CASE IN POINT

Trans­form­ing into US Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Gins­burg for her lat­est role, Bri­tish ac­tress Felic­ity Jones is fight­ing to let her work speak for it­self.

VOGUE Australia - - CONTENTS - By Danielle Gay.

Bri­tish ac­tress Felic­ity Jones trans­formed into US Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Gins­burg for her lat­est role.

Felic­ity Jones has spent the bet­ter part of the last year per­fect­ing a Brook­lyn ac­cent, but when she an­swers the phone it is with a crisp English lilt. It’s a Fri­day night in Los An­ge­les and Jones is dis­cussing her lat­est film, On The Ba­sis of Sex, for which she steps into the shoes of US Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Gins­burg. The film passed its high­est test be­fore the press tour even be­gan. “I heard that she’s been telling every­one that there’s a movie about her and to go see it,” Jones re­counts of Gins­burg’s re­ac­tion to the film. “Which is great: she’s on the front line of mar­ket­ing!”

The front line is ex­actly where Ruth Bader Gins­burg has been for most of her life. In her ear­lier years, the Brook­lyn­born lawyer rose to promi­nence for choos­ing cases that would chal­lenge gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion in the courts, inch­ing the bar for­ward to­wards equal­ity while fight­ing for women’s rights, case by case. Now, at 85, she still serves as a Supreme Court jus­tice, but she has also be­come a fully fledged fem­i­nist icon, earn­ing the nick­name ‘the No­to­ri­ous R.B.G’ for her trade­mark dis­sents. “She’s a rebel, she doesn’t con­form to ideas that she doesn’t be­lieve in,” ex­plains Jones. “There’s a true punk in her.”

Jones, who lives in Lon­don, spent three months re­search­ing Gins­burg for the film, which was writ­ten by Daniel Stieple­man (Gins­burg’s nephew). Jones says it is as much a love story as it is any­thing else – it fol­lows the tale of Gins­burg tack­ling her very first gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion case in 1971, which she does along­side the un­wa­ver­ing sup­port of her hus­band, Martin D Gins­burg. “I lis­tened to all of Ruth’s cases to see her de­vel­op­ment as a lawyer and how she gained her con­fi­dence,” Jones re­calls. “It’s al­most like sud­denly ev­ery­thing comes to­gether in the 70s – so­cial change is hap­pen­ing [and] that al­lows her to do the work that she’s do­ing. With that, she works out what her thing is and she works out her vibe. So that’s what we wanted to show.”

To be­come Gins­burg, Jones wore grey con­tact lenses over her green eyes, capped her teeth and care­fully prac­tised the jus­tice’s slow and de­lib­er­ate gait. Then there was the ac­cent. “She has a beau­ti­ful voice, she has real power in it, but she’s very, very care­fully spo­ken. The voice gave me lots of clues about the times as well, when hav­ing a re­gional ac­cent was not ex­pected, was not al­lowed al­most. What’s amaz­ing in those record­ings is when she’s re­ally em­bold­ened, her Brook­lyn ac­cent spins out and is un­mis­tak­able.” Jones had to learn to per­form the ac­cent of some­one who was her­self per­form­ing an ac­cent. “It is about be­com­ing an­other per­son and it’s about mak­ing those phys­i­cal and vo­cal changes so I could be as much like Ruth as pos­si­ble.”

It’s this care­ful ap­proach to her work that has se­cured English-born Jones her place in Hol­ly­wood. Jones says her love of act­ing was in­stilled in her by her mother and grand­mother, who were “huge cinephiles”. The 35-year-old has starred in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and The The­ory of Ev­ery­thing, the lat­ter of which se­cured Jones an Os­car nom­i­na­tion. Next, she will play a lead role in The Aero­nauts, a hot-air bal­loon ad­ven­ture film that will see her re­unite with her The­ory of Ev­ery­thing co-star Ed­die Red­mayne.

And yet, un­like other Hol­ly­wood ac­tresses, Jones has man­aged to keep her per­sonal life, well, per­sonal. Even de­tails of her wed­ding last year to di­rec­tor Charles Guard are scarce, although she has con­firmed she wore Er­dem for her big day. “I feel like it hap­pened nat­u­rally, just be­cause my pri­vate life isn’t that ex­cit­ing,” Jones says with a laugh. “I’ve man­aged to keep a fo­cus on the work.” In­deed, she care­fully se­lects roles that al­low her to por­tray “some­one who’s got a bit of life”, al­ways aim­ing to let her films speak for her. “I grew up a real tomboy, so I’m not afraid of a bit of a fight,” Jones con­cedes. That’s some­thing she has in com­mon with ‘the No­to­ri­ous R.B.G’. On The Ba­sis of Sex is in cine­mas Fe­bru­ary 7.

“I LIS­TENED TO ALL OF RUTH’S CASES TO SEE HER DE­VEL­OP­MENT AS A LAWYER”

Felic­ity Jones plays Ruth Bader Gins­burg in On The Ba­sis of Sex.

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