“Being the Ricardos” is the third film between writer/director Aaron Sorkin and composer Daniel Pemberton following “Molly’s Game” (2017) and “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (2020), but when Sorkin brought the Lucille Ball–Desi Arnaz drama to Pemberton, the Brit admits he had some “hesitations.”
“I said to Aaron, ‘I’m familiar with [‘I Love Lucy’] but it’s not part of my DNA,’ whereas I kind of think if you’re American, it’s such an important part of the kind of cultural psyche of the country in terms of what you’ve grown up and how the country perceives itself. I was familiar with it a bit in terms of pop culturally,” Pemberton tells Gold Derby during our Meet the Experts: Composers panel (watch above). “But I kind of tried to use that to my advantage because Aaron was always like, ‘This is not about the show. This is about the people. This is about Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. From that point of view, I came to the film with no baggage.”
Set during a week of production on the iconic sitcom, the Amazon film follows the behind-the-scenes drama and relationship between its two stars, played by Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem. Among the real-life incidents that Sorkin crams into the week is Arnaz’s alleged infidelities. “Aaron gave this note that he wanted a beautiful love theme that goes wrong in a way, that’s got melancholy and an element of bittersweetness to it,” Pemberton shares. “We both agreed right from the start that we wanted a big, lush classic orchestral score and I wanted it to harken back to that kind of era, of the show and of Lucy, that kind of Golden [Age] of Hollywood.”
Pemberton came up with the main piano theme, a wistful motif that plays throughout the film, in April while staying at “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” producer Phil Lord‘s house in Los Angeles for the Oscars, where he was up for Best Original Song for “Hear My Voice” from “The Trial of The Chicago 7.”
“I wanted to go back to that thing of just sitting at a piano and writing a theme that would work throughout the story, so that’s kind of where I started off,” he says. “It was literally just sitting at a piano and fiddling around trying to find chords, the melody that would all kind of capture this idea that Aaron wanted — this slightly doomed love story. I’ve always said the film in some ways is a dream and it’s about Lucille’s dream for this perfect life.”
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