Javier Bardem confessed that, like Nicole Kidman, he also wanted to back out of Being the Ricardos—the Aaron Sorkin-directed biopic about Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz—after he was cast.
Bardem and Kidman talked about the casting drama in a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter. When their roles in the film were announced in January 2021, the Internet reacted with some pretty strong feelings, pitching actresses and actors they thought would be a better fit (most notably, Debra Messing).
“I wasn’t aware of how big it was,” Bardem said about I Love Lucy. That show not only brought in massive audiences during its original run, but Ball and Arnaz basically invented syndication when they kept recordings of the show and retained all the rights, allowing them to sell it to stations for reruns. Millions of Americans still watch I Love Lucy reruns every year.
But Bardem grew up in Spain, where he mostly knew Arnaz because of his work as a musician with Spanish entertainer Xavier Cugat. He never saw the Spanish-subtitled version of the show, Te Quiero Lucy, either. Bardem explained, “When I really started digging into him, the deeper I got, the more I knew how iconic [the show] was … it was like, ‘Shit.’”
Kidman said she felt the same way after the casting went public. “Shit, what did we do?” she said. “I got frightened.”
She said earlier this month that the social media backlash made her re-consider things, thinking “‘Oh no, I’m not right. Everyone thinks I’m not right, so I’m going to try to sidestep this.”
However, when Kidman and Bardem both tried to back out of the production, Sorkin and the producers convinced them to stay on. The actors begged to pushback filming for another year, but Amazon wanted the film—which cost $40 million—this year.
In the new interview, Bardem also defended his casting against critics who said a Spanish person shouldn’t portray the Cuban Arnaz.
“I’m an actor, and that’s what I do for a living: try to be people that I’m not,” Bardem explained. “What do we do with Marlon Brando playing Vito Corleone? What do we do with Margaret Thatcher played by Meryl Streep? Daniel Day-Lewis playing Lincoln? Why does this conversation happen with people with accents? You have your accent. That’s where you belong. That’s tricky. Where is that conversation with English-speaking people doing things like The Last Duel, where they were supposed to be French people in the Middle Ages? That’s fine. But me, with my Spanish accent, being Cuban? What I mean is, if we want to open the can of worms, let’s open it for everyone. The role came to me, and one thing that I know for sure is that I’m going to give everything that I have.”
Being the Ricardos is now playing in select movies theaters and will hit Amazon Prime on December 21.