Sex.
At our interview at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills, the 35-year-old English actress said of the meeting: "We spoke intimately. It is amazing how she has such passion for the law. When she speaks, she speaks with her heart, and that is how she has been able to achieve what she has achieved. It comes from a deep-rooted humanity and care, and that was what I felt when I met her.
"There were so many details, and I didn't want to forget anything, so I remember going, 'Um, Ruth, do you mind if I just take a few pictures?'"
Last November, 85-year-old Ginsburg - the second female justice (retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was the first) of four to be confirmed to the court - suffered a fall and was hospitalised for broken ribs when the doctors found cancer in her lungs.
Fortunately, Justice Ginsburg successfully went through surgery last month to remove the cancer and got back to work as soon as she was discharged.
But on Monday, she made news for missing arguments for the first time in more than two decades as she continues to recuperate at home.
Following the surgery, she had cast the crucial decisive vote against President Donald Trump's proposed immigrant asylum restrictions from her hospital bed in a 5-4 decision.
No surprise that she is affectionately dubbed Notorious RBG (after the US rapper Notorious B.I.G.) for her resilience, not only in beating previous bouts of cancer and health scares, but for being in the vanguard fighting for women's rights since she started her career in the 50s.
All the highlights of her life are set out in On The Basis Of Sex, which opens here tomorrow and is written by her nephew Daniel Stiepleman with her endorsement.
As one of the first women to attend Harvard Law School, she struggled to find a job in a law firm despite being first in her class because she was a woman and had to settle for academia.
We see her family life with lawyer-husband Martin Ginsburg (Armie Hammer) and their two children, and the landmark 1972 case of sex discrimination that she won, which paved the way for significant legislation for women's rights.
We also see her appointment by former president Bill Clinton to the Supreme Court in 1993. Justice Ginsburg appears in a cameo in the movie, which is directed by Mimi Leder (Deep Impact, Pay It Forward).
Jones - whose last role was also of a strong woman, Jyn Erso in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - reminds us what it was like to be a woman in that decade.
"You were not a human being in your own right. It was a patriarchal hangover that you didn't have anything in your name, that your existence counted only in relation to a man. It is shocking that that was the case even in the 70s," she said.
Jones was clear she did not want to do an impersonation of Justice Ginsburg.
"When I was starting off playing her, I had a strong image of someone who doesn't conform to the status quo. She does things on her own terms, so there is a really fiery spirit.
"I wanted to see her getting angry. I wanted to see the moments when it doesn't all go right. It was about showing all those different moments along the way that she is this fully rounded human being.
"She is like that now, but she didn't come out the womb like that. There is a whole person who has developed over time, so it was about showing that development."
However, there were physical changes that had to be made, like getting her teeth capped because of the shape of Ginsburg's mouth.
"I have British 'non-teeth'," she said with a laugh.
"I wanted to have her beautiful American teeth. And then we used hair pieces and contouring, I wore blue-grey contact lenses to change the colour of my eyes to be more like hers.
"I looked at footage of the way she carried herself. She has great elegance. She has a 50s movie star quality that you'd notice. So it was adapting my physique to be like hers and then looking at hundreds of pictures of how she had shifted from the 50s."
Justice Ginsburg is known for the lace jabots she wears with her judicial robes and her fondness for statement necklaces.
And then there are the iconic lace gloves that she is frequently photographed with.
Jones said: "We were desperate to get those in, and we did in one scene. It was very much an homage to her."
She compared her marriage to director Charles Guard to the very modern Ginsburg union, where they shared all household chores and the responsibility of child-rearing equally.
Jones said: "At that time, that was unheard of, that the man would be the cook, that he would take on the greater share of the household duties. It didn't threaten his ego, he wasn't in competition with Ruth.
"My relationship is similar to Ruth and Marty's. I am absolutely hopeless in the kitchen. I am not the best cook. My husband is excellent and he does the lion's share of that. I wouldn't fall in love with him if that wasn't the case."
The writer is the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a non-profit organisation of entertainment journalists that also organises the annual Golden Globe Awards.