Aaron Sorkin told Nicole Kidman she didn’t have to get Lucille Ball’s voice right

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I still can’t get over how bad Being the Ricardos looks. I still say that one of the most offensive things about the trailers is how cheap everything looks! Aaron Sorkin wrote and directed the film, and the casting was approved by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s children, but honestly… other choices should have been made at every level. The reaction, last week, to the full-length trailer was not good. Even though this film is more than a month away from premiering on Amazon Prime, it does feel like Aaron Sorkin, Javier Bardem and Nicole Kidman are being sent out to do some damage control on how bad this looks. There are several new quotes from all three, and here are some highlights:

Kidman wasn’t sure about any of this: “I had massive trepidation about a month prior, and Aaron had to get on the phone and send me emails saying, ‘You’ve got this.’ It was frightening but incredibly exciting.”

Kidman didn’t know much about Lucille Ball: Kidman told the [Variety] audience that while she loved Ball and the show, she didn’t know “the woman behind the lipstick…I fell in love with her as I was reading the script. I realized what she was doing [was] trailblazing for women.”

Javier didn’t know much about Desi: Despite “I Love Lucy’s” popularity in Bardem’s native Spain, he too said he didn’t know much about the man beyond his performance. He said, “I was obsessed with him and his skills as a comedian, as a person, as a producer and a musician at that time while being a foreigner in this country.” Bardem wasn’t just playing the comedian, he was playing a charming performer. Someone who he says was “sexual and sensual. The energy had to be there, and I had fun embodying that.”

Kidman did research, okay? “I studied [her movements] and learned them. It went into my body and my memory. It was my obsession to get it absolutely accurate. It was [writer/director Aaron Sorkin’s] obsession to have this human being portrayed — what’s behind the creation of Lucy Ricardo and who is the woman behind this character?”

Aaron Sorkin on his terrible casting: “I’d make it very clear to them that I am not looking for a physical or vocal impersonation of these people. Leading up to the first rehearsal, I’d write to them every day, ‘Just play the characters who are in the script.’ I know that Nicole was working on Lucy’s voice for a while, and I wanted to relieve her of that. As far as audience anticipation, that’s something I’m just not worried about. I’m certain that when people see the movie, they’ll leave feeling that Nicole has made a very solid case for herself, but moreover, I’ve found that you can really leverage low expectations.”

[From People & Variety]

I’m sorry what? “I know that Nicole was working on Lucy’s voice for a while, and I wanted to relieve her of that…” So not only does Nicole Kidman look nothing like Lucille Ball, she also doesn’t sound anything like Lucille Ball and she’s absolutely nothing like Lucille Ball in general. Good to know! While I think Kidman is legitimately talented and arguably one of the better actors of her generation, she does have an Achilles heel, and she’s had it throughout her career: her American characters always sound a bit Australian. So Sorkin told Kidman, don’t worry about getting the voice right, it’s totes fine if LUCILLE BALL sounds like she’s Australian?!?!

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10th Annual LACMA ART+FILM GALA Presented By Gucci

Photos courtesy of Amazon Prime/’Being the Ricardos’.

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45 Responses to “Aaron Sorkin told Nicole Kidman she didn’t have to get Lucille Ball’s voice right”

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  1. Emma says:

    Man, is this going to be that Princess Grace movie all over again or what. With the difference that Grace wasn’t an elastic comedian.

    Nicole Kidman is so talented, I don’t know why she gets involved in some of these deliberately awful biopics.

    • molly says:

      Nicole has the career 54 year old women a generation ago would have killed to have: HBO award show darlings! NYT best selling books! COMIC BOOK franchises!

      She doesn’t have to do awful biopics where she will be awful. Stick to the good stuff, Nicole.

    • Ella says:

      I hate to say it, but I don’t think she is that talented. I think she’s successfully branded herself as a Talented Actress.

  2. ElleV says:

    this is stupid and debra messing would never

    • dj says:

      The obvious choice was Debra Messing but my personal choice would have been Megan Mullally. I have a visual in my head of Megan M. in the crushing grapes skit and I cannot see anyone else in this Lucy role now.

    • Normades says:

      I think Amy Adams would have been great but really there were soooo many other choices before Nicole.

      • Jan90067 says:

        Even Isla Fischer would’ve been a better choice! I love Nicole, but damn, this is BAD casting (same for Javier).

      • SarahLee says:

        I know we’re all gravitating toward red heads, but Jessica Chastain might have been an interesting choice. She’s a wonderful actress and can do comedy with a tinge of tragedy (see The Help).

  3. Anners says:

    I don’t actually think Nicole Kidman is a good actress…maybe it’s just me. I always think she either over does it, or plays a version of the same character in everything she does. And with her frozen face, she was the dead last person who should’ve been chosen to play a physical comedian. Sigh. I may watch it for a few minutes just to confirm my bias.

    • lisa says:

      I agree, I just felt like we were all being nice to all the ex Mrs Cruises. her face looks like a rubber mask. getting the voice right would have gone a long way to making this work. im currently listening to the TCM podcast about Lucille Ball and her voice is so strong. It doesnt need to be a spy like she is doing an impression, but it should sound much stronger.

