WASHINGTON — Betsy West and Julie Cohen, the directors of the Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary, “RBG,” listened to hours of recordings of oral arguments from Supreme Court hearings in the 1970s, and one moment of blatant sexism really surprised them.
That was the way that she reacted in 1978 when, as she was arguing a gender bias case, Justice William Rehnquist asked her, “You won’t settle for putting Susan B. Anthony on the new dollar?”
West said that in their interview with Ginsburg, they asked her how she coped with those kind of remarks.
“She said, ‘Well, I didn’t get angry. That would be self defeating.’ She understood that the way to make her case was not to get angry but to be smarter than they were, and she was,” West says.
The movie, which opens on May 4, takes a look at Ginsburg’s life and career, telling great stories of her marriage to Martin Ginsburg, showing how they were in many ways opposites yet also soulmates. But it also shows how influential she was in championing the rights of women in her pre-bench career, when she was a civil rights attorney and argued six cases before the Supreme Court in the 70s. She won five.
Last week, Ginsburg, along with her colleague Justice Stephen Breyer, were present for a premiere screening in Washington for the documentary, which comes from CNN Films, Magnolia Pictures and Participant Media. Dana Bash interviewed West and Cohen for a panel discussion afterward, and guests included Nina Totenberg, David Linde, Ted Olson, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.), Sally Quinn and Michelle Hurd.
Listen to West and Cohen on Variety’s “PopPolitics” below: