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Aaron Sorkin Defends Casting Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball: ‘I’m Not Looking’ for Impersonation

Sorkin also explains why he's comfortable with Spanish actor Javier Bardem playing Cuban-born Desi Arnaz.

Nicole Kidman, "Being the Ricardos"

Nicole Kidman, “Being the Ricardos”

Amazon Studios

Aaron Sorkin gave his first in-depth interview on his upcoming directorial effort “Being the Ricardos” to The Hollywood Reporter, and the discussion touched upon the controversial castings of Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem as Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. “I Love Lucy” fans have knocked Kidman’s casting as she does not look like the real Lucille Ball, while trailers for the film have ignited complaints that she doesn’t sound like Ball either. Sorkin said he wasn’t concerned with any of that when casting. He wanted Kidman to play the character he wrote on the page before trying to impersonate the real Lucille Ball.

“We made this movie during COVID, and so in Zooming with Nicole and Javier and everyone else, I’d make it very clear to them that I am not looking for a physical or vocal impersonation of these people,” Sorkin said. “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.”

Sorkin continued, “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.”

As for Bardem, the Oscar winner hails from Spain and is playing the Cuba-born Arnaz. Bardem’s casting launched debated over whether a Spanish actor should play a real-life Cuban figure. Sorkin said he worked with a “Latina casting consultant” on the movie who was comfortable with Bardem joining the project as Arnaz. However, the consultant did turn down a Brazilian actor who was interested in the role because “Brazilians aren’t considered Hispanic because they speak Portuguese.”

“I don’t want to use the casting consultant as cover,” Sorkin said. “I want to tell you my opinion on this and I stand by it, which is this: Spanish and Cuban aren’t actable, okay? They’re not actable. By the way, neither are straight and gay. Because I know there’s a small movement underway that only gay actors should play gay characters. Gay and straight aren’t actable. You could act being attracted to someone, but most nouns aren’t actable.”

Sorkin added, “We know when we’re being demeaning. We know that Black face is demeaning because of its historical context because you’re making ridiculous cartoon caricatures out of people. We know that Mickey Rooney with the silly piece in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and that makeup doing, silly Japanese speak, we know that’s demeaning. This is not, I felt. Having an actor who was born in Spain playing a character who was born in Cuba was not demeaning. And it wasn’t just the casting consultant who agreed, Lucy and Desi’s Cuban-American daughter didn’t have a problem with it. So, I’m very comfortable with it.”

Lucie Arnaz, Lucille and Desi’s daughter, has already gone on record giving her blessing to Kidman and Bardem’s casting. In a statement, Arnaz said Kidman “became my mother’s soul. She crawled into her head. She cared very deeply about this part, it shows. And I believed everything she said.” She added of Bardem, “He really doesn’t look that much like my dad. But he has everything that Dad had. He has his wit, his charm, his dimples, his musicality, his strength and tenacity, and you can tell from the performance that he just loved him.”

“Being the Ricardos” will open in select theaters December 10, followed by a streaming launch December 21 on Amazon Prime Video. Head over to The Hollywood Reporter’s website to read Sorkin’s interview in its entirety.

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