“I wasn’t aware of how big it was,” Bardem said about I Love Lucy. When I really started digging into him, the deeper I got, the more I knew how iconic [the show] was … it was like, ‘Shit.’”
However, Bardem’s reluctance was met with support from director Aaron Sorkin who convinced him to stay on with the production. Unsurprisingly, his costar Nicole Kidman also struggled with measuring up to Lucille Ball. Fans criticized her casting, citing a lack of resemblance to Ball or a non-comedy background. It was hard for Kidman to overcome.
“I went, ‘What have I said yes to?’ — to which I then went, ‘Oh no, I’m not right. Everyone thinks I’m not right so I’m going to try to sidestep this,’” Kidman explained in an interview. “And the producer Todd Black and Aaron Sorkin were both like, ‘Absolutely not.’ I was in Australia and they were like, ‘No.’ And thank god, because then I was so grateful because I got to fall in love with her.”
Both Kidman and Bardem received support from Lucie Arnaz, daughter of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. She gave her blessing to the film on the condition that it tell “the story of Lucille Ball, [her] actual mother, not Lucy Ricardo and her husband Desi Arnaz, [her] dad, not Ricky Ricardo.”
“There seems to be a lot of discussion about ‘Nicole Kidman, it should be Debra Messing, it should be Carole Cook,’” said Arnaz in defense of Kidman and Bardem. “Here’s the deal, what you should understand: We are not doing a remake of I Love Lucy. No one has to impersonate Lucy Ricardo nor do the Vitameatavegamin routine or … any of the silly things.”
Being the Ricardos Star Talks Acting With an Accent
In addition to feeling the weight of portraying the icon, Bardem dealt with critics who said he should not play the role because he is Spanish. Bardem has no patience with the unfair volley of insults thrown his way, and the actor expertly shut down his detractors.
“I’m an actor, and that’s what I do for a living: try to be people that I’m not,” Bardem stated. “What do we do with Marlon Brando playing Vito Corleone? What do we do with Margaret Thatcher played by Meryl Streep? Daniel Day-Lewis playing Lincoln? Why does this conversation happen with people with accents? You have your accent. That’s where you belong. That’s tricky. Where is that conversation with English-speaking people doing things like The Last Duel, where they were supposed to be French people in the Middle Ages? That’s fine. But me, with my Spanish accent, being Cuban? What I mean is, if we want to open the can of worms, let’s open it for everyone.”
Bardem’s frustrations are not unfounded; why can’t he play Desi Arnaz? The icon’s daughter approves, so why can’t audiences?
“The role came to me,” said Bardem. “And one thing that I know for sure is that I’m going to give everything that I have.” Being the Ricardos is now showing in theaters. The film will be available to stream on Amazon Prime starting Dec. 21.