Aaron Sorkin may not be on social media, but don’t think he’s not aware of the backlash against Nicole Kidman‘s casting as Lucille Ball in his new film “Being the Ricardos.” During a post-screening Q&A Wednesday in New York City with Kidman and his other stars J.K. Simmons and Nina Arianda, Sorkin made his feelings about internet armchair casting experts very clear.
“There was this committee — I can’t remember what they were called, not the House on Un-American Activities Committee — but this association for American goodness or something,” Sorkin said. “But they were the ones who, if you wanted to hire J.K. Simmons on your show, they’d tell you if that was OK. They’ve checked out J.K. and they haven’t found anything in his past that bothers them, yes, you can hire J.K. Simmons. That group today is Twitter.”
Outrage started immediately when Kidman was cast in January, with fans fuming that the Oscar winner did not look enough like the iconic comedienne and wary that she could pull off the performance — so much so that Ball and Desi Arnaz‘s daughter Lucie Arnaz defended Kidman’s hiring in a Facebook video. It reached a fever pitch in the spring when photos of Kidman on set and not in heavy prosthetics emerged, and fans were angry that Debra Messing, who played Ball’s Lucy Ricardo in “Will & Grace’s” “I Love Lucy” tribute episode in 2020, was not cast instead. They were still upset as recently as last week after the “Being the Ricardos” trailer dropped. On Monday, Messing tweeted that she was “very humbled” and asked her fans to join her in supporting Kidman. Since the film started screening last week, Kidman has earned stellar notices for her performance.
Sorkin said Wednesday that he was never looking for a perfect impersonation of Ball for two reasons. One is because “Being the Ricardos” is not a standard biopic and so he wasn’t looking for “Elvis impersonations.” The film covers the behind-the-scenes drama during one week of production on an episode of “I Love Lucy” and condenses several real-life events into it, including Ball’s possible connection to Communism and cheating rumors surrounding Arnaz, played by Javier Bardem. The other reason is because he knows the general public has the wrong picture of Ball the woman in mind when they hear her name.
“Honestly, I thought Nicole looked as much like Lucille Ball as Leo DiCaprio looks like Howard Hughes,” Sorkin said. “Lucille Ball doesn’t look like Lucille Ball. It’s the way that Charlie Chaplin doesn’t look like Charlie Chaplin. When you’re asked to think about Charlie Chaplin, what you’re picturing is ‘The Little Tramp,’ and he doesn’t look anything like that. Lucille Ball, when you’re asked to think of her — I have found that even today, people have a very hard time separating Lucille and Desi from Lucy and Ricky. So I wanted any time she wasn’t Lucy Ricardo, which was most of the movie — there’s only a couple of bits of Lucy Ricardo in there — I wanted her to look not like what we think she looks like.”
When Sorkin offered the part to Kidman, he immediately told her he did not want a direct impersonation of Ball. That, in turn, forced Kidman to approach the character from a way she never had before. “He was very, very strict about it. And I think that then made me go, ‘OK, what can I kind of get my teeth into?’ I can watch the show and I can work on all of her physicality,” she shared. “And so the physicality in her body became a really important thing for me — her hands, the way she walked, the way she moved. And it was incredibly freeing because she’s, as you know, the most extraordinary physical comedienne. Being able to do that and move like that and start like that — which is not usually how I start with a character — was a fantastic, sort of different way in. [It’s] the only time I’ve done that, starting with physicality first.”
While physical resemblance wasn’t important to Sorkin, he did want Kidman to nail Ball vocally — for both of her personas. “He said, ‘But there’s one thing I do want you to do: I want you to have Lucy’s voice and I want Lucille to have the voice that Lucille had.’ Lucille smoked a lot and so she had a much, much deeper rasp in her voice, and those were sort of the two things. And then he would say, ‘And learn every single word and don’t change a word'” Kidman quipped. “Which is of course, you must [follow]. Because when it’s Sorkin language, we’re all like, learn every single word, punctuation, dot, dot, everything.”
“Being the Ricardos” opens in theaters Dec. 10 and arrives on Amazon Prime Video on Dec. 21.
Make your predictions at Gold Derby now. Download our free and easy app for Apple/iPhone devices or Android (Google Play) to compete against legions of other fans plus our experts and editors for best prediction accuracy scores. See our latest prediction champs. Can you top our esteemed leaderboards next? Always remember to keep your predictions updated because they impact our latest racetrack odds, which terrify Hollywood chiefs and stars. Don’t miss the fun. Speak up and share your huffy opinions in our famous forums where 5,000 showbiz leaders lurk every day to track latest awards buzz. Everybody wants to know: What do you think? Who do you predict and why?