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Cate Blanchett has played queens, warrior fairies, divorced down-on-their luck socialites, depressed lesbian writers, and even Katharine Hepburn with ease, but could comedy icon Lucille Ball be her toughest role yet? It may not be too much longer now until we find out.
The Australian actress's involvement in a Ball biopic written by West Wing and The Social Network scribe Aaron Sorkin has been previously noted as far back as 2015, but all sorts of things get tossed around in Hollywood without actually becoming a reality. Now, after after nearly two years of reports and whispers that project is finally moving forward, according to Deadline, thanks to Amazon. Indeed, the hunt is already on to find an actor for Ball's husband Ricky, originally played by Desi Arnaz (Deadline reports that Javier Bardem is an early favorite), as well as characters Fred and Ethel. Ball and Arnaz's children are on board with the project, and will allow Sorkin to use both of their parents's memoirs as source material.
At first estimation, Blanchett may not seem the obvious choice to play one of the screen's best physical comedians of all times. Wouldn't this role provide the perfect opportunity for someone like an Amy Poehler, Kristen Wiig or even an up-and-coming star like Ellie Kemper? Who better to play a comedy legend than a comedy legend in the making?
While Blanchett has played for laughs before, it's usually of the dryer, more sardonic variety (see: Blue Jasmine). Comedy Blanchett is more pouring martinis down her throats than stuffing chocolate down her blouse. But the reality is that the I Love Lucy star wasn't always a laugh-a-minute off the screen presence (anyone who has seen any of Ball's later-in-life interviews is well aware of that fact). Indeed, she was a complicated woman, a Hollywood pioneer and savvy business person (she was the first woman to run a major television studio), and her marriage to Arnaz was notoriously turbulent. And playing a tough, powerful, complicated, glamorous woman is basically Blanchett's wheelhouse.
Still, when the world comes to see a Lucille Ball biopic, they still want a little bit of that I Love Lucy comedy. Can Blanchett give us a convincing "But Ricky!" wale and also managed to get faux-drunk on Vitameatavegamin? Can she do it all while jumping back-and-forth into her portrayal of the real life Ball, so different from her on-screen character, without being too jarring?
That may be the challenge for everyone involved: balancing the beloved onscreen persona of Lucy Ricardo that generations of Americans grew up on while also giving us new insight into Ball's private life.
Sorkin, of course, infamously tried to give us a behind-the-scenes of a comedy institution project before. His show Studio Sixty on the Sunset Strip was a fictionalized version of the inner workings of a very Saturday Night Live show. It was not much of a success by any means. He's since stuck biopic gold with his work on The Social Network, Moneyball, and Steve Jobs. It's worth noting that his first television series, Sports Night, is still regarded as a critically beloved dramedy cult classic.
There's no word on when exactly the project will start shooting, and there's no director attached (though, it might be of note that Sorkin's directorial debut, the Jessica Chastain-starring Molly's Game, debuts later this year), but its still very possible the project could be shot and completed in time for the 2018 awards season.
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