Nearly 20 years after directing 1998’s Deep Impact — which domestically, was the highest-grossing film ever directed by a woman at the time — Mimi Leder has been hired to direct Natalie Portman’s Ruth Bader Ginsburg drama ON THE BASIS OF SEX, the Tracking Board has confirmed.
Portman will play the Supreme Court justice, who was forced to overcome numerous obstacles while fighting for equal rights. Ginsburg was the first Jewish female justice, and Portman is Jewish herself.
On the Basis of Sex was written by Daniel Stiepelman, whose script was voted to the 2014 Hit List as well as the 2014 Black List. Stiepelman, a former NYU screenwriting professor, was also voted to the 2015 Young & Hungry List. He happens to be Ginsburg’s nephew, so who better to chronicle her early years at law school, as well as her first major sexism case?
This reporter has been tracking Leder’s involvement since November, but Portman herself recently revealed the news in an interview with Marie Claire UK. While the full transcript of that interview is not available online, excerpts published by the Daily Mail have Portman addressing Hollywood’s gender pay gap and discussing why it was so important to her to have a woman direct On the Basis of Sex.
“I don’t think women and men are more or less capable [as directors], we just have a clear issue with women not having opportunities,” Portman told Marie Claire UK. “We need to be part of the solution, not perpetuating the problem. As this story is specifically about gender discrimination, I was like, how dare we not hire a female.”
Marielle Heller (Diary of a Teenage Girl) had previously been in talks to direct an earlier incarnation of the project back when it was set up at Focus Features in 2015. At the time, Robert W. Cort was announced as the film’s producer, with Ram Bergman (Portman’s directorial debut A Tale of Love and Darkness) serving as executive producer.
Leder helped pave the way for many female directors — she was first woman accepted into AFI’s cinematography course — and though she hasn’t directed a feature since the 2009 Morgan Freeman-Antonio Banderas throwaway Thick as Thieves, she has kept busy in TV, finding steady work on HBO’s The Leftovers and Showtime’s Shameless. Leder’s other feature credits include the George Clooney vehicle The Peacemaker and the Kevin Spacey drama Pay It Forward.
Leder’s Deep Impact held that aforementioned record for a decade until Catherine Hardwicke’s Twilight knocked it from its history-making perch. The two-time Emmy winner and three-time DGA Award nominee is represented by CAA.
Jeff Sneider | Editor in Chief