Director and Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) recently addressed the controversy about casting Oscar-winning Spanish actor Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) to play Cuban American actor and musician Desi Arnaz in his upcoming film Being the Ricardos. The film, which is directed and written by Sorkin, follows Desi and his wife and legendary I Love Lucy actress Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) as they face a pair of crises that could end their careers and marriage.
Sorkin said that Amazon’s casting department has a Latina casting consultant focused on all Latine casting who suggested that casting Bardem would be acceptable. Sorkin said he was actually considering a Brazilian actor to take on the role, but that the consultant told him that “Brazilians aren’t considered [Hispanic] because they speak Portuguese” and not Spanish.
“So, Javier is Spanish, and the casting consultant was fine with it,” Sorkin told The Hollywood Reporter. “But I don’t want to use the casting consultant as cover. I want to tell you my opinion on this and I stand by it, which is this: Spanish and Cuban aren’t actable, OK? They’re not actable.”
Sorkin went on to compare the situation to the recent backlash in Hollywood of heterosexual actors playing gay characters. He doesn’t agree that straight actors shouldn’t be allowed to play LGBTQ roles. “I know there’s a small movement underway that only gay actors should play gay characters, [but] gay and straight aren’t actable. You could act being attracted to someone, but most nouns aren’t actable.”
Casting Bardem, Sorkin said, is not “demeaning” like an actor wearing blackface or when actor Mickey Rooney played a Japanese character in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. “This is not [demeaning], I felt. Having an actor who was born in Spain playing a character who was born in Cuba was not demeaning. And it wasn’t just the casting consultant who agreed. Lucy and Desi’s Cuban American daughter didn’t have a problem with it. So, I’m very comfortable with it.”
Much of Latine Twitter wasn’t buying what Sorkin was selling.
Last month, Arnaz and Ball’s daughter Lucie revealed that she has already seen the film and said that although Bardem “really doesn’t look that much” like her father, “he has everything that dad had” – his wit, charm, dimples, musicality, strength, and tenacity. “You can tell from [Bardem’s] performance that he just loved him,” Arnaz said. “And that’s what you needed.”
Being the Ricardos is scheduled for a limited theatrical release on December 10, 2021, before streaming on Amazon Prime on December 21, 2021.