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Saturday, August 13, 2022

How Nicole Kidman Came to Appreciate Her Lucille Ball Performance

Each time Nicole Kidman portrays a real-life character, she learns something important about how that person was misunderstood by the general public at the time. It turns out that that period of history is more similar to the current day than she imagined. And, perhaps most importantly, how to keep her balance when stomping through a vat of grapes while barefoot.

Speaking about her preparations to portray Lucille Ball, the actress of “I Love Lucy,” Kidman said that her meticulous attempts to study Ball’s iconic 1956 grape-stomping technique were not quite successful when it came time to reenact it on camera.

“I had just practised on a floor,” Kidman said, her voice soft and genuine in her expression. “The one thing I didn’t anticipate was the presence of fresh grapes on the table.

Aaron Sorkin’s comedy-drama “Being the Ricardos,” in which Kidman portrays Lucy Ball, follows her and her husband Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) as they battle to incorporate Ball’s pregnancy into the show, defend themselves against accusations that Ball is a Communist, and reach a watershed moment in their marriage. “Being the Ricardos” is a comedy-drama written and directed by Aaron Sorkin and stars Kidman as Lucy Ball.

The film, which is now playing in cinemas and streaming on Amazon Prime, contains recreations of iconic “I Love Lucy” sequences. However, it is ultimately a narrative of discovery, both for the television star and for the actress who plays her.

Kidman, 54, is an Academy and Emmy Award-winning actress, and her work in “Being the Ricardos” has placed her in the running for year-end awards once again. She, on the other hand, has a tendency to second-guess herself and has little confidence in her comic talents.

Kidman has discovered a deeper connection to Ball than she anticipated as a result of her approach to the film “Being the Ricardos.” Ball, like Kidman, was once pigeonholed and underappreciated in her career. Despite the fact that their lives and abilities did not completely intersect, they both recognised the importance of humour in achieving their own objectives.

In New York earlier this month, before the Omicron surge, Kidman was seated in the basement lounge of a luxury Soho hotel, her fingers adorned with complex rings as she drank a ginger shot from a cocktail glass.

According to Lucie Arnaz, the actress and daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, who is also an executive producer on the film, “Being the Ricardos” was originally intended to be a television miniseries when it was first conceived some years ago.

Cate Blanchett had been linked to the concept, but by the time Sorkin got engaged and the project was placed up on Amazon as a film, the actress had withdrawn her interest. It just took too long, and we were unable to save her, Arnaz said in an interview.

Kidman said that Blanchett’s past participation did not detract from her enthusiasm for the project. When it comes to the entertainment industry, Kidman believes that “there’s an unwritten agreement between us all” that “whoever gets anything, that’s where it was intended to fall.”

Kidman said that the more she thought about the script and studied about Ball’s life, the more she realised that Ball was a complex person who provided her with a range of emotions to portray.

According to Kidman, in Ball’s marriage to the philandering, alcoholic Arnaz, “she fell in love with someone who loved her but couldn’t give her what she craved the most.” Pointing to the failed film career of Ball that finally led to her role on “I Love Lucy,” she stated, “She was extremely hilarious, but she wanted to be a movie star. She was incredibly funny, but she wanted to be a movie star.”

To prepare physically for the job, Kidman worked extensively with a dialect coach, Thom Jones, to refine the sounds she would use to portray Lucille Ball and Lucy Ricardo.

Ball’s natural speaking voice had become deeper and huskier as a result of years of smoking on Kidman’s part, albeit the actress was not attempting a precise imitation. “We wanted her to capture the spirit of Lucille and convey that to the audience,” Jones said. As an actress, “If you’re performing an imitation, you’re going to be too conscious of your exterior and won’t be able to fill your interior as much as you should.”

Kidman has already been nominated for a number of awards, including a Golden Globe and a Critics Choice Award, for her portrayal in “Being the Ricardos,” but she still feels insecure about her work on occasion.

Whatever other accolades Kidman receives for “Being the Ricardos,” she will always remember the experience of standing on a replica of the “I Love Lucy” set, performing Ball’s material from the show, and hearing the laughter of a large number of extras hired to play the show’s studio audience during the filming of the film.

When asked to explain how she felt at that moment, Kidman used just one word: “Fantastic.” As if to illustrate some of the talents she’d picked up while watching the film, she paused for a split second before saying, “By the way, they were meant to laugh.”

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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