    • Tessa says:

      I’m with you. I think she gets away with it because she keeps choosing these traumatized characters who are withdrawn, reserved, etc., and where subtle whisper-acting can be on point, and that’s why she gets praise. I feel like she has 3 facial expressions, and yes, she either plays herself or the same character in everything she does. I can’t think of a single movie where she played a boisterous, vivacious character that I actually enjoyed.

      • Emma says:

        To Die For! Of course, it’s from 1995. She was pretty vivacious in Moulin Rouge too.

        My personal fav Kidman film — Portrait of a Lady with Jane Campion.

    • Ange says:

      Me either, I always say she mistakes breathing for acting. But also I Love Lucy isn’t the enduring cultural touchstone in Australia like it is in America. Aussies have probably heard of it but I don’t know anyone that’s ever really watched it. It’s a big ask to take that on with no ongoing cultural reference.

    • Ella says:

      I’ve always thought she was a decidedly average actress, and I remember her from Australian stuff I watched as a kid. I think she’s the archetypal STAR, as opposed to a talented ACTRESS. She can do red carpet appearances and Chanel ads, and she marries famous people, and markets herself very well in the sense that she’s regarded as a good actress.

  4. Miss Melissa says:

    Her eyebrows are all wrong. Ball’s eyebrows were distinctive and a good makeup artist could have done it.

  5. Coco says:

    Everything about this is bad. If you seen “Here Lucy” which is in color you can see that Lucy had wrinkles and crows feet in her older age. Nicole face looks waxy and unnaturally smooth.

  6. Songs (Or it didnt happen) says:

    I understand what he is saying in that he doesn’t want an impersonation of the real life people, and that he wanted the actors to play the characters in the script instead of trying to be the actual person. Honestly it seems like people get in to such a ferver about an actor needing to look exactly like X person or X book character. Wouldn’t it be better to focus on the performances?

    (I’m not missing that a lot of comments are about the performances seeming bad too, I’m just here about it not needing to be cosplay to be good)

  7. Amy Bee says:

    The voice is not the main problem here.

  8. Kat says:

    I live in NYC and they were doing reshoots in front of my building last week. Safe to say I think they know it’s going to be bad too if the trailer is out but they’re still shooting.

  9. Plums says:

    This casting is ridiculous across the board, and I don’t understand why anyone thought Aaron Sorkin was the proper person to do a bio on Lucy and Desi. Strong, iconic women are not his forte.

    I just keep thinking about all the promo Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac did for Scenes From a Marriage and thinking they would have been a perfect Lucy and Desi.

    • Coco says:

      Yes J k Simmons as Fred Mertz is a bad choice . It’s like Fred Marty took a laxative and lost a ton of weight. William Frawley was not a thin guy during his years playing Fred or years after, so why would they cast J k Simmons and not add any weight to him.

  10. Monica says:

    Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz are etched into my memory. I can’t imagine older people are going to like this movie, because we were there—don’t piss on our legs and tell us it’s raining!

    Maybe the kids will get something out of it. 🤷‍♀️

  11. smcollins says:

    Idk…I think we sometimes tend to pile on the negative before it’s actually warranted. Apparently there was an early screening in LA and the response has been extremely positive (as reported by Variety, indie wire and Huffpost). It could be total PR bs but maybe judgement should be held until it’s actually been released (and I say this as someone who was initially very skeptical of Kidman’s casting).

  12. Kristen says:

    I don’t care for Nicole Kidman as an actress, but Aaron Sorkin is right about this. Watch The Social Network or Jobs – neither Jesse Eisenberg or Michael Fassbender look or talk anything like Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs, but their performances and the movies are phenomenal.

    • Amy Too says:

      Yeah but like I can vaguely summon a picture of those guys in my mind. Their face and voice and body isn’t what they’re known for and there are probably some people who honestly don’t know what they look like even though they use Facebook or have Apple computers and would thus be somewhat interested in a film about the guys behind those things.

      But Lucy? We KNOW what she looks like. The thing we know her for is her face, body, voice, the way she moves and laughs. I haven’t seen I love Lucy in over a decade, maybe 2, but I can summon her picture in my brain immediately. And the reason for wanting to see a Lucy movie is to see Lucy. It’s not like when we go see the social network because we want to see Facebook being formed. That’s about Facebook, not about Zuckerburg specifically, you know? Like Zuckerburg isn’t our beloved amd favorite character that we like because of how he looks and uses his face and voice and body. Lucy is the commodity. Zuckerburg isn’t the commodity, Facebook is.

    • Granger says:

      But neither Zuckerberg or Jobs are (were) the icon that Lucille Ball was. They were both normal dudes who became billionaires. Unless you were, for some strange reason, an obsessed fan of Steve Jobs, you didn’t really know much about him and probably couldn’t specify anything about his physical features. Very few people had expectations about what the actor playing Steve Jobs (or Zuckerberg) should look or be like, so really, how difficult was it to play him?

      • Kristen says:

        But Aaron Sorkin isn’t making a movie for people who watched I Love Lucy – that was 65 years ago. He’s making a movie for contemporary audiences, and most people under 30 couldn’t even tell you who Lucille Ball or Desi Arnaz are, let alone what they sounded like.

