<I>Being the Ricardos</I>: Composer Daniel Pemberton
Issue: November/December 2021

Being the Ricardos: Composer Daniel Pemberton

Daniel Pemberton is the composer behind the new Amazon Studios film Being the Ricardos. Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, the film stars Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball and Javier Bardem as Desi Arnaz, and gives a glimpse into the couple’s complicated relationship as they shoot their ground-breaking sitcom, I Love Lucy.

Pemberton’s credits include studio films such as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Birds of Prey, Enola Holmes and Ocean’s Eight, as well as smaller independent features, such as the Cannes Palme d’Or competitor Mal de Pierres and the powerful Paralympics documentary Rising Phoenix. He scored an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song for “Hear My Voice” (performed and co-written by Celeste), from Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7.  

Here, he discusses his work on this new release.
How did you get involved in this project?

“This is the fourth project I’ve done now with Aaron Sorkin, and his third as a director. It’s been a very wonderful series of collaborations and he was kind enough to ask if I would be interested in reading his new script to see if I’d want to be involved. I found that kind of funny, as I would have agreed without even reading the script, as I really value the relationship we have built. But then of course, it’s always made even easier by the fact he always creates such inspiring and intriguing stories.”
What were the musical needs for Being the Ricardos?

“Right from the beginning, both Aaron and myself felt this film needed a big sweeping orchestral score and theme to take the viewer into the world and era of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. I really wanted a musical theme that could not only pay off at the end, but also play through the journey and be adapted in many different ways. I wanted to go very large, and very lush, to feel like the soundtracks of that era. We ended up recording 70 musicians at Abbey Road One to pull that off. However, the score also needed an element of pace and tension, and for this I [leaned] more heavily on jazz idioms, such as drums and double bass.”

How many cues and themes did you record?

“There are a number of musical themes that play off each other throughout the film - from the main theme to others signifying the threat of the communism reveal, relationship fragility and so on. A lot of these ideas cross pollinated over multiple cues, of which there are about just under 40 in the entire film.”
What gear did you use to write and record?

“I try and change how I write and produce each film if I can, so each soundtrack feels unique to that project and doesn’t end up feeling like factory line scoring. It was important to me for Being The Ricardos that I started the same way musicians and composers of that ear would start - not in front of a computer, but in front of a piano. 

“I sketched out a lot of the early ideas simply sitting at a piano and then had to realize and do slightly shoddy mock ups in Logic on my computer. One of the reasons I feel this score is successful is because of the trust I have built with Aaron over a number of projects now. There were certain cues where the demos could never get the feel you wanted - which is why you don’t get many scores sounding like that era today, as they are incredibly hard to replicate in the digital process, and thus, very hard to get sign off. But I was able to convince Aaron everything would come together in the live recording. The fact we then were able to go and record 70 musicians, all at once in one room with no separation, playing the music they did, is very much testament to Aaron’s belief and faith it would all come together.”