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Amy Poehler premiered her documentary debut Lucy and Desi in Los Angeles on Tuesday night, appearing alongside the I Love Lucy couple’s daughter, Lucie Arnaz.
After Sundance’s in-person festival was canceled due to concerns over the recent omicron-fueled COVID-19 surge, the L.A. gathering at DGA Theater marked the first time Poehler had seen the film with an audience, which included friends Kathryn Hahn, Aubrey Plaza, Natasha Lyonne, Ike Barinholtz and Kay Cannon.
In the doc, Poehler explores the lives and careers of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, “two outsiders and a very enduring love story, and incredible innovators at a time when television was just exploding,” as she described to The Hollywood Reporter. The film features extensive recordings from the two talking openly about their journeys, as well as commentary from Carol Burnett, Bette Midler and Norman Lear.
Of asking Burnett to be a part of the project, Poehler said, “Carol is to Lucy as I am to Carol. Carol has been a really incredible person for me in my life, a mentor for me and a wonderful, beautiful friend. So I was so happy to let Carol talk about her friend because I think it meant a lot to her and it meant a lot to me,” adding that with she “really wanted to keep as much as I could the voices in the film [to] people who actually knew Lucy and Desi.”
And who to know them better than Arnaz, who lent her personal archive on her parents to the production while also appearing onscreen throughout.
“I trusted, I opened up my heart and my home and my archives to them like I never had to anyone else ever,” she said, hooked by Poehler’s leadership and Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment team, which produced the film along with White Horse Pictures. That was after hearing their angle, since she felt most ground had already been covered by her 1993 documentary Lucy and Desi: A Home Movie.
“I thought, ‘OK well don’t do that she was the first woman to ever run a motion picture studio and broke the glass ceiling. Don’t go from that angle because she hated that. She never wanted to do that so if you go with that story it’s a fake story,'” Arnaz explained. “So if you don’t tell that story, what story are you trying to tell? I had to know what their angle was going to be so it would be authentic, and once I knew where they were coming from I was like ‘OK I get that, I get what you’re trying to do and good luck because that’s not an easy story to tell.'”
The doc, an Amazon Studios film, comes just after Amazon’s release of Being the Ricardos, which follows a week in the couple’s lives as they shoot I Love Lucy and deal with personal crises. Between the two films, the couple is suddenly very much back in the zeitgeist.
“Both [projects] came at me around the same time — I thought the movie would’ve been out three years ago and this was just getting started, but as it turns out the movie comes out, and the movie’s not really about that much of their lives, it’s a very small section,” said Arnaz. “Even though [writer-director Aaron Sorkin] tried to cram a lot of stuff in there, it’s still not a very deep dive, emotionally and relationship-wise. You don’t even know really what happened to them — oh and after the last Lucy show they got divorced, but that was five years in the future. What happened?”
“It was kind of bothering me a little bit, but then the documentary is right on the heels of this so it’s like it doesn’t matter that [Sorkin] didn’t because you just turn around and watch this. It’s perfect,” she added, pointing up to the sky. “I have a feeling they had something to do with that.”
Lucy and Desi starts steaming on Amazon March 4.
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