‘Being The Ricardos’ Director Aaron Sorkin Opens Up About Fudging Timeline in Lucille Ball’s Story

by Josh Lanier
(Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AFI)

The biopic is a tricky thing to get right. It’s nearly impossible to condense a person’s life into a two-hour movie. So, you have to work around the edges and nudge things into places where they didn’t originally go. It’s something Aaron Sorkin did when writing Being the Ricardos, which tells the story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

Sorkin told The Hollywood Reporter that he had to twist and tweak some facts to get the story to fit into his timeframe. Being the Ricardos takes place over five days. The movie begins on a Monday at a table reading for that week’s episode of I Love Lucy. It ends on Friday when the cast and crew film it. The movie centers on Ball and Arnaz as they battle tabloid headlines about Desi’s infidelities, Congress’ prying into Ball’s alleged history with the Communist party, her pregnancy, and the behind-the-scenes drama of I Love Lucy.

The events in the movie, though, all happen within that week. But In reality, they were years apart. Aaron Sorkin said he made those concessions to make the movie. But Lucie Arnaz, Lucie and Desi’s daughter, didn’t like it at first. She said in August that she asked Sorkin to remove some scenes from Being the Ricardos that were inaccurate. Though, she changed her mind once she saw the movie.

“There was a while when (Lucie Arnaz) had trouble getting her arms around the fact that I was taking these three incidents — what we call the ‘Red Scare,’ Desi showing up on the cover of Confidential magazine with another woman with the headline ‘Desi’s Wild Night Out,’ and Lucy being pregnant — and I put them not just in the same year, but in the same week when those three things happened at three different times,” Sorkin told THR. “… Then she saw the movie and then saw it again the next night with an audience sitting next to me and Nicole, and I think that’s when she saw what we were after, what for several years I’d only been talking about.”

Sorkin Worried About Having Arnaz on Set of ‘Being the Ricardos’

Aaron Sorkin said he originally didn’t want Lucie Arnaz to visit the set of Being the Ricardos. He worried it could rattle the actors that were playing her family members. But someone interceded.

“For Nicole’s sake, I had said, ‘Listen, Lucie can’t come to the set. I can’t ask Nicole (Kidman) to play her mother in front of her,'” Sorkin said. “And then Nicole invited Lucie to the set.”

Arnaz visited the set for two days earlier this year. She couldn’t divulge much about her time there. Though she shared some behind-the-scenes photos with her fans on Instagram, and she gave a hint about Kidman’s performance.

Nicole did a spectacular job,” Arnaz said. “The two days that I watched, though, were both little flashbacks, so she was playing Lucy in the late ’30s and mid-’40s. She wasn’t Lucy of Lucy Ricardo fame yet, so it was a trifle different.

“And I know she meant it to be, so it could feel different. But boy, what she did was astounding. She’s got such poise and class.”

Amazon Studios will release Being the Ricardos on Dec. 10.