SAG Awards profile: Javier Bardem turns on the charm as Desi Arnaz in ‘Being the Ricardos’

Javier Bardem has earned his fourth career SAG Award nomination for portraying TV icon Desi Arnaz in “Being the Ricardos.” Aaron Sorkin’s latest effort examines a hellish week for Bardem’s Arnaz and Nicole Kidman’s Lucille Ball, as they navigate a scandal that threatens to upend their careers.

Bardem is already a two-time SAG Award winner thanks to “No Country for Old Men.” He claimed Best Supporting Actor for his chilling performance of Anton Chigurh, and the entire cast won SAG’s coveted Best Ensemble prize. He picked up a second Supporting Actor nomination for playing another villain in the James Bond film “Skyfall.”

His bid for “Being the Ricardos” marks the first time Bardem competes in the Lead Actor category at SAG. Bardem is nominated alongside Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Power of the Dog”), Andrew Garfield (“tick, tick…Boom!”), Will Smith (“King Richard”), and Denzel Washington (“The Tragedy of Macbeth”). Washington is the only other previous SAG winner in the race, having won for “Fences.” Cumberbatch, Garfield, and Smith are all searching for their first victory after multiple previous nominations.

The actor’s past wins speak to his popularity with SAG voters. But Bardem’s likeability is also evident when you look at who is missing from the Lead Actor lineup. Peter Dinklage racked up an impressive 2 wins from 16 nominations thanks to “The Station Agent,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” and “Game of Thrones.” He gave an acclaimed performance in the musical adaptation of “Cyrano,” but voters still chose Bardem. Past SAG winner Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Revenant”) scored his 12th SAG nomination this year as part of the celebrated ensemble of “Don’t Look Up.” But love for that film still wasn’t enough for the A-Lister to overcome Bardem for an individual nomination.

Bardem has one major factor in his corner which could point to a surprise win: he plays a real-life figure. SAG voters have overwhelmingly preferred to give their lead actor prize to performers who play real people. Since 2010, voters rewarded Colin Firth (“The King’s Speech”) as King George VI, Daniel Day-Lewis (“Lincoln”) as Abraham Lincoln, Matthew McConaughey (“Dallas Buyers Club”) as Ron Woodruff, Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything”) as Stephen Hawking, Leonardo Dicaprio (“The Revenant”) as Hugh Glass, Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”) as Winston Churchill, and Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody”) as Freddie Mercury.

While Smith and Garfield also portray real figures, Bardem’s situation is unique because “I Love Lucy” is one of the most well known and beloved television series of all time. Multiple generations of people have welcomed Ricky Ricardo into their homes over the years, taking delight in the sitcom’s simple charms and hijinks. This isn’t just any biographical role, viewers press play on “Being the Ricardos” primed to enjoy Bardem’s performance. The actor expertly captures the charm which overflowed from Desi Arnaz. His irresistible grin and arresting energy makes viewers fall for him the same way he made Ball fall for him. This is part of what makes the revelation of Arnaz’s infidelity so crushing, and such a perfect emotional beat of the movie: the facade of the sitcom comes crashing down even though the audience yearns for Lucy and Ricky to make it work. This is a Hollywood story that SAG voters are bound to eat up.

This article is a part of Gold Derby’s “SAG Awards nominee profile” series spotlighting the 2022 contenders in film and TV.

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