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Aaron Sorkin’s scripts have become something of Hollywood folklore, famous for their intricate detail and fast-talking pace.
For some, taking on those words is an immense challenge; for others, like Being the Ricardos star Nicole Kidman, it’s “such a gift,” she told The Hollywood Reporter at the film’s Los Angeles premiere at the Academy Museum on Monday. “He writes so beautifully and once you get into his vibe and you go with it, it’s just gorgeous. I think every actor who works with him goes, ‘Give it to me again, give me the chance again,’ because he’s fabulous.”
And, she added, “he’s a writer-writer, that’s why he wins so many awards.” Sorkin is indeed back in the awards conversation again this year with his Amazon film, which he wrote and directed, following the complex relationship of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz behind the scenes of I Love Lucy.
For his part, transforming into Arnaz opposite Kidman’s Ball, Javier Bardem said he started reading about the man years ago when he heard the project was in development, “little by little building up the interest and the curiosity and the life, the attraction,” so by the time he was actually offered the role he was ready to go.
Bardem described the Sorkin script experience as “a coin with two sides. One side is a golden ticket to acting joy. On the other side of the coin is a lot of work. It’s a demanding ask for any actor to fulfill those words with honestly and truth and organicity. They’re beautifully written but the images are so powerful and so rich that you have to bring all you have, all you know, into it.”
And while the two leads have both spoken about their newfound appreciation of I Love Lucy and the couple behind it, the supporting cast is full of longtime fans, including J.K. Simmons, who joked that as the only one of the main cast born in the ’50s, “I felt like I was the senior statesman and should be the most connected to it, and I did, I do remember watching it as a little kid.”
Alia Shawkat said she caught reruns on Nick at Nite growing up, and “looked up to Lucille Ball as an actress in television.” Coming from a background of improv and comedy, she said the film was “a very different style, naturally very intimidating. The minute I found out I got the role I started memorizing my lines then, I was like, ‘I will not mess this up!’
“We also shot during COVID, so did not have any time, sometimes we’d only have one take,” Shawkat added. “But what made me more comfortable was I was surrounded by the most talented people in the industry and looking at someone like Javier or Nicole and they’re also like, ‘OK we’ve got to keep up, this is hard.’ I was like, ‘This is hard for you, too? OK cool.’ But we were all very excited to be a part of the moving train and Aaron really trusted us, even though we were terrified and would sometimes beg him for more time, he was like, ‘You’ve got it.’
And though the narrative surrounding the film’s release was a casting question of if Kidman and Bardem were the right leads, early screenings and reviews have celebrated their performances.
In watching that public opinion change, Tony Hale said, “I think being on the inside shooting I just remember thinking, ‘This is great.’ Just watching [Nicole’s] performance and Javier and their chemistry and the production design and recreating the set, and also it’s Aaron Sorkin so it’s just like, ‘I cannot wait until this is brought together.’ And it did it, it totally matched my expectations.”
Being the Ricardos hits theaters Friday and starts streaming on Amazon Dec. 21.
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