EXCLUSIVE: Natalie Portman is set to play Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in On The Basis Of Sex, with Marielle Heller (The Diary Of A Teenage Girl) in negotiations to direct. Focus Features is in talks to come onboard to finance.
The script, which follows the travails of Ginsburg as she faced numerous obstacles to her fight for equal rights throughout her career, was written by Daniel Stiepleman and made the 2014 Black List. Robert W. Cort is producing with Ram Bergman exec producing.
Ginsberg was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1993 by then-President Clinton, becoming only the second female justice (after Sandra Day O’Connor) and the first Jewish female justice. Prior to that, she developed a reputation as a keen advocate for the advancement of women’s rights. Time magazine this year labeled her an “Icon” in its Time 100.
The classy project is coming together quickly with a hoped-for production start by the end of the year. That would put it ahead of Alex Garland’s sci-fi project Annihilation, for which Portman has been rumored.
This is fast becoming a banner year for the Oscar-winning Portman, who has earned her own reputation for good taste and being meticulous and deliberate in her choice of projects. Her directorial debut A Tale Of Love And Darkness, which she also adapted from Israeli author Amos Oz’s classic memoir, receives its world premiere next week in Official Selection at Cannes. That follows her well-received performance in Terrence Malick’s Knight Of Cups, which world premiered at Berlin in February.
Also in Portman’s pipelines are Weightless, another Malick collaboration, and Jane Got A Gun. She also produced the latter as well as the upcoming Pride And Prejudice And Zombies.
This also is proving a breakout year for Heller. Her directorial debut Diary Of A Teenage Girl earned critical raves at Sundance, where Sony Pictures Classics picked up North American and select international rights. The film, which Heller also wrote, stars Kristin Wiig and Bel Powley. It follows a 15-year-old aspiring comic book artist who comes of age in 1970s San Francisco and is insatiably curious about the world around her.
Heller is repped by UTA and attorney PJ Shapiro. Portman is repped by CAA. Stiepleman is repped by Gersh and Anonymous Content.