Executives Didn’t Want to Finance ‘On the Basis of Sex’ Because Husband Character Was Too Supportive

Hollywood's gross sexism rears its head once again.
(l to r.) Armie Hammer as Marty Ginsburg and Felicity Jones as Ruth Bader Ginsburg star in Mimi Leder's ON THE BASIS OF SEX, a Focus Features release.
Armie Hammer and Felicity Jones, "On the Basis of Sex"
Jonathan Wenk / Focus Features

One of the more refreshing aspects to Mimi Leder’s “On the Basis of Sex” is the supportive dynamic between Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her husband, Martin “Marty” D. Ginsberg, played by Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer, respectively. The role of Martin is a relatively thankless one, which in a way is revolutionary considering it’s usually the wife character who plays second fiddle to the leading man. “On the Basis of Sex” changes this traditional movie dynamic, and that’s exactly one of the reasons it had trouble getting financed.

In a new interview with The New York Times, “On the Basis of Sex” screenwriter Daniel Stiepleman said financiers and development executives did not want to back the movie at first because of the parity between Ruth and Marty. As reported by The Times, “Backers offered to fund the film if [Martin] was rewritten as angrier, or less understanding; maybe he should threaten to divorce his wife, if she didn’t drop the case.”

“It came up a lot,” Stiepleman said. “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!'”

By his account, Hammer relished the opportunity to play a role in which he was purely supporting the female lead. “I’m sure that women feel like they’ve been stuck in these supportive roles for a long time,” the actor told The Times, “but for me, to get to play something like this was amazing, because it’s fair.”

Hammer continued, “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.”

“On the Basis of Sex” is now playing in select theaters from Focus Features.

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