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Nicole Kidman on channeling Lucille Ball for Aaron Sorkin

Nicole Kidman, one of the last true movie stars, doesn’t Google herself. She doesn’t do a deep dive into what “they” are saying.

Two weeks before Christmas, however, she received the ultimate review during a screening of her new film, “Being the Ricardos,” now on Amazon Prime. “The first time I saw the movie, my husband sat next to Lucy Arnaz. And she wept,” Kidman said.

“As an actor that was an incredible thing,” the Aussie said. “To be sitting next to the daughter and she has such an emotionally strong reaction … it was everything to me.”

“Being the Ricardos,” written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, is a drama about the making of a comedy. It’s also about a pivotal week in the life of Lucy and Desi Arnaz. She has been accused of being a Communist, which leaves the future of the series hanging; at the same time, Lucy has just announced that she’s pregnant. Javier Bardem plays Desi Arnaz with J.K. Simmons as William Frawley and Nina Arianda as Vivian Vance.

Kidman, 54, is said to be a lock for a best actress Oscar nomination.

Review-Journal: Is it true that you had second thoughts about playing Lucy?

Nicole Kidman: I said yes to an amazing screenplay, director and cast. I wanted to take on Lucille Ball, thinking, “What a great opportunity.” Then I heard that I wasn’t the most popular choice to play it. I thought, “Oh, no! I made a mistake.” The truth? I was frightened. As an actor, it’s fine to be frightened. Javier and I decided to be frightened together.

How do you deal with the fear?

You just put your head down and go to work.

How did Aaron Sorkin help?

There were times when I was like, “Oh, no! What have I done? I wish I had the talent to do this, but I don’t.” I watched the shows and worked on it slowly, meticulously and methodically. I listened to Lucy’s voice. I was doing all of this preparation, which was unusual for me because I like to start on the inside. But the inside of it was almost already there because I could relate to her. I could feel her. It was so beautifully written. … Aaron was fantastic because when I freaked out, which I did, Aaron would send me emails that basically said, “You’ve got this. You’re just going to have to take it day to day. I don’t want an impersonation. I want you to do the work that I know you can do … that I know you will do. And I want you not to freak out because I believe you can do it.” He would never waver. He was so consistent in his belief.

How was the look created?

I was begging for some sort of nose or chin at one point. I said, “I want to change my jaw,” and Aaron said, “I don’t care.” I was going to have the hair. Aaron knew how he wanted it, and it took me time.

This movie is a love story.

Very true. This was a deeply passionate couple. They would fight and make up, fight and make up. It was also an incredible partnership. She fought for him; he fought for her. There was just so much stress on them, combined with the stress they put on themselves to be great performers. They didn’t make it to the end, but what they did make during their relationship is celebrated in this film. They actually had a great love and respect for each other as the years wore on.

This isn’t your standard birth-to-death biopic.

The film does pull the curtain back, but it’s not the “I Love Lucy” show. It’s more of “how was that made” and “who was the person capable of that genius.” Since it’s Aaron Sorkin, it’s not a birth-to-death storytelling. Aaron compresses a number of things into this week, flashing forward and back. He’s able to show you the essence of this woman and the people in her life. It’s not even a biopic. In fact, when I was originally sent the screenplay, I couldn’t put it down.

Was there an added responsibility playing a real person whose daughter, Lucy Arnaz, was a producer and on the set?

Having her support was such a blessing and so important to me. I’m playing her mom. I have daughters. I understand that relationship. It was also really weird at times. I was all dressed up as her mother, and there was Lucy watching me. Her first day on set, she took one look, her eyes filled, and she said, “I haven’t hugged you in a long time.” I was very protective of Lucy, who allowed me to listen to takes no one has ever heard before of her mother. It was such a generous thing for her to do and incredibly helpful. We were privy to a lot of private things that really influenced my performance. I held these things close.

Describe filming the infamous crushing grapes scene?

Very squishy. We got into the grapes and it was really slippery. Much more than I thought. The good news is we did it in three takes.

What are a few things that surprised you about Lucy?

All of it surprised me. What really surprised me is that Lucy told people that she wasn’t funny. Also, she was an amazing dancer, which makes sense since she was such a physical performer. And I loved the way she used her elegant hands in her performances.

What would surprise us about Nicole Kidman? For instance, how do you like to spend Sundays?

With family, of course. Sundays are lazy days. It’s about eating, walking, talking. In Nashville, we’re just part of a wonderful community where there are parks and bikes and kids and dogs. In Australia, I’m gathering eggs from my chickens and looking at my cows!

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