On The Basis Of Sex Writer Says Movie Had Trouble Getting Financed Because Of Supportive Husband Character

Armie Hammer as Martin Ginsberg and Felicity Jones as Ruth Bader Ginsberg in On the Basis of Sex
(Image credit: (Focus Features))

Award season just isn't the same without a handful of biopics in the mix, and this year's On the Basis of Sex is honoring Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg as 2018 marked her 25th anniversary of service.

The film starring Rogue One's Felicity Jones as RBG undoubtedly delves into the incredible true story of a figure who broke convention as a legal advocate for gender equality and rights for women. But when the script On the Basis of Sex was being developed by Justice Ginsberg's nephew Daniel Stiepleman, Hollywood executives and financiers weren't comfortable with backing a film with a "far-fetched" supportive husband character.

In an interview with the New York Times, Daniel Stiepleman recalled that backers wanted to withhold funding On the Basis of Sex until Martin Ginsberg was rewritten as a less-understanding and angrier husband, who perhaps should threaten to divorce Ruth Bader Ginsberg unless she drops the case. In his words:

It came up a lot, I remember at some point saying in a meeting, There's a 5,000-year history of narrative, of men coming home from battle, and their wives patch them up and boost their egos and send them back out to fight again. You write one supportive husband, and everyone's like, such a creature could never exist!

Despite this criticism, the equal dynamic between Ruth Bader Ginsberg and her husband Martin was important to be explored in the film, especially since the film was being made with her close eye on it. When Armie Hammer took the role of RBG's husband in On the Basis of Sex, he found it refreshing to play come across the rare opportunity to play a feminist husband. Here's what Hammer said:

I'm sure that women feel like they've been stuck in these supportive roles for a long time, but for me, to get to play something like this was amazing, because it's fair. And I think that there is a lot to be gained from seeing that a man can be an even better and stronger man, while still being an incredibly supportive husband and a buttress for his wife. It didn't make him any less of a man. If anything, it made him more.

The supportive wife has been seen on screen in biopics many times and certainly without question from executives about their roles being unrealistic. It's interesting that a movie about exploring equality between the sexes had some pushback of its own in this day and age.

In On the Basis of Sex and inspired on their actual relationship, Martin Ginsberg shared the duties with his wife as being a parent to their teenaged daughter and with the household work. This may be unheard of in a period piece of this kind, but at the time what Ruth Bader Ginsberg was fighting for looked to be just as far-fetched and impossible.

On the Basis of Sex is now in limited theaters and will expand into wide release on January 11, 2019. For more exciting releases, check out our movie release calendar for the new year.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.