tv Politico Women Rule Summit Panel on Gender Discrimination and on the Basis... CSPAN December 26, 2018 7:26pm-8:02pm EST
>> actress felicity jones, who plays supreme court justice ruth bader ginsburg in the movie "on the basis of sex," talks about gender discrimination and equality at politico's women rules summit in washington d.c. ms. -- [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> hi. >> hello. [laughter] >> hello. hey, everybody. [laughter] >> so i am brooke minters, the executive producer of video for politico, and i hope you guys enjoyed your conversations during the community-building break and had a chance to go to
the marketplace and lounge. we've discussed running, now we're going to focus on leading. this segment of our program is dedicated to women who are takings risks, changing the narrative, rev rabbling their power and drive -- lev rabbling their people and driving change. to kick off the leading portion of our program, it's my pleasure to introduce a powerhouse panel, the creators behind the movie, and it's the true story of supreme court justice ruth bader ginsburg and one of her first cases as a hour, which turned out to be a career-defining one. i used to work in hollywood, so i'm especially looking forward to this conversation where we'll be talking about the movie, ruth bader ruth bader ginsburg's influence. to our audience, use the hashtag rule with us, and so let's get started. with me today is movie star felicity jones and the screen writer, daniel stiepleman.
>> hello. [applause] >> thank you all for being here today. before we actually dive into the film, i wanted to zoom out a bit and talk about gender inequality. it's an issue from corporate to agriculture to hollywood. mimi, as a director, why was this issue or why was it so important for you to tell in the story? >> well, it was extremely important for me to tell the story because, well, for one, you know, i've experienced gender discrimination my entire career. but just kept doing the working just kept moving forward and raised my mother, a survivor of auschwitz, and a father who was a feminist. you know, they just kept telling me to move forward. you get knocked down, you stand right up. and ruth bader ginsburg was certainly a hero and icon and, you know, a great figure to
believe in and have believed in for a long time. so when i got this opportunity, i jumped at it. >> great. actresses have been really vocal in the me too movement and the time's up movement so, felicity, how did playing rbg color your perspective? >> well, she had such a phenomenal impact in our world, obviously, and laid the foundations for much of the equality that we see today. and it's just been extraordinary particularly in the last year with the me too movement how that fight is still continuing and how much we still need to fight. and it's, i mean, me too's had an incredible impact in the sense that the it has made an industry that was a very private industry to a certain extent, there was a lot of abuse going on in it. and the transparency that we now
have, i definitely feel it's made it much better for all of us working in that environment. >> definitely. daniel, you know her personally, and she gave you her blessing to make this film. >> yeah. [laughter] for context, martin ginsburg was my mother's oldest brother. [laughter] so when i heard the story for the first time at his funeral, actually, a friend of his got up and gave a eulogy and mentioned the only case ruth and marty ever argued together, and i thought, wow, that would be a film. and then i thought, what kind of asshole am i, i'm sitting at my uncle's funeral -- [laughter] finally, i built up the courage, and i asked her, i'd like your permission, i'd love your help, and she said, and i quote, that's how you think you want to spend your time. [laughter] and so i finally, like, two weeks ago built up the courage to ask her if she ever thought i would get a movie made when i asked her, and she like, in classic ruth bader ginsburg form, there was this long pause,
and she said i didn't assume that you wouldn't. [laughter] luckily for me, she just loved the -- i mean, she told me she just loved the film. she said as soon as she saw it, she looked at me and said i'm just so glad it's felicity. she was so happy with the performance. [laughter] >> absolutely. >> and her other big thing was she said i'm so happy because the movie's joyous to. that's what feminism was like for me in the '70s. we weren't angry, we weren't oppressed, we felt like the world was getting better, and we felt at the forefront of that change. and i think because mimi had been at the fore font pro-- forefront of it on the west coast, she felt like mimi captured that in the film. >> yeah. so the film was shot, produced and completed before the kavanaugh hearing. had the hearing and on fir mission happened -- confirmation happened earlier, would you have changed anything, daniel, in
your script or anything? >> you know, i think the short a answer is, no, i don't think i would have because, unfortunately, the themes in the screenplay are just timeless. we seem to keep fighting the same battles over and over again. and i think what makes the film work is that it looks at the, it looks at the past and you say, okay, we've come really far, it's a way of charting your trajectory. but i, so i don't think we would have wanted to make it feel, oh, this is right at this moment we're talking about right now, because it's just something that never seems to go away. >> definitely. what about for you, felicity? did the hearings change your perspective of the influence of rbg and of the supreme court? >> well, it just shows us how relevant it is and how the fighten continues, that we -- fight continues, that we're in a situation that, you know, similar issues that were happening in the 1970s are still happening in 2018. so i think it's a testament to
