Being the Ricardos star Nicole Kidman reveals who inspired her to play Lucille Ball despite the intense backlash to her casting.
Directed by Aaron Sorkin, Being the Ricardos features Kidman as Ball and Javier Bardem as her husband, Desi Arnaz. Instead of covering I Love Lucy in its entirety, the film focuses on the week in which Ball was accused of being a communist. It also puts on display the tensions in the couple’s marriage.
When Kidman’s casting was announced, it was met with almost immediate backlash. Some said a comedian should play the role. Others said Kidman didn’t look the part–ironic, given the Ball was a natural brunette. Even actress Valerie Bertinelli contributed to the hate thrown at Kidman. The Hot in Cleveland star tweeted “Debra Messing was robbed.”
Kidman Almost Dropped Out
All of these criticisms made Kidman doubt herself. As a result, she almost dropped out of the film.
“I tried not to [listen to the criticism], but I’m a human being, so there’s time when you go, ‘Gosh, maybe I’m not the right person for this,'” Kidman said in an appearance on Today. “That’s where having somebody like Aaron, who really said at the beginning, he was like, ‘I’m not wanting a perfect rendition or imitation of Lucy. No, no, no, no, no.'”
For Sorkin, Kidman’s casting in Being the Ricardos was right on the money. He and producer Todd Black wanted stars who “captured the essence” of Ball and Arnaz. Black said “you’re never going to duplicate Lucile Ball and Desi Arnaz,” and that “they were one of a kind.”
“This was going to be a kind of tour de force performance,” explained Sorkin. “And then when Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem and J.K. Simmons and Nina Arianda say they want to do your movie, your casting search is over.” Simmons and Arianda play William Frawley and Vivian Vance, Ball and Arnaz’s I Love Lucy costars.
Kidman Found Being the Ricardos Role Relatable
Additionally, Kidman found Lucille Ball incredibly relatable. The Being the Ricardos star praises Sorkin’s writing. She said “if you can get your hands on this screenplay, read it because it’s such a good read. It’s as good as a great novel.”
“There’s a scene in it where they say, ‘You’re 39, and that’s it. It’s kind of over for you,” Kidman clarified. “I know that feeling. I sort of had that. And it was like, OK. Where television suddenly opened a door for her, it opened a door for me. Around the same age, I was like, ‘Gosh, that’s kind of … I know that feeling really deeply.”
As for Kidman’s performance, she has one major supporter: Lucie Arnaz, Ball’s daughter. After screening the Being the Ricardos, she said that Kidman “became [her] mother’s soul.” Kidman channeled her sympathy for Ball into a believable and engaging performance.
Lucie promised that audiences will not be disappointed in Being the Ricardos. She wants to share “the story of Lucille Ball, [her] actual mother, not Lucy Ricardo and her husband Desi Arnaz, [her] dad, not Ricky Ricardo.”
Being the Ricardos is now playing in theaters. The film is also available to stream on Amazon Prime.