‘Lucy And Desi’ Director Opens Up About How Lucille Ball Was Ahead of Her Time

by Josh Lanier

Saturday Night Live alum Amy Poehler doesn’t think people realize how ahead of her time Lucille Ball was. So she made Lucy and Desi, a documentary about the iconic comedienne to explain it. Poehler worked with the I Love Lucy star’s family to get insights and never-released home movies and audio recordings to paint a more accurate portrait of the icon.

Amy Poehler said Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were “mavericks” in the entertainment industry, she told Deadline. They created the multi-camera sitcom format and filmed in front of a studio audience. But they also changed what the industry looked like behind the cameras as well.

“I think a lot of people truly don’t understand how ahead of their time they were,” Poehler said. “How they were true mavericks in a system that certainly wasn’t encouraging immigrants and people of color and women to run studios and to be the bosses and to be high status in the 1950s.”

But Poehler wants to dive deeper than most retrospectives. Oftentimes, we sandblast away the rough edges of our heroes and forget they were people. It takes away from their accomplishments and makes them less than. Lucy and Desi isn’t that kind of documentary, she said.

“I’m always very interested when we start to turn people into icons and geniuses that we really flatten them out,” Poehler said. “We forget that they’re human — human people… Every time we got back to the humanness of it all. Pioneers, outsiders who took big risks and who also had to maintain a relationship, and a very public one, at the same time.”

Poehler Worked With Lucille Ball’s Family on Documentary

Getting that intimate portrayal of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz required access to private home recordings and never-released audio tapes that feature the couple at their most vulnerable. Poehler worked with Lucille Ball’s estate to get that unfettered look behind the scenes at one of Hollywood’s first power couples.

“We were lucky enough that the estate really opened up a whole new world for us. And we were excited about hearing Lucy and Desi tell their story in their own words,” Poehler told Deadline. “There’s an incredible amount of information that’s public, and there’s tons of ways in which to tell the story. But we really wanted to try to stay inside their relationship and, in many ways, their heads and hearts throughout it.”

Poehler uses those recordings to create the illusion that Luci and Desi are narrating their own story.

Lucille Ball’s daughter, Lucie Arnaz, celebrated the documentary on Instagram. She pointed out that early reviews for the movie are very positive.

“Our Lucy and Desi documentary directed by Amy Poehler premiered last night at The Sundance Film Festival and garnered some of the best reviews anywhere ever,” she wrote. “I am so proud of this team. Amy, Jeanne Elfant Festa, Nigel Sinclair of White Horse Pictures, Ron Howard and Imagine Studios and our good friends at Amazon.”

Amazon will release the movie on Prime on March 4.