Javier Bardem’s ‘Being the Ricardos’ Role Gave Him a Month and a Half to Learn How to Sing
One of the most critically-acclaimed movies of the year is Being the Ricardos, a film that explores the marriage and business partnership between Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. The movie, which was released on Amazon Prime Video in early December 2021, has earned a slew of awards and honors, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for Javier Bardem. Although Bardem has been widely praised for his work in the movie, he was forced to get into gear in a really short time, learning how to sing and perform in character as Arnaz in the space of a few weeks.
Javier Bardem plays Desi Arnaz in ‘Being the Ricardos’
Bardem has been a Hollywood mainstay for years, with high-profile roles in movies like No Country for Old Men and Vicky Cristina Barcelona. However, Bardem’s role in Being the Ricardos is unique. As Desi Arnaz, the Cuban bandleader and singer who became an icon of the television industry, Bardem was tasked with conveying not only Arnaz’s brilliance as a businessman but his vices as well—including his infidelities with other women while he was married to Lucille Ball.
The film highlights the real-life relationship between Ball and Arnaz, including the star-crossed way that they first met and the reasons why Ball eventually filed for divorce from Arnaz. Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem dove headfirst into the roles of Ball and Arnaz, introducing many new fans to the iconic power couple.
What did Javier Bardem say about preparing for his role as Desi Arnaz?
Bardem had to study hard to accurately portray Arnaz, the charming bandleader. As he revealed in a profile to Vanity Fair, he worked with a dialect coach in order to perfect Arnaz’s Cuban accent. He also took singing, dancing, and conga lessons. As Bardem noted “I have never sung before. I just had a month and a half to learn. I did a lot of work and applied a lot of hours trying and trying.”
Bardem went on to describe “I had a great teacher, and we did it by Zoom. She really taught me how to enjoy the process, and I actually enjoyed it way more than I expected. During the ‘Babalu’ scene, I was having too much fun. I was drumming so hard on the conga that there was blood coming from my hands!”
Bardem also opened up about how much he admires and respects the couple for the work that they did to change the television landscape, at a time when many people were biased against Cuban people and mixed-race marriages.
“I admire Lucille for partnering and fighting for Arnaz to be on the show. He was an immigrant and not accepted by society. Her career could have ended because of him, but she did the opposite and helped change people’s views toward Cubans and immigrants and racism,” the actor said.
Nicole Kidman underwent a physical transformation to play Lucille Ball
Just as Bardem worked hard to perfect his portrayal of Arnaz, Kidman had to undergo her own extreme transformation. In the Vanity Fair profile, Kidman broke down how she also studied with a dialect coach to master Ball’s deep speaking voice, which came from years of heavy smoking. Kidman also watched episodes of I Love Lucy to learn Ball’s mannerisms.
As for hair and makeup, Kidman worked with a top-notch hair and makeup team, wearing styled wigs and even wearing some light prosthetics to bring the master comedian to life in a truly incredible way. For viewers, the film offers up a unique look at the couple that changed the way the television industry works.