Producer Todd Black has been interested in making a film about Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz since 1995, but their children weren’t “ready to do that at that time.” But eventually Black met with Lucie Arnaz and the two started a “trust-building” process that ultimately led to Amazon’s “Being the Ricardos.” Arnaz didn’t want a fawning portrait of her parents, though. “She said, ‘I don’t want to soften it. I want to really get real and raw.'” We talked with Black as part of our “Meet the Experts” Film Producers Panel. Watch our exclusive video interview above.
Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, “Being the Ricardos” isn’t a traditional cradle-to-grave portrait of Ball and Arnaz’s lives and careers. Instead, it focuses on one week during production of “I Love Lucy” when Ball (played by Nicole Kidman) is publicly accused of being a communist amid the Red Scare while also dealing with tensions in her marriage to Desi (played by Javier Bardem).
Of course, when you’re making a film about two of the most recognizable public figures in Hollywood history, “casting is a tricky thing,” but strictly mimicking the famous couple wasn’t. “Aaron and I did not want to have imitations. You’re never going to duplicate Lucile Ball and Desi Arnaz. It’s never going to happen. They were one of a kind, that’s it.” Instead, they wanted actors who could capture “the essence of Lucille Ball and the essence of Desi Arnaz … and I think it really served us well.”
Ultimately, Black felt like he “won the lottery” with this film since it’s “every producer’s dream” to explore trailblazing subjects like Ball and Arnaz “and show the machinations of their relationship and their marriage, and their professional relationship on ‘I Love Lucy’ … To get to tell iconic people’s stories as a film producer is kind of a dream come true, actually, particularly with someone like Aaron.”
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