After “Being the Ricardos” and “The Tender Bar” earned three Screen Actors Guild nominations on Wednesday morning, Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke revealed that both films are also topping the viewership charts on the streaming service.
“As we’ve built our film strategy over the last few years, you can see that our curated approach of choosing these particular films…[works] so well for our service, for Amazon, but also to be celebrated by critics and by peers, I think is beyond exciting,” Salke told Variety, in a phone call reacting to the SAG Awards nominations for “The Tender Bar” star Ben Affleck and “Being the Ricardos” stars Javier Bardem and Nicole Kidman.
“For the actors…I know [the SAG Awards are] so important,” she continued. “They’re being honored by their peers, and it’s something that is incredibly special to them. I’ve already been in touch with Nicole and Javier this morning, who are both just over the moon.”
Bardem also shared his joyous reaction with Variety, opening up about collaborating with Kidman to embody Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. “Lucy wouldn’t exist without Desi and vice versa,” Bardem said. “They really were playing ball with each other so beautifully, personally and professionally. And that is what we both, Nicole and I, focused on creating together. And I’m very happy that that has been recognized.”
The pair’s SAG Award nominations also come on the heels of Kidman’s best actress win at the Golden Globe awards on Sunday, an acknowledgement Salke described as an “honor,” despite Hollywood’s continued tepid relationship with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
“I know we are in a particular crossroads with the HFPA, but having the film and the body of work acknowledged by anybody really is an honor. So we view it as such,” Salke said.
Beyond the critical acclaim and awards buzz around these films the Amazon Studios exec revealed that “Being the Ricardos” and “The Tender Bar,” which were both developed in-house, are officially among the top ten Amazon Prime Video movie releases of all time. “Being the Ricardos” launched on Dec. 21, debuting in the number one position that week. “The Tender Bar” launched on Jan. 7, and also surged to the top spot on the streaming platform. In fact, Salke explained that both films exceeded their 28-day viewing goals in their first weekend of release.
“It’s been a pretty amazing response,” she said. “They’ve over performed in every category.”
In addition to their popularity in the U.S., Salke noted that both films have been successful worldwide — with “Being the Ricardos” clocking particularly high numbers in Bardem and Kidman’s home countries of Spain and Australia and “The Tender Bar” connecting with audiences in the U.K., Brazil and Italy.
Wednesday’s nominations also marked Affleck’s first solo SAG Awards nod, with the milestone recognition coming for a role that Salke emphasizes “was crafted” for the star.
“Thankfully, George [Clooney, who directed the film] reached out to him and he said ‘Yes,’ because it’s been incredible every step of the way,” she said. “He brings such heart and soul and complexity to this character and to this film.”
Explaining why she believes audiences have been so drawn to “The Tender Bar,” Salke adds, “We think this movie is just what people really want to see right now. It’s diving into a complicated family story; it’s an “it takes a village story”; it’s about love, commitment and reinvention. To have Ben at the center of it gives it such weight — and his performance is really undeniable.”
As an original production, Salke said “Being the Ricardos” was “one of those projects that had a huge heartbeat around it the entire time.”
“We’re not putting a lot of movies out all at the same time, so this is such an important effort for the studio,” Salke said. “[‘Being the Ricardos’ is] an incredible story about women owning their voices in the workplace and about this complicated marriage that is relatable in so many ways, though their lives were so against this extraordinary backdrop. And the way Aaron [Sorkin, the film’s writer and director,] and the cast brought it to life exceeded all our very high expectations.”
Amazon will continue in the “I Love Lucy” business, as the studio announced Tuesday that Amy Poehler’s “Lucy & Desi” documentary will launch on Prime Video in March 4.
“I’ve worked in the past with Amy Poehler and the team over at NBC Universal and to have Amy and Imagine come to us with this documentary was perfect,” Salke shared, teasing the upcoming project.
“It’s a revelation; all these personal recordings for Lucy Arnaz is really, really compelling,” she continued. “So, for us, it’s a big celebration of Lucy, of Desi, of their incredible marriage and the incredible body of work, and what she stood for as a pioneer of strong professional women forging their own destiny.”