WE ARE not exactly starved of screen portrayals of Tom Ripley, the scheming con artist who always just about escapes convoluted set-ups, created by novelist Patricia Highsmith. And there is a lot of source material: the eccentric American author wrote five novels in the series, starting with The Talented Mr. Ripley in 1955 and ending with 1991’s Ripley Under Water. What is it about Highsmith’s universe that proves so irresistible to filmmakers, actors, and audiences alike? Could it be the glamour of high society, and the danger of falling for it? Beautiful people doing terrible things to each other? Call us superficial, but sometimes it is just nice to ogle impeccable fashion in enviable locations.
In 1960’s Purple Noon, Alain Delon took on the titular role (it was the French actor’s break-out role), while Dennis Hopper put his spin on the unnerving character in 1977’s The American Friend. The version that is perhaps most seared into our psyches – thanks to regular Instagram posts dedicated to the sepia-toned film and the subsequent, skyrocketing fame of its cast – is Anthony Minghella’s 1999 take, with Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow (and Philip Seymour-Hoffman and Cate Blanchett). A slew of Ripleys followed in the early 2000s, including John Malkovich’s portrayal in Ripley’s Game, though none of these quite reached the same heights of earlier versions.
Now, Netflix is releasing a new take on the classic tale with Andrew Scott, fresh from BAFTA-nominated All of Us Strangers. Here is everything we know about the eight-part series.
What is Ripley about?
Per Netflix’s description, Tom Ripley is a “grifter” living in 1960s New York. He is hired by a wealthy man to travel to Italy—nice work if you can get it—to bring his son, Dickie Greenleaf, back to the States. So begins Ripley’s infiltration into the lives of privileged Americans on their European tours.
If the show is faithful to the book, Ripley’s adventures in Italy are an irresistible mix of deceit, glamour, and increasingly dangerous liaisons. Many people will already know the story going into the show, but that will likely not make it any less nail-biting.
All eight episodes of the miniseries were directed and written by Steven Zaillian, who wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for Schindler’s List and more recently created crime drama The Night Of, which won its lead Riz Ahmed an Emmy.
Speaking to Vanity Fair about the adaptation, Zaillian said: “Tom Ripley is a part of our consciousness. Almost 70 years after Highsmith created him, contemporary figures are still being compared to him. He won’t go away.”
Zaillian added that adapting the book into a television series rather than a feature film “allowed me to be more faithful to the story, tone, and subtleties of Highsmith’s work.”
Scott, who is also a producer, told the publication that taking up the mantle of Ripley was not easy work: “It was a heavy part to play. I found it mentally and physically really hard. That’s just the truth of it. I suppose the journey to understanding this character was a less arduous one than trying to understand what Tom Ripley does. Certain things I can understand, but other things — it’s actually the blankness that’s sometimes hard to engage with.”
Is there a trailer?
Indeed. The recently released teaser has given us a glimpse of what to expect from the series, which looks to play up the thriller elements of the source material (a wise choice, if you ask us!). In moody black-and-white – truly some of these actors have never looked better – we see the show’s characters circling around the same problem, with only one question on their lips: who is Tom Ripley?
Who’s in Ripley?
Scott takes on the lead role, while British actor Johnny Flynn (Lovesick, Emma) is playing Greenleaf. Dakota Fanning is taking over the role of Marge Sherwood, Greenleaf’s girlfriend. Beyond those central three, musician Eliot Sumner and John Malkovich will also appear.
When can I watch ‘Ripley’?
The show debuts on Netflix on 4 April, and there will be eight episodes.
This story originally appeared on Esquire UK.