Nicole Kidman in Being the Ricardos Shows Biography Actors Don’t Have to Be Lookalikes

Llong before anyone saw a minute of Aaron Sorkin’s new movie Being the Ricardos, the knives were already being sharpened for her star Nicole Kidman. In April, tabloid photos of Kidman on set sparked an immediate reaction. Fans on social media didn’t think she could convincingly play Lucille Ball, the ’50s Queen’s TV who did as much as anyone to shape the modern idea of ​​a sitcom with her breakthrough hit show. I love lucy. “Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball literally looks like Nicole Kidman …” launched a typical tweet. “Very skeptical of this casting decision.”

To what the only reasonable answer seems to be: well, yes, Nicole Kidman still looks like Nicole Kidman, but maybe it’s better to reserve judgment on her performance until she actually gives it? Nonetheless, the negative response was so harsh that Kidman considered throwing everything away.

“When the reality of playing it hit me, I was like, ‘What did I say yes to? “” the actor said during a recent appearance on Living with Kelly and Ryan. “So I was like, ‘Oh no, I’m not right. Everyone thinks I’m wrong, so I’ll try to avoid that. ‘ It’s been left to writer-director Sorkin and film producer Todd Black to belittle her. Like Sorkin said Hollywood journalist, he took care to reassure Kidman and his co-star Javier Bardem that he was not “looking for a physical or vocal impersonation of these people”.

Bardem’s casting as Ball’s on-screen and off-screen husband Desi Arnaz has sparked just as much anger, with the additional question of whether it is acceptable in 2021 for a Spaniard to play a Cuban. Bardem, who had already played Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas with great success in the 2000s Before night falls, rebuffed this criticism and asked why this particular question seems to be disproportionately asked of actors for whom English is a second language.

“I’m an actor, and that’s what I do for a living: trying to be people that I’m not,” Bardem said. Hollywood journalist. “What are we doing 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?… What I’m saying is if we want to open the box of worms, let’s open it for everyone.

After the interview, Bardem obviously gave more thought to the question of representation, later adding in an email: more Latin American stories and storytellers.

Good acting is not only to make an impression of another person, but to reveal through performance the shared humanity that binds all of us together.

Bardem, it must be said, bears little resemblance to Desi Arnaz. His craggy distinctive features and deep, sonorous voice don’t naturally suit the handsome boy Arnaz, but his compelling and entertaining performance in Being the Ricardos don’t suffer for it. In fact, he manages to capture an essence of the character in a way that a lookalike might have struggled with, as a reviewer of Uproxx noted, “Bardem’s expressive face is oddly suited to exteriorize Desi’s feelings… Bardem shows what Desi stories would likely have to say: that he was this incredibly charismatic male sex symbol.

Capturing that essence is exactly what an actor’s job is meant to be, whether or not you can choose them from a list of imitators. Take, for example, one of the best and boldest casting decisions of the year: Jodie Turner-Smith playing the titular Cursed Queen in Anne Boleyn.

During an appearance on The daily show This month, Turner-Smith discussed the backlash she received as a black actor taking on the role. “It’s intense, but the hope is that there are people who are uncomfortable with it who will watch it anyway, and watch it for the human story we were trying to tell, and see this. which resonates differently to them, “she explained, adding that viewers of the show” look at her outside the frame of reference of race, and more or less, like, she’s a human female. We all share these life experiences. As human beings, there is no division between emotions. We have all known pain, fear, loss, pain, ambition, desire and love. It’s really just trying to tell a story about it.

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Turner-Smith’s point should remind us why the drama’s watermark isn’t mimicry or impersonation. Good acting is not only to make an impression of another person, but to reveal through performance the shared humanity that binds all of us together.

A similar point of view was expressed by Sarah Paulson, who was criticized earlier this year for playing former White House worker Linda Tripp in Impeachment: American Crime Story while wearing prosthetics and padding commonly referred to as “fat suit”. Many online commentators have argued that the role should have been played by an actor who looks more physically like Tripp, which seems to cavalierly despise any other attributes Paulson might bring to his performance.

“I think to imagine that the only thing an actor called to play this role would have to offer is their physical self is a real reduction in the offer the actor has to make,” Paulson told the Los Angeles Times. “I would like to believe that there is something in my being that makes me right to play this role.”

Critics of Accused tend to agree. Gold Derby felt that “Sarah Paulson’s performance as Linda Tripp is more than just makeup”, while a Guardian the reviewer wrote that Paulson’s “never better” performance as Tripp is “so much more elaborate than the collection of tics studied than it could have been.”

An obsession with biopics featuring only direct look-alikes suggests a troubling road ahead. Given that we’ve all seen those spooky deepfake videos of Tom Cruise making the rounds on social media, it’s already possible to imagine biopics of future actors featuring actors effectively wearing the skin of whoever they’re supposed to play. . It might make trolls happy, but it’s hard to believe that watching a bunch of digital Ed Geins dance through the Uncanny Valley would actually result in movies that come close to one person’s core truth. Until then, if you really want to see Ball’s inimitable facial contortions light up the screen, there’s always I love lucy.

About Monty S. Maynard

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