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How Felicity Jones Transformed Herself Into Ruth Bader Ginsburg for ‘On the Basis of Sex’

Felicity Jones refused to break character while portraying Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in “On the Basis of Sex.”

“I was a crazy person,” Jones said. In order to perfect Ginsburg’s distinctive Brooklyn-inflected accent, Jones, the English star behind “Theory of Everything” and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” only spoke in the jurist’s voice while on the set.

“I was full Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” Jones said while presenting footage of the film at Focus Features CinemaCon presentation on Wednesday at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

On the Basis of Sex” deals with on of Ginsburg’s earliest cases, Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld. It used the example of a widower denied his wife’s survivor benefits under Social Security to illustrate gender disparities under the law. The film went into the production in the midst of a sexual harassment crisis in Hollywood, as industry figures such as Harvey Weinstein, Dustin Hoffman, and Kevin Spacey were all accused of abuse and misconduct.

“It’s more relevant now than ever,” said director Mimi Leder, who described the film as “a real life superhero origin story.”

Jones compared Ginsburg to Rocky, noting that nothing could knock her down for the count. Focus opens “On the Basis of Sex” on Nov. 9.

The film is one of several features from the indie studio based on real life stories. Focus, riding high on Oscar wins for “Darkest Hour,” will try to be back in the awards hunt with “On the Basis of Sex,” “Mary Queen of Scots,” “Boy Erased,” “Tully,” and “Black Klansman.”

“Heroes are ordinary people who do extraordinary things,” Lisa Bunnell, head of distribution for Focus.”These people are heroes.”

Also during the presentation, Saoirse Ronan discussed accents in her appearance on stage with director Josie Rourke to promote  “Mary, Queen of Scots,” noting that she had to learn a Scottish accent that wasn’t particularly far removed from her native Irish accent. “They’re both pretty melodic,” she said.

Ronan noted that she had a far more difficult task in her speech patterns for  2017’s”Lady Bird,” adding, “The Sacramento accent is very lazy.”

Ronan is starring in the title role opposite Margot Robbie, who will play Elizabeth I. Rourke is making her feature directorial debut on the movie, directing from a script by Beau Willimon based on John Guy’s biography “My Heart Is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots.”

The story is set during the 16th century when Mary Stuart became Queen of France at 16, was widowed two years later, and returned to her native Scotland to reclaim her throne. The 24-year-old Ronan noted that she had signed on to the project when she was 18.

“It’s a fascinating time period,” she said. “There’s this incredibly intense relationship.”

Ronan also said bonded with Robbie during the shoot, adding, “It made us feel vulnerable in a great way.”

“Mary, Queen of Scots” opens on Dec. 7. Other cast members include Guy Pearce, David Tennant, Jack Lowden (“Dunkirk”), Joe Alwyn, Martin Compston, and Brendan Coyle (“Downton Abbey”).

Joel Edgerton and Lucas Hedges also appeared for conversion-therapy drama “Boy Erased,” in which Hedges plays a teenager forced by his parents to submit to therapy after he reveals that he’s gay.

“I think about men. I don’t know why, I’m so sorry,” Hedges’ character tells his parents, played by Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman, in footage shown Wednesday.

“The true conversion is what happens with people’s ideas,” said Edgerton, who directed and plays the head therapist.

“Boy Erased” opens on Sept. 28. Edgerton said an estimated 70,000 young people go through conversion-therapy programs in the U.S. annually.

Producer Jason Blum and star John David Washington took the on stage for Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman,” a drama about at a black cop in Colorado infiltrating the KKK during the 1970s.

Blum noted that Lee was able to derive significant humor from the ignorance of KKK members. “They are really dumb,” he added.

“But they’re organized,” added Washington.

“BlacKkKlansman” will compete for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival next month before opening on Aug. 10.

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