The Academy Award winner, 54, discussed her obsessive preparation to recreate the comedy legend’s memorable scenes from I Love Lucy during a Q&A following a screening of the upcoming biopic Being the Ricardos in Los Angeles on Saturday.
Kidman said she spent a ton of time analyzing episodes of the classic series in order to perfect Ball’s movements onscreen. “I studied them and learned them. It went into my body and my memory,” she explained.
“It was my obsession to get it absolutely accurate,” she added. “It was [writer/director Aaron Sorkin‘s] obsession to have this human being portrayed — what’s behind the creation of Lucy Ricardo and who is the woman behind this character?”
Kidman recalled recreating the iconic grape-stomping scene from the season 5 episode “Lucy’s Italian Movie,” revealing that they used real grapes on set. The actress said she would have happily filmed for much longer because she was having so much fun.
Ball, who died at age 77 in 1989, shared a behind-the-scenes memory from filming the beloved scene during a recently-resurfaced 1974 interview on The Dick Cavett Show. During the scripted fight in the vat of grapes with Italian actress Teresa Tirelli, who did not speak English, Ball said she feared for her life.
“[Tirelli] was told that there would be a fight, and it was also explained to her that there were times when my legs had to come up in this huge vat of real grapes,” Ball recounted. “I slipped and when I slipped, I hit her, accidentally. And she took offense. So, she hauled off and let me have it … it took all the wind out of me.”
Although the performance succeeded in earning plenty of laughs, Ball was actually fighting for survival. “She kept me down by the throat,” she added. “And she was choking me, and I am really beating her to get her off. I was drowning in these grapes. She was killing me.”
Being the Ricardos is set during a week of filming I Love Lucy, as Ball and husband Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) are “threatened by shocking personal accusations, a political smear, and cultural taboos,” per the film’s official description. The couple was married in 1940 and later split in 1960.
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Sorkin, 60, recently defended his decision to cast Kidman as the beloved comedian, after the announcement sparked controversy among fans.
“I’d make it very clear to them that I am not looking for a physical or vocal impersonation of these people,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “Leading up to the first rehearsal, I’d write to them every day, ‘Just play the characters who are in the script.’ I know that Nicole was working on Lucy’s voice for a while, and I wanted to relieve her of that.”
“As far as audience anticipation, that’s something I’m just not worried about. I’m certain that when people see the movie, they’ll leave feeling that Nicole has made a very solid case for herself, but moreover, I’ve found that you can really leverage low expectations,” Sorkin added.
Being the Ricardos premieres Dec. 10 in theaters and Dec. 21 on Amazon Prime Video.