Even Academy Award-winning A-listers Javier Bardem and Nicole Kidman were met with skepticism from “I Love Lucy” fans.
These two were cast to play the leads in “Being the Ricardos,” a film about the real lives of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. But the response was swift after casting announcements were made, and the vitriol got so extreme that both Bardem and Kidman attempted to back out of the Aaron Sorkin-directed production altogether.
One of the issues fans took with the duo is that they didn’t resemble the real-life couple. Fans especially rebelled against the fact that Bardem is Spanish while Arnaz was Cuban, which the actor later addressed in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
“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?” the “No Country for Old Men” star demanded.
“You have your accent. That’s where you belong,” he continued. “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.”
Meanwhile, fans decided that Debra Messing should play Ball on the big screen and that Kidman was absolutely the wrong choice. Both actors confessed to THR that they didn’t realize what a big deal “I Love Lucy” fandom was until they faced such intense criticism.
“I wasn’t aware of how big it was,” Bardem said during the interview. “When I really started digging into him, the deeper I got, the more I knew how iconic [the show] was … it was like, ‘Sh**.’”
Kidman said she had the same exact reaction. “Sh**, what did we do?” the actress recalled thinking. “I got frightened.”
The Hollywood A-listers revealed during the interview that they both tried to quit the film to avoid further hatred from fans. But the producer talked them into staying.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God, this whole thing’s falling apart,’” producer Todd Black told THR.
The lead actors unsuccessfully tried to convince Sorkin to delay production a year. Eventually, they went forward with filming despite all the reservations from fans. And the Bardem/Kidman combo did have one important supporter. Arnaz and Ball’s daughter Lucie Arnaz defended the casting decision, saying the movie was about the real-life couple and not about “I Love Lucy” characters. This reality affected who got the lead roles.
Rotten Tomatoes currently classifies “Being the Ricardos” as 72% fresh. The audience has had similar reactions, giving the movie a 71% rating. The biographical drama is currently playing in select theaters and begins streaming on Amazon Prime starting December 21.