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‘RBG’ Filmmakers Betsy West and Julie Cohen Respond to Supreme Court Justice’s Injury: ‘She’s Tough’

One day after their beloved subject broke three ribs, Betsy West and Julie Cohen tell IndieWire that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is tough as ever.




Beloved Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is more popular than ever, and her notorious smarts and charm have proven good enough to make her the subject of not one, but two films this awards season — Julie Cohen and Betsy West’s crowd-pleasing documentary “RBG” and Mimi Leder’s recent AFI FEST opener “On the Basis of Sex” — which made the news that Ginsburg broke three ribs Wednesday evening all the more startling.

At 85, Ginsburg is the oldest justice on the Supreme Court, and she’s endured a number of health scares over the years, including breaking two ribs in a fall in 2012, two bouts with cancer, and having a stent implanted to open a blocked artery in 2014. And yet, until Thursday, she hadn’t missed a day serving on the court.

As documentarian Cohen tells it, she’s “one of the coolest people in the country,” but she’s also one of the toughest, and the “RBG” filmmakers are optimistic that she’s going to be just fine, just as she always is.

“She’s tough, she’s survived broken ribs, not to mention cancer,” West said. “She’s never missed a day on the court before, she likes to work.”

The filmmakers were heartened by the fact that steely Supreme Court justice didn’t initially realize she needed medical assistance. “It was a moment where you just went, ‘Oh, no,’ West said. “But the fact that she fell, went home, slept, and then thought, ‘Gee, I don’t feel so good, maybe I better go to the hospital.'”

Both Cohen and West understand the outpouring of love and support for their subject, who has only become more relevant to many in recent months.

“As the film has come out, its relevance has increased,” West said. “We had no idea, in 2015, that the political landscape would be so polarized, that Donald Trump would become our president, that #MeToo, Time’s Up, and obviously the past six months with Justice Kennedy retiring and the Kavanaugh hearing, it’s sort of like every day there’s some new way in which Justice Ginsburg seems very front and center for people.”

Cohen added, “It’s through a series of unfortunate events, as Lemony Snicket might say, RBG’s story has become more relevant by the day.”

“RBG” is now available on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital platforms.

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