Yesterday it was announced that Cate Blanchett will star as Lucille Ball in a biopic being written by Aaron Sorkin, which is a confusing sentence. On the one hand, I can easily see The Incomparable Cate as Ball, but on the other…Aaron Sorkin? At first it doesn’t make any sense, but I came around to it the more I thought about it. Sorkin’s movies lately have been about pioneers (Mark Zuckerberg, Billy Beane, Steve Jobs), and Lucille Ball was certainly a pioneer. She was the first woman to run a television studio, and also one of the first to portray pregnancy on screen, to show an interracial relationship on screen, and on I Love Lucy she consistently showed women trying to get jobs and leave the home during an era when women were being banished back into the kitchen with stigmas and oppression tactics that linger today. Frankly, it’s surprising there hasn’t been a major Lucille Ball biopic before now.
The movie will focus on Ball’s marriage to Desi Arnaz—which is a little bit of a bummer because her tenure as a TV exec didn’t start until after they divorced in 1960—and their children, Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr., are producing the movie. So Sorkin has the cooperation of his subject’s family—it will be interesting to see if that affects how Sorkin writes Ball. He likes his protagonists complicated, and he isn’t afraid to make his subjects look like assholes—in fact, he seems to relish it—but I don’t see Ball’s children being all that into having their mother Sorkinized. I expect this will be less in the “difficult genius” realm of The Social Network and Steve Jobs and more in line with the family-friendly Moneyball. I’ll take it if it means reminding people what a boss Lucille Ball was. Now, if only someone would get around to making a movie about Mary Pickford.