Amazon’s ‘Being the Ricardos’ begins production with Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem, adds Alia Shawkat, Tony Hale and Jake Lacy
Amazon Studios started principal photography on writer-director Aaron Sorkin’s drama Being the Ricardos this week in Los Angeles. Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem star as real-life couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, the stars behind the groundbreaking and classic 1950s television sitcom I Love Lucy, that focused on a happily married though seemingly mismatched couple – a flame-haired, accident-prone American housewife, and her sensible Cuban-American bandleader husband – that became the top-rated and most beloved show of the era.
The film is set during one production week of I Love Lucy—Monday table read through Friday audience filming—when Lucy and Desi face a crisis that could end their careers and another that could end their marriage.
“Being the Ricardos is a drama about the people behind the making of television’s most famous comedy. I’m looking forward to working with Nicole, Javier, J.K., Nina and the rest of our great cast,” says writer-director Aaron Sorkin.
Academy Award winner Nicole Kidman (The Undoing) is the eponymous redheaded star of I Love Lucy, Lucille Ball, and fellow Oscar winner Javier Bardem (Before Night Falls, No Country for Old Men) is her husband, Desi Arnaz, the Cuban-American actor, musician, and president of their television production company, Desilu Productions. On I Love Lucy, Ball and Arnaz portrayed America’s most famous TV couple, Lucy and Ricky Ricardo. But in real life their relationship was infamously more complex and tumultuous than the hilarious fictional characters they portray.
Executive producer Lucie Arnaz says, “My brother Desi and I signed on because this is a story of our folk’s real-life passionate, tempestuous and complicated relationship and not a recreation of I Love Lucy – no one could do that. We felt exploring that relationship could be an enlightening challenge. We asked Amazon for the best and we got it with every hire. Aaron Sorkin has not told this tale as a ‘cradle to grave’ biopic. Instead, he’s chosen to illuminate a snippet of time during an incredibly intense period of their show’s enduring success. The casting choices have all been inspired and Desi and I are so looking forward to seeing what this impressive group of actors make of Sorkin’s delicious script.”
The film co-stars Oscar winner J.K. Simmons (Whiplash, Palm Springs) and Nina Arianda (Stan & Ollie, Florence Foster Jenkins) as Lucy and Desi’s I Love Lucy co-stars William Frawley and Vivian Vance. Frawley played the Ricardo’s neighbor Fred Mertz on the iconic sitcom and Vance was Fred’s wife and Lucy’s best friend, Ethel Mertz.
Joining the ensemble in co-starring roles are two-time Emmy winner Tony Hale (Veep, Arrested Development) as I Love Lucy executive producer and head writer Jess Oppenheimer, along with Alia Shawkat (Search Party, Arrested Development) and Jake Lacy (Fosse/Verdon, The Office) as the show’s longtime writing partners, Madelyn Pugh & Bob Carroll Jr.
Rounding out the cast are Clark Gregg (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Nelson Franklin (Veep), John Rubinstein (Family), Linda Lavin (Alice, The Good Wife), Robert Pine (CHiPs) and Christopher Denham (Billions).
Academy Award and Golden Globe winner Aaron Sorkin (The Trial of the Chicago 7, The Social Network) penned the original screenplay and also directs. This marks Sorkin’s third film as director following Molly’s Game and The Trial of the Chicago 7.
Escape Artists’ Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal and Steve Tisch are producing, and executive producers are Jenna Block, David Bloomfield of Escape Artists, Stuart Besser, Lucie Arnaz, Desi Arnaz, Jr. and Lauren Lohman.
Sorkin’s behind the scenes team includes Oscar-nominated director of photography Jeff Cronenweth, ASC (The Social Network, Gone Girl), production designer Jon Hutman (Unbroken, It’s Complicated), costume designer Susan Lyall (The Trial of the Chicago 7, Molly’s Game), set decorator Ellen Brill (Bombshell, American Horror Story) three-time Oscar-nominated sound mixer Steven Morrow (Ford v Ferrari, A Star is Born, La La Land), and two-time Oscar-nominated editor Alan Baumgarten (The Trial of the Chicago 7, American Hustle).
Photograph by Courtesy of HBO Max