Alan Baumgarten interview: ‘Being the Ricardos’ editor
Oscar-nominated editor Alan Baumgarten has worked with Aaron Sorkin on his three films as a director – “Molly’s Game,” “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” and “Being the Ricardos” – and their collaborative process keeps getting better. “Each time it has increased the amount of involvement I’ve had,” Baumgarten, an Oscar nominee this year for Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” tells Gold Derby.
For “Ricardos,” their latest project, Baumgarten says Sorkin gave him the script while they were putting the finishing touches on “Chicago 7.” He gave the director a few notes on the screenplay, and off they went.
“We complement each other very well,” Baumgarten says of Sorkin. “I love the scripts that he writes, the style he’s going for, and also the freedom he gives me to put it together with the way I see it or feel it should be, at least in the early stages. He gives me free rein which is a wonderful way to start. I aim for what I think he is going for, but I also inject little surprises along the way.”
Focused on one very stressful week in the life of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz on the set of “I Love Lucy,” “Being the Ricardos” starts in media res with Ball and Arnaz facing a pair of crises: accusations that Ball is a Communist and allegations that Arnaz has committed adultery. Throughout the ensuing runtime, “Being the Ricardos” hops around in time – from a framing device set decades later to flashbacks that show the beginnings of the Ball-Arnaz union from a decade earlier.
“Aaron is a believer in not hand-holding, allowing an audience to catch up, but don’t go out of your way to be too clever,” Baumgarten explains of creating a balance between the timelines. “We were always conscious of if we were giving too much information or too little.”
Beyond Sorkin’s brisk storytelling and signature dialogue, however, “Being the Ricardos” is built on the back of two high-wire movie star performances from a pair of former Oscar winners: Nicole Kidman as Ball and Javier Bardem as Arnaz. Each actor has received praise for their work in “Being the Ricardos,” with Kidman among the top contenders for a Best Actress nomination according to the Gold Derby odds.
“They’re very valuable gifts to have performances like that from these actors,” says Baumgarten, who also scored an Oscar nomination for David O. Russell’s “American Hustle,” which netted itself four acting nominations. “It’s a more intimate type of story in many ways [than “Chicago 7” or “Molly’s Game,” Sorkin’s previous films], so we’re trusting the actors and the performance. That’s what my job is: to preserve and elevate and protect those moments and beats, finding the best material of the already great vast amount of source material I have, getting the very best.”
Of course, Baumgarten, like viewers so far, was also enamored with what he was seeing on a daily basis from the two stars. “I was watching those performances and falling in love, take after take with Nicole and Javier,” he says. “Knowing they’re great actors is not the issue, it’s what they did with this material. That was the strength Aaron also had: trusting the story, trusting the actors.”