'Mary Queen of Scots,' starring Margot Robbie and Saoirse Ronan, will close the festival

By Joey Nolfi
Updated November 09, 2018 at 07:49 PM EST
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Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life story is getting a pre-Oscar boost from the American Film Institute.

The organization announced Tuesday that the Mimi Leder-directed historical drama On the Basis of Sex, starring Felicity Jones, will have its world premiere Nov. 8 as the opening-night selection at the annual AFI Fest, which often shepherds late-breaking contenders into the Academy Awards conversation over its eight-day run.

Jones carries the film as the budding Supreme Court justice who, as an aspiring game-changer for gender politics in the United States, tackled a groundbreaking case she brought before the U.S. Court of Appeals that laid the foundation for her lasting legacy of overturning numerous cases of discrimination.

“As one of the first women ever admitted to the AFI Conservatory, it’s particularly meaningful to me that On the Basis of Sex will open AFI Fest 2018,” Leder said of the news in a press statement. “My time at the Conservatory was a life-changing experience and informed my creative journey. I am forever grateful. The origin story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in this 25th anniversary year of her appointment to the Supreme Court, couldn’t come at a more important moment in our history nor be shown at a more relevant place than AFI Fest, a symbol of artistic integrity and the enduring power of cinema. I hope girls and young women in particular will see the film and find inspiration to realize their own unlimited potential.”

In previous years, AFI Fest has hosted opening-night galas for Oscar-bound films like Dee Rees’ Mudbound and John Lee Hancock’s Saving Mr. Banks. Outside of its kickoff slot, AFI Fest also launched Bradley Cooper’s American Sniper and Ava DuVernay’s Selma into the Best Picture conversation with high-profile debuts at the annual event.

On the Basis of Sex — also starring Justin Theroux, Kathy Bates, and Armie Hammer as Ginsburg’s supportive husband, Marty — is scheduled for release Dec. 25, just four months after Ginsburg’s 25th anniversary of serving on the Supreme Court.

AFI has also announced that Josie Rourke’s Mary Queen of Scots, starring Saoirse Ronan as Mary Stuart and Margot Robbie as Elizabeth I, will conclude this year’s gathering on Nov. 15.

“This commanding story of powerful women and political rivalry that shaped world history will close AFI Fest on a high note,” festival director Michael Lumpkin said in a statement. “This year’s festival showcases compelling women-directed narratives that challenge the status quo, and Mary Queen of Scots is no exception.”

Mary Queen of Scots hits theaters Dec. 7.

On the Basis of Sex

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