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Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem and writer-director Aaron Sorkin made one of their first public appearances in support of their new film Being the Ricardos on Saturday night, hosting a screening and Q&A at the Bruin Theater in Westwood.
The trio were also joined by costars J.K. Simmons, Tony Hale and Nina Arianda as they reflected on the film, which looks inside the world of I Love Lucy and Hollywood power couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
Kidman, who takes on the role of Ball, admitted she had “massive trepidation about a month prior and Aaron had to get on the phone and send me some emails saying, ‘You got this’ and he had to champion me through,” adding that the whole cast was “really championing each other through the whole show because it was frightening, but incredibly exciting.”
The actress, who received some initial criticism in being the wrong choice for the part, said that after reading Sorkin’s script she fell in love with the couple and discovered Ball’s “genius” after not previously knowing much about Ball beyond her show.
“I realized what she was doing in terms of trailblazing for so many women and her ability to take things on and then recover from failure, which I thought was fantastic,” Kidman told moderator Dave Karger. “She would get up, brush herself off, with Desi’s help, and she would just move forward and tackle things. Her biggest failures turned out to be the thing that would drive her into the next success and ultimately lead her to what we know, what we revere her and revere the show and revere their art, together. What they did together is gorgeous.”
For his role in playing Arnaz, Bardem had a similar path, signing on after reading Sorkin’s script (“It’s a gift to your performance to have those words”) despite not knowing much about the man.
“In Spain he’s not as well known as here, but I knew the story a little bit; then once I started to watch the videos and watch the shows, I was madly obsessed with him, with his talent and with his skills as a comedian, as a person, as a producer, as a musician, as a singer, as a conga player — in that time, which is not today, being a foreigner in this country,” Bardem said.
Sorkin explain that when first starting on the film, he approached it “as a painting and not a photograph,” and told his cast (over Zoom due to the pandemic) that he was “not looking for an impersonation of these characters. That in those moments, when you’re playing Lucy, Ricky, Ethel and Fred, obviously we’re going to have to nod toward that, but play the characters in the script. You’re fully equipped.”
“I didn’t want either of these two to freak out and feel that burden that is an impersonation,” Sorkin added. “The impersonation is just smaller than what we were doing.”
Simmons, who plays William Frawley, said that approach especially calmed him after starting out “more terrified than excited.” “Once I sort of wrapped my brain around not being a scaredy-cat and found out about the cast that was being put together, that’s when I got really really excited about doing it,” he said.
And Hale, portraying I Love Lucy executive producer and head writer Jess Oppenheimer, shouted out Sorkin for “constantly focusing on the humanity of what these people are going through” rather than the outside view of TV icons.
“He was really just focusing on ‘Hey, let’s really think about this world rather than your perception of coming into this,’ and that was a real gift,” Hale said. “It really was.”
Being the Ricardos hits theaters Dec. 10.
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