By: Katherine Kaminsky
A SEXUALLY-confused, art-loving serial killer might not sound
like the ideal ingredients for a villain you can root for, yet
Tom Ripley, the anti-hero created by Patricia Highsmith in book
form, is now enjoying his fourth cinema outing, in the charismatic
guise of John Malkovich.
Ripleys Game marks the long-awaited sequel to Anthony Minghellas
Talented Mr Ripley, and finds Malkovich stepping into the shoes
vacated by Matt Damon, some 20 years later.
Happily married and living in Northern Italy, Ripley seems content
until his psychopathic inclinations are awoken by Dougray Scotts
unfortunate Trevanny, who insults his taste.
Ripley seeks revenge, and, when he discovers Trevanny is dying
of leukaemia, decides to play a game with his destiny, uniting
with an old acquaintance, Ray Winstones Reeves, to get rid
of a Russian Mafia.
The two approach Trevanny to become an unlikely assassin after
finding out that he is dying of leukaemia, promising him that
the contract will help him to provide for his family after his
death. But then Trevanny develops a taste for his new lifestyle
For Malkovich, the role of Ripley had long been an intriguing
"Id always found the books very funny, very clever,
and very cinematic, in the way they appealed to troubling aspects
of human behaviour," he told a London press conference recently.
"Why do we like someone who does such unconscionable things
with such regularity?
"I thought she [Patricia] wrote about that very cleverly,
and created a world where, if you suspect that someone has discovered
your art scam, and that will keep you from having the kind of
leather you want on your walls in your home, clearly its
a better idea to kill them.
"And how does one create that world, and why do we like
it? Thats what appealed to me in that whole series."
Hence, Ripley enjoys the same type of relationship with audiences
that the likes of Anthony Hopkins does in the Hannibal Lecter
series - as despicable as both characters may ultimately be.
But given that Ripley is now in his fourth incarnation, did Malkovich
find it difficult to find a new persona for the character?
"Well, I knew already very well the other films - the Wim
Wenders one Im very fond of, so I didnt have the luxury
of ignoring that," he explained.
"But I never think much about comparisons, because one isnt
doing the same thing, and its not the same age or time,
as the films are structured differently.
"I went over and over the series of books for things I thought
were needed. I remember, in one book, Ripley has to pick up a
passport from a German girl and his wife goes with him, and theres
this little tiny thing, when theyre leaving, the wife remarks
that the girl is very attractive, which opened up a whole world
of how their relationship might be.
"Thats what I would look for more than what somebody
else did, because then youre interpreting an interpretation,
and theres no point in doing that."
Certainly, the critical reaction to Ripleys Game has been
very favourable, despite a troubled shoot, in which rumours abounded
that original director, Liliana Cavani, was eventually replaced
by Malkovich himself.
When asked about the shoot, however, Malkovich explained that
time constraints, forced upon them by the difficulty in securing
funding, were what eventually forced the actor to take over behind
"It was a somewhat chaotic working environment," he
said. "But Liliana did not leave because she was upset, she
had a contract at La Scala, to direct an opera, and, as the start
date was being pushed back further and further while all the financing
was being put into place, we knew she would have to leave before
the end of the shoot.
"Id spent at least six or seven hours a day with Liliana,
discussing how she wanted the last scenes directed."
The movie therefore marks Malkovichs second journey behind
the lens for cinema - he has directed several theatre productions
- and the star has not ruled out further projects in the future,
particularly given the success of his equally-acclaimed debut,
The Dancer Upstairs.
"But it would have to be a story I would feel qualified
to tell," he added. "Ive always directed, but
in the theatre, or fashion, or some way, thats just easier.
The Dancer Upstairs took eight years, and thats not a complaint,
its fine, and I enjoyed doing it.
"But it would have to be something I was very dedicated
to, in order to spend that kind of time; plus I produce a lot,
which is very time consuming."
RIPLEY LATEST: According to a recent report, Roger Spottiswoode
(Tomorrow Never Dies) is about to
direct the next Ripley adaptation, with Barry Pepper as Ripley.
Tom Wilkinson is also on board. At the moment it's called Ripley's