Play­ing the no­to­ri­ous RBG

Felic­ity Jones feels great force in Ruth Bader Gins­burg

The Day - - DAYBREAK - By RICK BENT­LEY Tri­bune News Ser­vice

The “Star Wars” uni­verse is in a gal­axy far, far away from the United States Supreme Court, but Felic­ity Jones has found a con­nec­tion. After her heroic ef­forts as Jyn Erso in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” Jones has stepped into the role of Ruth Bader Gins­burg in “On the Ba­sis of Sex.”

“In some ways, play­ing a ‘Star Wars’ hero­ine pre­pared me for play­ing Ruth, who I deeply be­lieve has the Force in her,” Jones says. “When any­thing is re­ally loved, peo­ple have a great sense of own­er­ship. I adore Ruth, and in some ways, the only per­son who could play Ruth Bader Gins­burg is Ruth Bader Gins­burg. So I had big shoes to fill with ‘Star Wars,’ and with Ruth.”

“On the Ba­sis of Sex” looks at the early life of Gins­burg, go­ing from a strug­gling at­tor­ney and new mother to one of the most pow­er­ful le­gal forces in the courts when fight­ing for equal rights. Her ear­li­est chal­lenge comes through a ground­break­ing tax case she takes on with her hus­band, at­tor­ney Martin Gins­burg (Ar­mie Ham­mer), that could change the di­rec­tion of her ca­reer and the way the courts view gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion.

One rea­son Jones can so eas­ily com­pare the Supreme Court jus­tice with a space war­rior comes from the ad­mi­ra­tion she has for Gins­burg.

“She had been in­volved from the very be­gin­ning and had given notes on ev­ery sin­gle draft of the script,” Jones says. “She said she had seen my work and knew I could do it. That gave me enor­mous con­fi­dence.

“I knew we had her bless­ing go­ing into the film, and that made all the dif­fer­ence be­cause I was ab­so­lutely pet­ri­fied play­ing some­one who is so beloved, and rightly so be­cause she has op­er­ated with such in­tegrity and stood by her be­liefs. She has not been af­fected by money or fame. It has come from the truth of fight­ing against in­jus­tice.”

Other works of Jones that Gins­burg could have seen in­cludes “Like Crazy,” “In­ferno,” “A Mon­ster Calls” and “The In­vis­i­ble Woman.” Next up for the Bri­tish ac­tor is “The Aero­nauts,” a film that re­unites her with “The The­ory of Ev­ery­thing” costar Ed­die Red­mayne, fol­lowed by the an­i­mated “Dragon Rider” and a film ver­sion of “Swan Lake.”

Mimi Leder no­ticed the pos­i­tive ef­fect Gins­burg’s pep talk had on Jones. The direc­tor says Jones em­bod­ied Gins­burg in an hon­est way and that she found her essence to make Gins­burg her own.

This isn’t the first time Jones has taken on a project based on the life of a real per­son. In “The The­ory of Ev­ery­thing,” she played Jane Hawk­ing, wife of Stephen Hawk­ing and in the TV minis­eries “The Di­ary of Anne Frank,” she por­trayed Mar­got Frank. Jones has felt a deep re­spon­si­bil­ity each time.

“It’s a great priv­i­lege to be able to play real peo­ple be­cause they have en­trusted me with their life story. You don’t take that for granted and you don’t take it lightly,” Jones says. “What was fas­ci­nat­ing with Ruth was nav­i­gat-

ing some­one who I sim­i­larly share an ado­ra­tion for.

“At the same time I have to play the re­al­ity of some­one. I have to play their hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence and the truth­ful­ness of that.”

Tak­ing on the role comes with an ad­di­tional bonus be­cause of story’s in­spi­ra­tional na­ture. Jones loves tak­ing on a project that has huge po­ten­tial to change the way peo­ple think. She ex­pects “On the Ba­sis of Sex” to give peo­ple “a lit­tle bit of hope” in mak­ing pos­i­tive changes in the world.

It wasn’t al­ways the le­gal scenes where Jones was able to play the truth­ful­ness of Gins­burg. The film also mixes in life at home with Gins­burg as a mother and wife. One of the big­gest helps Jones got in tak­ing on the lat­ter as­pect came when she and Ham­mer met for the first time with the Supreme Court Jus­tice in her of­fice. Jones no­ticed Gins­burg could not stop star­ing at Ham­mer.

“That’s when I thought ‘Ah, you are hu­man,’” Jones says with a huge laugh. “You could see the love and af­fec­tion she had for Marty through the way she was look­ing at Ar­mie.”


Felic­ity Jones por­trays Ruth Bader Gins­burg in “On the Ba­sis of Sex.”


Ar­mie Ham­mer por­trays Marty Gins­burg, left, and Felic­ity Jones por­trays Ruth Bader Gins­burg in “On the Ba­sis of Sex.”

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