Nicole Kidman on the pressure of playing Lucille Ball: ‘It was like having to climb the mountain’

Nicole Kidman attends the Australian premiere of Being The Ricardos at the Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace on December 15, 2021 in Sydney, Australia

Ye of little Nicole Kidman faith.

Whenever someone gets cast to portray a legend in a biopic – like Nicole Kidman did when charged to play comedy queen Lucille Ball in the new biopic, “Being the Ricardos” – the first thing most fans debate is how much the actor looks like the icon.

Exclusive Station
Women of Christmas
Listen Now
Now Playing
Now Playing

What’s often missed is that the actor is cast for their ability to capture the legend’s essence, rather than just a perfect likeness. And if any actor can pull off just about anything, it’s Oscar winner Kidman.

After initial online chatter last spring about the casting of Kidman, the film is finally out, and fans and critics’ fears have been allayed. The 54-year-old has turned in another fantastic performance.

Another thing fans can often forget – how hard it is for the actor to nail the character. And in this case Kidman said, in a recent interview with Yahoo Entertainment, that playing the beloved Ball was akin to climbing a mountain.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, what an incredible gift of a role and an opportunity,’” she told the outlet. “And then it was like having to climb the mountain and going, ‘Am I actually going to be able to climb it?’ So that was sort of what I was grappling with.”

Such was the flood of strong negative reactions to her casting in the project, that Kidman said she thought about backing out of it. Director Aaron Sorkin knew he made the right choice and convinced her to block out the chatter.

“I had a big advantage over the people who didn't think that she was right,” Sorkin said, “in that I had read the screenplay and knew what the movie was about. She’s not playing Lucy Ricardo, she's playing Lucille Ball. And in this iteration of Lucille Ball, you need to be a very strong, dramatic actress with a dry sense of humor and a facility for language. And that's why I wanted Nicole.”

So Kidman went and did what she does.

“And then I sort of just started to absorb her, and watch her, and fall madly in love with her and her talent, and what she was able to do,” Kidman added. “And I mean, when I first read the screenplay, I couldn't believe the story … Yes, there's the ‘I Love Lucy’ show and all of that, and the icons, but there's also just an amazing story here.”

Now, after all that, Kidman is considered a favorite in the Osacar race for Best Actress, according to Gold Derby.

Javier Bardem, who plays Ball’s on and offstage husband, also got the casting shock reaction, even though the “No Country for Old Men” star claims he chased the role of Lucy's husband, Dezi Arnaz, for years, long before Sorkin was involved.

“I knew about [Ball], but I didn't know about [Arnaz],” Bardem admitted. “And I started to read about him and see the shows for the first time. And I was immediately drawn into what he meant. Then the offer went to some other actors, and then it came back to me, and it was like, ‘I'm ready. I want to do it.’ I was scared, but I was very much motivated to try to make it.”

As far as the debates that raged about Bardem’s Spanish roots not matching Arnaz's Cuban ethnicity, and the general current discussions about who “should” play a character, Sorkin took a different angle on the argument.

“I hear a little bit of that noise, not much,” he claims. “It's silly. But I find that it's nice to surprise people. They think that a movie is going to be one thing, and it turns out to be something else. And that's what's happening now.”

"Being the Ricardos" is streaming on Amazon Prime now.

Lights, camera, action!
Get the latest updates on movies and television
from The Reel Buzz on Audacy.

LISTEN on the Audacy App
Sign up and follow Audacy
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram