Aaron Sorkin Talks Casting Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball: 'She's Going to Be Fantastic' (Exclusive)
By John Boone
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Sorky, you've got some 'splaining to do. That was the loudest reaction when news broke that Aaron Sorkin is following up The Trial of the Chicago 7 with a biopic about Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz -- titled Being the Ricardos -- and that Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem are playing the couple.
"I think that the people thought that we've cast them as Lucy and Ricky Ricardo," Sorkin tells ET's Matt Cohen. "The film takes place during a production week of I Love Lucy -- a Monday table read to Friday audience taping, with a whole bunch of long flashbacks which are telling the story that got us here -- and because there's a table read, there's rehearsals and then there's tape night, we do see moments of them being Lucy and Ricky Ricardo. We see moments from an episode of I Love Lucy. But mostly they are playing Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. And they're going to be fantastic. These are two of the greatest actors ever."
The sentiment echoes what Ball and Arnaz's daughter, Lucie Arnaz, said in a Facebook message after the casting got out there, calming any concerns and giving the project her blessing. "I really appreciated it, because it wasn't a video I could send," Sorkin says. Now, production is moving forward and its writer-director hopes to "leverage" any social media chatter in the movie's favor.
"[I'm used to] people making assumptions about what it is and having an opinion about what it is not only before they've seen it, before we've even made it!" he explains. "I remember with The Social Network, when it got out there that David Fincher and I were going to be doing this movie which people were calling The Facebook Movie, they assumed that it was going to be about, like, Bradley Cooper friending Drew Barrymore and the two of them falling in love. And they thought, 'This thing is going to be terrible!' You can leverage those expectations by then giving people something that's a lot better than what they thought that they were going to get."
Rounding out the cast is J.K. Simmons as William Frawley and Nina Arianda as Vivian Vance, the actors who played Fred and Ethel Mertz. Sorkin was careful not to give too much away from the film but did explain what drew him to the story in the first place.
"Lucy and Desi were madly in love with each other. Madly, madly in love with each other. They also often wanted to kill each other. There was very interesting friction in this relationship," he says. "There's also a big thing that a lot of people don't know about Lucille Ball, which gets dramatized in this. We start shooting in seven weeks and we're in prep now and the film will be out around this time next year."
An early 2022 release for Being the Ricardos could return Sorkin to the awards conversation yet again, a conversation he is becoming increasingly familiar with through The Trial of the Chicago 7. The historical drama has been nominated at the Golden Globes and SAG Awards and is expected to be a key player at the upcoming Academy Awards.
"It was delivered to my home this morning. It's the largest award I've ever received and it's beautiful and I'm incredibly proud of it. We all are," he says. "On behalf of everyone involved with Chicago 7, we are incredibly honored to get this award for the Palm Springs Film Festival."
Although Sorkin himself is already an Oscar winner, he hasn't become jaded in the slightest about what these accolades mean.
"My dream, all I have ever wanted was to be a professional writer, to simply to be able to pay my bills with the money that I made writing," he explains. "And that's not a modest goal. The idea of winning things like this never entered my mind, and so I'm a kid in a candy store. I'm as knocked out as I would have been when I was 10 years old."
Sorkin adds, "I remember my very first day on a film set. It was A Few Good Men. We were shooting the first scene on the schedule -- it was a scene between Tom Cruise and Demi Moore -- and after the first take, the director, Rob Reiner, called cut, and I jumped up in the air and went, 'Yeah! Yeah! 'Yeah!' The sound engineer turner to me and said, 'Don't ever lose that,' and it's never been a problem, not losing that."
The Palm Springs International Film Awards will not take place as an in-person event this year, but ET will be exclusively sitting down with the winners and honoring the honorees on Entertainment Tonight on Feb. 25.