how much more we need to push for change and fight for change, and as daniel says, that is something that doesn't seem to have shifted a lot, and that's the path we've got to continue on. so that's why we keep coming back to ruth bader ginsburg, because she's someone in her entire life who's acted with such integrity and has stuck by these beliefs and hasn't wavered from them. so she, i mean, that's why her popularity is more than ever, because we need people like her in positions of power. there aren't many around at the moment who we can look up to who have principles. >> yeah. mimi, do you have anything to add about that? >> i would say, you know, when we were making the film, the harvey weinstein broke. and we knew we were making a very timely film. and then when that happened, we knew it was more timely than ever. and as felicity said, you know,
we just have to keep fighting and moving forward, and, you know, never stop. and, you know, this is a movie about how change happens. and so that was our motto and our feeling during the entire experience. >> yeah. >> it was important for us to speak to her legacy of inclusion, equality, dissent -- >> all those -- >> yes. >> yes. so the movie gives us a glimpse into ruth bader ginsburg's early life. so it's 1956, and she'd be in harvard law where she's one of only nine women out of a class of five hundred men, which is just wild. can you tell us about her time at harvard, felicity, when she first started? >> well, as you said, it was very difficult. she was in the minority, and so i definitely empathized with that feeling of being an outsider, being a minority
going, you know, growing up, working on film and television sets as mimi found, you know? we were often in the position of being just a handful of women in a very, very male-dominated environment. so it was really helpful to channel that, because, obviously, that's exactly what ruth bader ginsburg was going through. and just finding that on every -- she was just having to consistently push down barriers against her. because she knew that she was capable, that she had the ability and the brains to do something, but society was just, it was so -- it was stuck in the past. it was old-fashioned, and it was -- and that sense of injustice that she continually felt, she then could fight for other people because she knew intimately what that felt like. >> absolutely. and 1956 was not that long ago, you know? it's kind of crazy. there's a theme at the beginning of the movie where the dean invited all of the nine women, and he asks them, how to you
justify taking a spot from a quaff qualified man? excuse me, say that again, how to you justify taking a spot from a qualified man? it's just like, oh, my god, what? [laughter] >> for the record, that really happened at that dinner. >> verbatim. >> how did ruth answer that? >> well, i think what she does all the time is she uses this anger, and i think that is, i mean, continueally she just felt this huge us from ration. -- frustration. but what her ability is, is to channel and harness that anger and then think how to we use that for positive change. how do we bring everyone on to the same side to then shift and make movement in society? and even in that little moment you get an insight into how she behaves in court, that she manages to get her point across but do it in a way that she keeps, you know, her sense of self and who she is. and that's what she's done all the way through.
>> mimi, how much do you think those attitudes have changed when it comes to women achieving personal success? >> what's the question? >> how do you think the attitudes have changed about women achieving personal success, like men asking questions like are you qualified for this job. >> well, you know, i always get asked how does it feel to be a female director? and, you know -- [laughter] and that is still part of the conversation. and you never ask a man, well, how does it feel to be a male director? [laughter] so, you know, a lot has changed, a lot hasn't, and you just have to keep doing the work and, you know, it's a very complicated, i think, question today because we do have to keep talking about femaleness and equality. and so without that discussion, you don't have one. so as much as i do not like being called a female director,
it is part of the conversation. because only, i think, 7% of feature films from 2008-present day have been directed by women. which is scandalous. >> yeah. [laughter] >> very scandalous. and also, you know, i think as women we might just do things a little different. you might have a different perspective, you bring something different to the shoes. >> well, yeah. i mean, every -- you know, that's an interesting question. yeah, of course, i'm female. i bring my femaleness to the party -- [laughter] i can't help but bringing it. but i often would love to, love seeing films with no credits and say who directed this film, a man or a woman? and, you know, can a woman be as muscular as a man? of course she can. you know? so that's an interesting lesson to do, you know? because we, we want to be
defined by who we are, and i think that's extremely important. never to lose that. >> so there's another striking aspect to the movie. and in rbg's life in general, just how supportive her husband was, your uncle was. and it's totally swoon-worthy, played by armey hammer. [laughter] >> actually, when we first met ruth, we were nervously waiting outside her office, and then when we went in, she just couldn't take her eyes off armey hammer. of laugh -- [laughter] she is human. [laughter] >> again, like, a big differential too. >> exactly, exactly. we were both like this, like, hi, ami. >> yeah, it's great. super supportive, it's the 50s, '60s, even now, right? felicity, have you had to experience finding someone in your life who was that supportive? have you had trouble finding people to get on your level?
