‘On the Basis of Sex’ Screenwriter On Making Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Story Like a ‘Rocky’ Movie [Interview]
Posted on Tuesday, December 25th, 2018 by Fred Topel
The life and career of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is worth several movies, and in fact there was already a documentary about her out this year. But for her narrative biography, it took family to truly capture the heart of Ginsburg the person as well as the lawyer and ultimate Supreme Court Justice.
Daniel Stiepleman is Ginsburg’s nephew and On the Basis of Sex is his first produced screenplay. It focuses on Ginsbyrg’s early life and marriage to Martin Ginsburg. After graduating Harvard, in one of the first classes that allowed women, the Ginsburgs try the Moritz case to set a precedent for discrimination on the basis of sex. Charles Moritz (Chris Mulkey) was denied a tax write-off as a caretaker because the law assumed only women would be caretakers.
Stiepleman went to film school and earned a Nicholl Fellowship from the Academy, but decided to join the Peace Corps at 22 to find his worldview. He met his wife in the Corps and became a high school English teacher where he encouraged his students to think about more interesting questions. That provided him the lightbulb moment to write this script about his aunt and uncle.
Now Stiepleman is attached to three more screenplays, including Debriefing the President based on John Nixon’s book about interrogating Saddam Hussein, the Usula le Guin adaptation Planet of Exile and the Sharon Draper Adaptation Out Of My Mind. Stiepleman spoke with /Film about On the Basis of Sex which opens on Christmas Day and expands to more theaters in January.