The actress on her fight for women's equality in the new American film based on the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
by Kim Peiffer | November 19, 2018 10:00 am
Elegantly perched on a windowsill inside a gorgeous 17th-century mansion in London, Felicity Jones is soaking up the beautiful afternoon sun on the set of our DuJour cover shoot. She is poised, polite, and excited, twirling around the property’s expertly manicured gardens in couture to capture the perfect shots. “We went quite punky but elegant, so very cool,” she peppers in. Today’s ensembles consisting of feathers, corsets, and leather are a sharp right turn from her buttoned-up, collared court attire on the set of On the Basis of Sex, her highly anticipated new film, in which she plays Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “There’s a practicality to Ruth that comes through her clothes,” notes Jones. “She doesn’t like to draw too much attention to herself, but at the same time, she likes a little flash.” There’s always a touch of her personality, as we see with her collars on the Supreme Court, proving that she’s never afraid to let her character come through. “She’s such an icon in terms of her style, and you see how she really found looks that work later in life, and she really stuck with them, like having her hair pulled back and her signature scrunchies.”
But all fashion talk aside, playing RBG was a role that Jones was aware would require an intensive amount of work in order to nail. “I knew I had a hell of a lot of research in front of me and that I wanted to do justice to the justice, so I started off reading everything I could about her, looking at every single piece of footage of her, and really getting into the mind-set of her; that was my objective.” Prepping to transform herself into Notorious RBG, the badass nickname that 85-year-old Ginsburg has earned herself, required a method to the madness. “I usually have quite an academic approach when I start off; I really try to become an expert on that person,” she says. “It was an enormous help when I met her and spent time with her and really felt her incredible humanity. She’s someone who is very private and has an innate shyness, so it was a real gift that she invited Armie Hammer [who plays her husband, Marty, in the film] and I into her home and gave us access so that we could do the best job possible of understanding her.”
Throughout the process of becoming RBG, Jones slowly started to realize the two women were alike in more ways than one. “I found many similarities in the way that I was always rather shy growing up as a young girl. I think for both of us, when we put our mind to something, we are both incredibly focused and can be very single-minded. We don’t like a lot of fuss. I’d say we’re very straightforward and diligent, and I constantly found moments where she’s giving me such reassurance in my own life. Just seeing the way she behaved and her silent strengths are something I constantly come back to and find empowering in my own life.”
That being said, she also jokes about the ways that she and Ginsburg unmistakably differed. “I am definitely more scatterbrained, and my hair is a lot messier,” she says with a laugh, “and I’m definitely a little more disorganized. But when I was playing her, I suddenly found that I became much more organized, and I would tidy things up more.”
While Jones was busy soaking up RBG’s organizational skills on set, Hammer was working away in the kitchen for the cast. “Armie was very much the cook on set, channeling Marty.” Cast favorites included a lovely prawn and pasta dish, and his eggplant bake “was divine!” Both recipes came from Marty’s cookbook. “He had his own cookbook because Ruth was such a terrible cook that the children felt that this was something he had to take over!”
Jones said one of the biggest challenges on set was trying to avoid costar Justin Theroux [who plays legal director Mel Wulf] during somber periods. “He just made us crack up all the time! Sometimes I would have to just not even make eye contact with him because I would burst out laughing in very serious moments.”
The buzz around the film in these coming months is quite hefty, so I ask her how it feels to have made it in Hollywood, considering the gravity of playing such an icon, coupled with her past acclaims, including a role in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and her critically lauded portrayal of Jane Hawking in The Theory of Everything, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. “It’s funny, but you never quite feel like that as an actor—the insecurity comes with the territory. But I just love what I do, and I feel very fortunate.” That, and having a good support system in place. “My mother is a huge influence and inspiration; she is someone who has always championed a financial independent spirit of acceptance with yourself.” Then add an influence from one of the sexiest men in Hollywood: “The actor that I always come back to as a great source of inspiration is Leonardo DiCaprio,” she says. “I have such admiration for the kind of work that he has done. He makes films that are so relevant and entertaining. He works in such dedication in his performance, and his films are an art form. He’s my number one,” she laughs.
Back on set, the day is wrapping, and we’ve shot our final looks, which means Jones can slip back into something a little more comfortable. Today, it’s what she calls her Texas tuxedo: jeans, a denim button-down, and black patent leather flats accented with bows. When she’s not dressing in character for a film or lending her petite British frame to couture for a photo shoot, she’s all about something fuss-free.
“I tend to like more casual clothes, something very soft,” she says with such energy it sounds as though she hasn’t possibly been awake since before sunrise. “I’m a sucker for an oversized cashmere. Almost like a dress that you can just curl up in and watch Netflix in.”
But when it comes to the upcoming awards season, during which you’ll undoubtedly be seeing a lot of her, she says to expect something other than your traditional formal frock. “I’m going to be channeling Mick Jagger; that’s my inspiration for the red carpet,” she says. “Classic, well-tailored suits are going to be a winner for me.” I ask why, and she answers in a very RBG-esque manner. “The red carpet is becoming a lot more interesting in terms of women wearing trousers—now you can walk in with confidence in whatever you choose to wear, as opposed to looking like you are going to some kind of pageant. It should be an expression for both men and women.”
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