Is Netflix’s Ripley Based On A True Story?

4 April 2024, 10:31 | Updated: 4 April 2024, 16:04

Andrew Scott will star in Netflix's Ripley as Tom Ripley
Andrew Scott will star in Netflix's Ripley as Tom Ripley. Picture: Alamy

By Tiasha Debray

Is Netflix’s adaptation of Ripley based on a true story? Here’s what we know.

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Netflix’s Ripley is a psychological thriller released as an eight-part mini-series, created and directed by Steven Zaillian.

Andrew Scott (Sherlock, Fleabag) led a star-studded cast into the world of Tom Ripley, a grifter who desired to be part of the world of wealth and privilege and was willing to fraudulently grasp his way to the top, spurred on by a dark obsession.

But this is not the first adaptation of the story of Tom Ripley, with the most famous being the 1999 film The Talented Mr. Ripley, which starred Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett and the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

But 25 years later, Netflix’s Ripley has aired on our silver screens and we want to know what it’s based on. The original film? Or a true story?

Andrew Scott wants to explore Ripley's 'queerness'
Andrew Scott wants to explore Ripley's 'queerness'. Picture: Alamy

Is Ripley a true story?

Netflix’s Ripley and all other adaptations of Tom Ripley’s character are based on the 1955 novel titled 'The Talented Mr. Ripley' written by Patricia Highsmith.

The original novel was part of a five-part series, with the other four novels named 'Ripley Under Ground', 'Riley’s Game', 'The Boy Who Followed Ripley' and 'Ripley Under Water.' The series, also dubbed The Ripliad, was published between 1955 and 1991.

The books were considered dark and quite sinister and were not recommended for children and that theme seemed to be the basis for Netflix’s adaptation as well.

Dakota Fanning will star in Netflix's Ripley as Marge Sherwood
Dakota Fanning will star in Netflix's Ripley as Marge Sherwood. Picture: Alamy

Like its source, Ripley was set in New York City during the sixties. The mini-series followed the plot of the first book in Patricia’s series where Tom Ripley was hired to retrieve the son of a wealthy man, who’s been splurging his inheritance in luxury at his family’s Italian villa.

However, upon meeting the son, Dickie Greenleaf, and dipping his toe into the lifestyle of the upper class, Tom developed an obsession with Dickie’s life which evolved into a full-blown obsession with becoming Dickie himself.

Andrew plated the lead role of Tom Ripley in the Netflix adaptation, and he wanted to investigate the idea of this ‘obsession’ that Tom developed for Dickie and how it could be interpreted in a modern context.

Watch the trailer for Ripley

Speaking to Interview magazine, the act discussed how he planned to make it his own. "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.”

There’s been no confirmation whether there are any plans to continue past the first book, only time will tell. But that hasn’t stopped several adaptations coming out over the last half a century, with three films and now two television versions of the first novel alone, out in the world.

The second novel Ripley Under Ground was also made into a film in 2005, starring the likes of Barry Pepper, Willem Dafoe, Alan Cumming and Tom Wilkinson.

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