      • Nic919 says:

        Fincher directed the Social Network and so Sorkin’s self importance was filtered by a good director like Fincher. And Danny Boyle directed the Steve Jobs movie.

        The problem here is Sorkin is the director and he needs someone to edit his self important tendencies.

  13. Libellule says:

    Am I the only one distracted by jaw/lips combo? Is it the prosthetics? Makeup?

  14. MY3CENTS says:

    Ha ha this guy should really start working for the Cambridges with ” you can really leverage low expectations ” LMAO.
    Yeah this is a trainwreck.

  15. Deanne says:

    She looks like a bad wax figurine of Lucille Ball. Her face looks even more frozen than usual. I find it jarring.

  16. iconoclast59 says:

    Between Lucie Arnaz and her brother Desi Jr., I think Lucie had the greater input here. She’s done tons of interviews about her parents and did a TV special about them several years ago. I adore Lucie, but she really should have stepped back and let casting professionals do their thing. She’s not objective — understandable, as Lucy and Desi were her mom and dad. I have a feeling she’s hell-bent on having big stars play her parents. Debra Messing would never do for her as she’s not a big enough name.

    Lucy was tough as nails. It’s rumored that she took advantage of the casting couch to advance in the early days of her career; reportedly that was the advice given to her by Ginger Rogers’ mother! She was told multiple times that she didn’t have what it took to be a star, but she refused to give up. She fought to have Desi cast as her husband in I Love Lucy; the network execs wanted to go with a white actor. Even Lucie says her mom was very no-nonsense. Nicole can do drama, but she’s rarely come across as tough; I’m not sure she can adequately portray Lucy’s grit and determination.

    • Ana170 says:

      I cringe every time Lucie speaks about her parents. You’re right that she’s not objective at all, especially towards her mother. Anyway, absolutely everything about this looks and sounds terrible. I’m not a Sorkin fan anyway but I can’t imagine sitting down to watch this.

    • Natters says:

      I think you’re right. She’s been doing over the top PR for the film that sounds unbelievable if you have watched the trailer. I don’t think we are going to watch the movie and say, “OMG! They pulled it off! The movie is so much better than the trailer!”

  17. FrodoOrOdo says:

    This looks like Lucille Ball by the Franklin Mint.

  18. toodle says:

    I see another biopic happening to correct this one. If Aretha, Whitney, Nina Simone can have several so can Lucy.

  19. Sarah says:

    Well, according to critics who have seen the film, many of whom are also big Lucille Ball fans, Kidman nailed it and will likely get nominated for an Oscar. Sooooo.. I guess all the naysayers can kiss Kidman’s skinny ass.

  20. Nic919 says:

    I know the movie is not a comedy but Aaron Sorkin does not understand what makes things funny. All his characters are self important and when you look at Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, a show basically pretending to be SNL, you could see how Sorkin just didn’t have a clue as to what is funny. (Also Sports Night has not aged well)

    So to make a movie about one of most legendary comediennes in American television and not understand comedy really makes this a fruitless endeavour. Cate Blanchett was originally attached to this and she might have been able to do it, but really why not go for an unknown.

    Nicole Kidman was not the right actress for this role and she seems to know it on some level. To make things worse Bardem is not the right guy for Desi Arnaz either. It also seems pretty offensive to simply cast someone who speaks Spanish and have them pretend to be Cuban. It’s not the same culture at all and it doesn’t look like Bardem managed to capture Arnaz in any way either.

    Sorkin can be a good writer, but he shouldn’t be casting or directing things. He went for big names instead of people who have the ability to accurately capture the subjects they are playing.

    • Ann says:

      Something from Sports Night has stuck with me for years. The character played by the guy from Parenthood, whatever his name was, wakes up his kid to watch a runner on TV. I believe the runner was supposed to be South African, and his name was Ntzake Nelson…or maybe Nelson Ntzake, but I think the former, and that made me roll my eyes. My husband is originally from South Africa and that was such a lazy and inaccurate name to choose. And that’s all I have.

      I hope the movie is good but I wish they had chosen someone else. No, the actress doesn’t have to look just like her but get someone with a more expressive face at least. I agree with whoever said Amy Adams would have been good. She has comic chops.

  21. jferber says:

    I don’t plan to see it, so whatever. I don’t even know why Kidman would WANT to do this movie. For God’s sake, she won the Oscar for playing Virginia Woolf (in a ensemble with other prominent actresses). Why does she even feel the need to do this? As an Australian, what can this role mean to her? The Bewitched movie was awful. Learn from this. Don’t do movies about American sitcoms from the 1950’s and 1960’s. This cheapens her oeuvre. I’m not saying the sitcoms are beneath her. They stand on their own and represent themselves perfectly. I just can’t see that this or other movies like it are necessary at all.

  22. Lily Bart says:

    You don’t have to be exactly like Lucy even though you’re doing a movie about her?
    Good choices made all the way round.
    Proud to say I’ve never watched anything associated with Aaron Sorkin.

  23. Katherine Hughes says:

    they should have cast Debra Messing as Lucille Ball!