Joining Deadline as part of the Amazon Studios presentation at Contenders Film: The Nominees event were two of the stars of Aaron Sorkin’s funny, moving and cleverly constructed story of the relationship of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in Being the Ricardos, which all takes place in a week during the course of a taping of an episode of I Love Lucy.
There are momentous events in that week, including Lucy’s real-life pregnancy being revealed, an accusation that she had Communist ties when blazing headlines appeared, and also a tabloid story claiming Desi was having an affair. All these things happened, but not in the space of seven days; Sorkin felt it was best for dramatic purposes to combine them. It certainly worked, as witnessed by three Oscar nominations for Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem in the lead acting categories, and J.K. Simmons for his role as William Frawley/Fred Mertz in the Supporting Actor contest.
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Bardem and Simmons talked about the challenges of taking on such iconic roles. In fact, Bardem had actually lobbied Sorkin for the part and maybe fibbed a little about singing and playing the congas.
“That is the challenging part which an actor takes on any job. You say, ‘Yes of course I can do that,’ but then the time comes and you better deliver,” Bardem said, laughing. “Aaron Sorkin was kind enough to believe every lie I was telling him, even though I was absolutely lying to him.”
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As for Simmons, he didn’t know a whole lot about Frawley when he signed on to bring him to life. “Going into it before I started my research I wasn’t really familiar with Bill Frawley’s work outside of I Love Lucy at all,” he said. But upon reading Sorkin’s script, it didn’t matter. “A script like this is the ultimate gift for an actor. This was very unusual for me because I read the script when I first got it, and then went back to the first page and re-read it just to confirm that on just about every page there was this gift to each of us.”
Check out the panel video above.
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