>> well, you know, for myself i've been married for 32 years, and -- which is, i don't know how that happened. [laughter] but, you know, in many ways he's very much like marty, you know? we have a daughter, and we really have an equal partnership. as marty and ruth had. and, you know, which is really a metaphor for the film, equal partnership. and, you know, he was a real renaissance man. the way he, you know, the way he did everything that men don't do in the '50s and still to this today don't do. you know? you probably want to speak to that. [laughter] >> i do? well, i mean, as a guy i can tell you the bar is set incredibly low to be considered a supportive husband and a good father. [laughter] and part of the challenge of being martin ginsburg's nephew was that i had this role model
of what a marriage could look like, two people who really treated each other as equal withs not only in their careers, but at home. marty did all the cooking, largely because ruth is the worst conceivable chef. [laughter] they both took care of the kids, and when my wife and i got married, we very consciously said to each other, we're going to be like them. it's hard to do that. and as a guy in a sort of hypermasculine culture, it's hard to do that and feel confident and manly about it while you're putting on your apron and making food for your, you know, for your baby daughter. and i know that i'm a better husband and a better father and a better man and a better writer because, like, i did that hard work. >> yeah. >> and for me, one of the reasons i wanted to write this screenwas because my family has been so fortunate, i thought this is a way to sort of share that role model with, hopefully, a lot of other people. [applause]
thanks. [applause] >> this film is as much about ruth bader ginsburg finding her voice as it is about love and how love prevails. >> it is. it's really sweet. and with that, so we fast forward, she's out of law school. rbg's a law professor now at rutgers, and marty is now a tax lawyer, and he brings home this case, and it's a total game-changer. without giving away too much about the film and the case but, daniel, can you explain a little bit what the case is all about? >> yeah, absolutely. i don't think it gives away too much, right? i just had to take with the director. >> you won't remember. >> i have to be a good storytell ther. [laughter] the true story is there was a guy named charles more relates in denver in 1969. he was, he was a single guy, he had never been married, and he was take thing care of his mother at home.
she was sick and she was elderly, and she had a propensity from running away from elder care facilities, so he had no choice. and he hired a nurse so he could keep working, and he put the cost of -- he deducted it on his taxes. except the tax law at the time said that deduction was only available to widows, divorced men and women. so if he had been a never-married woman, he could take the deduction, but as a never-married man, he was ineligible. it was, actually, maty's insight -- marty's insight because he read the case first and handed it to ruth, was that this was a way to get -- you know, for a hundred years women had been saying the. 14th amendment says all people are supposed to be treated equal under the u.s. constitution, we should be treated as equals, for a hundred years courts had said, no, no, no, that's not what that means. so their realization was, well, wait a minute, if it's a guy who's been discriminated against
on the basis of sex, maybe it'll create the precedent that we can say, see? gender discrimination is unconstitutional. so that becomes the with battlet they take on. >> you've got to trick them, i guess. [laughter] felicity, what did you do to study for her character? >> well, it's, you know, it's really intimidating playing a figure who's so deeply revered and loved, you know? i'm such a huge fan of. it was quite an interesting, complex way into playing someone who you really adore and you're a bit of a fan girl of. so i, i mean, with everything one does, it has to be about the details. definitely getting really dug in, i have a good amount of ocd which really helps in terms of, you know, just wanting to shift myself as much as possible so that felicity kind of leaves and
ruth bader ginsburg appears. and that's all through, you know, part of what is really finish also part of what's really fun is going into the makeup trailer. you get there at some ridiculous hour, like 4:30 in the morning, and you're really beb bedraggled, and you go through this process. bad contact lenses, had my teeth capped, just changing your face, your physicality, your -- you go through costume, and you're constantly just trying to become that person in every single way that you can. and, obviously, you work with an incredible team, and everyone is equally as passionate. and, obviously, playing a real person you have i all the footage. so it was interesting with ruth, obviously, we know her so well from 1993, and when she's in the limelight, so it's really helpful for us for playing her when she's much younger was looking at the home videos that daniel sent of us of ruth and marty on their honeymoon, seeing
the way they look at each other, the intense adoration they have for each other and similarly, listening to her recordings of her in court. so you just try not to leave any single stone unturned. >> what's really interesting, though, about this for felicity is that, you know, ruth's recordings really -- we, we don't have any early recordings. it's, or it's only when she started trying the supreme court cases. and so, you know, a woman's voice or anybody's voice from age 23-35 is very different, you know, than a woman in her 40s and 50s and, obviously, 80s. we didn't go that far. but it was quite a challenge to, you know, get the right accent, and felicity did, and the most incredible comment came from rbg
that, you know, she thought her accent was perfect and that no one could play her except for her. [laughter] [applause] >> you kind of touch on this a little bit earlier, mimi, but it's not just actresses in the film initially dealing with inequality or wage gaps. do you feel like you've missed out on any opportunities because of your gender? >> you know, it's really interesting, you know, missing out, you know, i've had a very successful career, i've also been beaten to the ground where i thought it was over. and it was really interesting, i did e.r., you know, the hospital show, from its inception and left after two years and did two features in a row, and my daughter at that time was 12. and i had just done deep impact, and it was a huge hit, you know, for any woman or any man in '98.
