In the 1990s, Mimi Leder was a formidable name in television. As a producer and director on the military drama China Beach and the smash hit ER, she helped invent a more robust, cinematic form for a medium that had long existed in the shadow of feature films. Landmark ER episodes like “Love’s Labor Lost” and “The Healers” proved that TV could tell compelling stories on a scale that felt dynamic and epic, using long Steadicam shots and hefty effects budgets to pack a visual punch. So it was no surprise when Leder moved on to film, directing the blockbuster action movies The Peacemaker (1997) and Deep Impact (1998).
Then, in 2000, Leder made an undeniable flop: Pay It Forward, a prestige drama that received poor reviews and made $33 million domestically on a $40 million budget. Those numbers are hardly catastrophic, but for Leder, they all but ended her film career. She didn’t make a major studio movie again for 18 years, instead heading back to the TV world, where she once again demonstrated her considerable skill on shows including Shameless and The Leftovers. Now she has finally returned to the big screen with On the Basis of Sex, released last month. A biographical retelling of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life, the film centers on the future Supreme Court justice’s involvement in the landmark discrimination case Moritz v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue.