Critically acclaimed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has undertaken the tall task of writing and directing Being the Ricardos. The movie will focus on the unseen side of the relationship between Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. He’s already gotten some pushback for his casting choices, and recently, he spoke on what McCarthy era Hollywood and cancel culture today have in common.
In the interview, Sorkin talked about everything from writing the movie to the similarities and differences between Red Scare Hollywood and today’s digital cancel culture. Being the Ricardos revolves around the 1950s period in which the fear of communism was at an all-time high. Hollywood became a major battleground pitting the government and entertainment industry against many of the people working in it.
Suspicion resulted in a blacklist that prevented many actors, writers, and directors from working in Hollywood. Lucille Ball herself landed on said list. Aaron Sorkin thinks there are some parallels between that time and now, minus the whole communism part of things, of course.
“There are parallels. Obviously, the House [Un-American Activities Committee], Joe McCarthy and Roy Cohn, had the force of government behind them. They could lock people up,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.
The interviewer contrasted those parallels with a platform like Twitter. On the internet, the actual threat of arrest rarely factors into a “canceling.”
Aaron Sorkin laid out his stance by saying he could watch a Dave Chappelle special on Netflix and disagree with what he says. But that’s no reason for him to boycott the people running Netflix.
“It’s one thing if someone is spreading dangerous misinformation or if because of someone’s speech, people are getting beaten up or worse. That’s entirely different. But just someone offending you? I just think that’s the cost of doing business in a free society,” Aaron Sorkin continued.
Aaron Sorkin Didn’t Have Many Primary Sources When Writing ‘Being the Ricardos’
The days of I Love Lucy are far enough back that there aren’t many people who worked on the show around to talk about it. But it’s recent enough that many still remember its impact and have distinct memories of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
It’s a bit of a tightrope to walk as a writer. The pushback on casting tells you everything you need to know about the challenges of undertaking it as a project.
“There was no one alive to talk to for this, for first-hand research. We made contact with a man who was a camera operator on I Love Lucy, but he wasn’t able to tell me much that I needed,” Aaron Sorkin continued in the interview.
Instead, Sorkin had to rely on book accounts, which most he admitted weren’t great, and Lucie Arnaz herself. The latter was reportedly invaluable as she provided him with first-hand knowledge and home movies.