an illustration of the protagonist of the talented mr ripley
Illustration by Laura Browning, University of Colorado, Denver

Everything You Need To Know About ‘Ripley’

Steven Zaillian is set to direct a TV series spinoff of the famous ‘Talented Mr. Ripley,’ which will simply be called ‘Ripley.’

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an illustration of the protagonist of the talented mr ripley
Illustration by Laura Browning, University of Colorado, Denver

Steven Zaillian is set to direct a TV series spinoff of the famous ‘Talented Mr. Ripley,’ which will simply be called ‘Ripley.’

The Talented Mr. Ripley,” which came out in 1999, quickly became a cult classic. With a star-studded cast and thrilling plot based on the original novel by Patricia Highsmith, it is easy to see why this film was a huge success. Now, a new generation of viewers will get the chance to enjoy the story in “Ripley,” a remake TV series set to be released in 2023 on Showtime. Unfortunately, a trailer is yet to be released, but here is both context for the series and everything that we know so far.

What Is “The Talented Mr. Ripley” About?

The original film follows Tom Ripley, played by Matt Damon, who is a poor young man living in New York. He is playing the piano at a wealthy rooftop party while wearing a borrowed Princeton jacket when an older couple approaches him and asks if he knew their recently graduated son Dickie Greenleaf, played by Jude Law. Tom, after a moment’s hesitation, tells them that he does. The couple explains that Dickie has run off to Europe and shows no intention of returning. They offer Tom $1000 and the money to finance his trip if he agrees to go and retrieve him. Of course, Tom accepts.

However, the seemingly lighthearted plot quickly turns sinister. As more is revealed about Tom, the audience learns that he is obsessed with impersonating people, and he is quite good at it. He can mimic voices, forge signatures and think quick on his feet. As a poor man, he appears to be dangerously enamored with Dickie’s wealthy lifestyle, and he covets his very identity. As their relationship progresses, it becomes clear that Tom harbors an intense fascination with Dickie — either he wishes to become him, or perhaps, he is in love with him. As things develop, Tom takes drastic measures to keep his fabricated reality alive.

An intelligent thriller, the movie has a lot of depth. On the surface, the plot follows Tom and the lengths he will go to keep up with his lies. Diving deeper, the film explores narcissism, homosexuality and the descent into evil. The film insidiously convinces the audience to relate to Tom, even root for him, despite his immoral actions. Drawing us into the ethereal world of the young and wealthy against the backdrop of beautiful 1960s Europe, the movie makes the reader swoon with macabre fascination as Tom’s actions slowly enter the realm of the unforgivable.

“Ripley” will for the most part follow this plot. Showtime officially describes the series: “Tom Ripley, a grifter scraping by in early 1960s New York, is hired by a wealthy man to travel to Italy to try to convince his vagabond son to return home. Tom’s acceptance of the job is the first step into a complex life of deceit, fraud and murder.”

Who Is Behind the Remake?

In the rebooted, eight-part series, director Steven Zaillian plans to bring the story to a modern audience. Zaillian won an Oscar for his work penning “Schindler’s List” and has a long list of blockbusters to his name, including “American Gangster,” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Irishman” and “Gangs of New York.” With his previous work in mind, audiences can be sure to expect a thrilling noir crime series that is sure to live up to the original.

Who Is Playing Who?

The cast is just as spectacular as the original. Andrew Scott, who you may remember as the hot priest in “Fleabag” or for his role in “The Pursuit of Love,” will be taking on Matt Damon’s role as Tom Ripley. Scott is excited for the chance to portray the complex, convoluted character of Ripley. In Interview Magazine in October 2021, Scott stated, “When you’re playing those famous literary characters, you don’t want to just copy. I’m interested in the idea of what queerness is, and otherness, because that’s what I think it’s about. The reason he’s such an interesting character is you can’t quite place him. If Tom Ripley was in a gay bar, I’m not sure that he would fit in there. Nor do I think he’s a straight character. I think he’s a queer character, in the sense that he’s very other. What’s his relationship with sex, or death, or with family or friends? It’s interesting that a character is the sum of the parts that you don’t have to play.”

Johnny Flynn, known for his role as George Knightley in “Emma,” will be stepping into Dickie’s loafers in the new adaptation. An English actor, poet and lead singer of the English folk band Johnny Flynn and The Sussex Witt, Flynn is perfect for the enigmatic playboy millionaire.

Dakota Fanning, an acclaimed actress with roles in the “Twilight Saga,” “War of the Worlds” and “Coraline,” will play Dickie’s girlfriend, Marge, originally played by Gwyneth Paltrow. Blonde and with the same airy, celestial essence that Paltrow has, Fanning is sure to embody Marge’s character perfectly.

Will There Be More Than One Season?

You bet. Highsmith’s original novel is actually the first in a series about Tom Ripley. There are four more books, which include “Ripley Under Ground,” “Ripley’s Game,” “The Boy Who Followed Ripley” and “Ripley Under Water.” Gary Levine, Showtime’s president of entertainment, revealed in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that Zaillian has optioned the rights to all the remaining books. His plan is to do a season per book. The series follows Tom as he travels the European countryside, involving himself in art forgery, marrying heiresses and even falling in with the mafia.

What To Watch in the Meantime

If you haven’t seen the original movie, what are you waiting for? The full movie is available on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Peacock. However, if your thirst for fraud and impersonation is still not quenched, check out Netflix’s “Inventing Anna” or “The Tinder Swindler” and Hulu’s “The Dropout.”

Writer Profile

Kaitlyn Anderson

Cornell University
Communication, Biology and Society

Kaitlyn Anderson is a student at Cornell University. She loves to explore the intersection between science and humanitarian studies. She lives in New Hampshire where she enjoys hiking and surfing.

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