and at that moment i was so exhausted, i had a 12-year-old and an incredible husband who took care of my daughter while i worked, you know, madly are, and i just -- i stopped for a year. i took a year off to spend with my daughter and just reconnect and be that part of myself. and it was very posh for me -- very important for me to be with my daughter. so did it hurt me at the top of my career? absolutely. i was sent every script, everything. but it didn't hurt my life, you know what i mean? >> yeah. >> and that was a very interesting, you know, part of being in, being a female director. and when the opportunities come, they come. and when they don't, they don't. and you have to, you know, tell the stories you want to tell and
just be passionate and continue on. and did i answer the question? [laughter] >> i believe so, yeah. yeah. felicity, i read that you pay a certain beyonce song before shooting scenes in this movie to loosen up? [laughter] what is the song? >> well, in this case i believe it was all the single ladies. [laughter] yeah, it was just a great way -- it was when we have the scene with dorothy kenyan, and it was that shift from going from the '50s into the '70s, and there was obviously such a massive change on the expectations of women in that time, obviously, in the '60s you'd have a contraceptive pill which had given women enormous freedom. and what i wanted to tap into was more kind of a relaxation and the expectations of women. in the '50s, you know, the patriarchy was in full force.
and so ruth was constantly having to conform to this feminine ideal, and what was important was to just show this was a little kind of, there was a little shift starting to happen. there was a little movement, a breakdown. there was more hope, more optimism moving into the '70s for change. and so it was important to -- i think we were watching john travolta dancing in saturday night live and copying the dance before we went onset, because it was answer trying to get a more relaxed feeling, listening to beyonce, just a kind of loosening up before we went onto set. so that's where it came from. >> great. >> it's also ruth's favorite song. i'm just kidding. [laughter] >> great taste. you mentioned dorothy kenyan earlier. can you tell the audience a little bit more about who dorothy was? i had never heard of her before, and i was like, wow, this is super cool.
another feminist icon -- >> daniel, why tonight you take this one -- why don't you take this one? >> i'm the natural choice. so ruth did not have many sort of big notes answer what she wanted out of a movie, but one of the things that she said, and i think this speaks to her credit, she said i just don't want people to think i invented this area of the law as if nobody had ever thought before, oh, the constitution should protect gender equality. she said, you know, i built my career on a generation of women who came before me, dorothy kenyan, pauli murray, and people should know that, and go. i was, like, what am i supposed to do with that note? [laughter] a great book, if you're really interested about this, called no constitutional right to be ladies. it's an incredible book. yeah, people wrote it down. see? [laughter] dorothy kenyan was, actually, a pretty well-off woman. she grew up on the upper west
side of manhattan. her parents were very wealthy, and she went to college, and she traveled the world, and she saw poverty up close traveling and said this is not how the world should work, and i'm going to do something about it. she graduated from nyu law school in, like, 1917, some very, you know, way earlier than you think of women going to law school -- >> way before harvard was admitting women. >> long before. and became an advocate for gender equality and social justice. she, her big battle was for, at the time women were not obliged to be on juries. you could opt in, but the feeling was, well, women have to stay home with their kids, and so, therefore, you know, they're too busy to be on a jury. and she fought for basically saying this is an obligation of citizenship, women are full and equal is citizens, we should also have this obligation in
part because if you are a woman on trial, you should be entitled to a jury of your peers. and that was a big battle she lost through the '60s and right at the end of her life finally won. and she, she was, you know, for her efforts, she was pulled in front of justice mccarthy's commission and accused of being a communist. one of my favorite things about her, she stood up in the senate and said you, sir, are an unmitigated liar, and you should be ashamed of yourself. and he backed down. [laughter] which i just think is incredible. she was this incredible, powerful -- the last thing i'll say about her was that for a long time in her life she was skeptical of an equal rights amendment. she was worried that the culture, as she once put it -- and this is a line i co-opted for the script -- she said the 14th amendment was designed to protect freed slaves, a task at which it abysmally failed, why to we think an equal rights
amendment would do any better? she was worried it would turn over laws that had been designed to help women get a foot up in the name of equality because she felt the culture hadn't caught up yet, and you don't want the law to get too far ahead of the culture. by the end of her life, she had changed her mind and felt it was time for the law to catch up with the culture. >> and what about now? [laughter] >> i don't know what she would say now. [laughter] that's what i learned from writing this movie, that sustainable change comes from changing the culture and also changing the laws and the institutions. those two things have to happen together, and i think speaking of now, we're in this moment right now where it think things are getting riled up in the culture, and people are looking at who's going to be the next ruth bader ginsburg. >> all of you. [laughter] [applause] >> i hope whoever she is, she sees this movie and in those times when she gets setbacks, it reminds her to keep going. >> i think she'll be thrilled to
be played by kathy bates. she's awesome. >> plus, she's kathy bates. [laughter] >> one more question, daniel. you kind of talked about this earlier, about being an equal partner in your marriage and family. can you talk about why it's important for men to be allies? >> well, your partner can be a man or a female, you know, it's very important -- i think everybody needs an ally, everybody needs support, and everybody needs a little encouragement. and it actually, you know, it obviously takes a village to raise a family, and it takes love and smarts but mostly love. i mean, so hard -- i don't think any -- i think it's very hard to do anything alone. and i don't know why anyone should finish. >> yeah. >> because we're human beings, we shouldn't be isolated, we shouldn't be alone. and it's very important to have the support of your spouse, your
partner, your lover. and i think in any endeavor. >> and what about men in the workplace in general, you know, being allies to women in the workplace? >> yeah. that's quite changed. allies, men in the workplace. you know, we used to be able to hug. just how are you, good morning. and now it's a very peculiar place in the workplace. it's very good, it's very necessary, but it's so interesting that you have to say, you know, can i give you a hug? you have to ask now instead of just presume, which i guess it is very important. it is. you know, i think the me too movement and the time's up movement has, you know, put a lot of men in the corners and made them hide, and it's also made a lot of men step up. >> yeah. >> you know? and i think it's here to stay. >> so,yay.
[laughter] what do you guys all hope -- i'm imagining you hope this has a large impact aside from box office and great reviews. what do you hope that is? the large larger impact of this movie? i'll ask you, mimi. >> well, i hope that it encourages every human being, but especially women and mothers and daughters, you know, to find their voices, to make change, to, you know, always step forward. and, you know, i hope it really inspires the next generation to continue the fight against inequality, injustice and gender parity and fight for gender parity. i just hope it inspires people to do that. >> yeah. what do you think, felicity? >> i think, i mean, i hope that it gives people hope.
i hope that people come out and feel that the, actually, the world can be a fairer place, it can be a place where people are respected no matter what their gender, their race, who they are, where they're from, that that is a standard and a right. and you can see with ruth's story that when people do come together, they can make change, and change can happen. and i think that's, that's all that the you would hope from the film. and, obviously, a film is a small part of a cultural and political shift, but you hope it comes together with oh -- with other voices to create, i mean, ultimately a fairer world and a world of greater equality. >> yeah. all right, so this is women rules, and we're all a bunch of lady bosses sitting up here -- thanks, daniel, for sitting up here. >> he's definitely a lady boss. [laughter] >> how do you think women in the audience can be supportive as consumers to seeing more diverse
or women-driven films and roles in films? like, what can the audience to, so we can see more movies with us as stars and -- >> well, use your voices. if you're writers, write. you all have stories to tell, and don't let anyone ever tell you you can't tell your story and that they have to tell it instead of you. [laughter] you're, you have that power, and i think everybody has to reach deep inside. enter yep. >> you guys, we're out of time, so -- >> oh, okay sphwhrsmght but thank you for joining us. >> thank you. >> thank you. [applause] >> on the basis of sex comes out christmas day, so thank thank yr being here. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> thank you, everybody. >> fantastic. thanks very much. [applause] >> when the new congress takes office in january, it'll have the youngest, most diverse