Compiled by: Katherine Kaminsky
Q. This film has a dark humour running through it, how much
of that comes off the page, or does it come from you?
A. Well, with this I thought Charles, the writer [Charles
McKeown], made a very good structure, but a lot of those things
were the result of discussions with Liliana (Liliana Cavani, the
director) , because my feeling in reading the script was that
we have a 120-page European film without a philosophy, and that
really isnt on.
Q. Youd read the books and tried to buy the rights for
Talented Mr Ripley yourself. What was the appeal of the character
A. I wasnt trying to buy it for myself to act in, because
when we produce something, we never really think about that at
all. It was to produce and, perhaps, to direct. Id always
found the books very funny, very clever, very cinematic, in that
they appealed to some troubling aspects of human behaviour.
Why do we like someone who does such unconscionable things with
I thought she 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.
Q. Should we read anything into the fact that both you and
Ripley are American ex-pats, living in Europe. Is there a shared
A. I dont think its by chance that he came to
Europe to do what he does. The puritans left here and they had
to go somewhere, and they went to America. In Europe, I think
the moral relativism, lets say, is much more pronounced.
The actions, and Im not trying to intimate, arent
in any way worse, or more shocking, its how they're perceived
and the outrage they cause that is much, much less pronounced,
it seems to me.
Q. This is the fourth time Ripley has been portrayed in a
film. How do you approach the character; do you ignore the other
films and go back to the books?
A. 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. 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.
Q. Is that the sort of thing that informs the relationship
between your screen wife? Plainly, she knows what he does?
A. That was always my feeling, and thats something we
worked very hard on. The film had a terrific structure, but I
didnt think it told us about the people, so all of her scenes
were written during filming.
Q. Is there any truth in the rumours of Ripley's Game being
a troubled production and that you ended up directing it?
A. It was a somewhat chaotic working environment. 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
Id spent at least six or seven hours a day with Liliana,
discussing how she wanted the last scenes directed.
Q. Are you leaving France?
A. We are thinking of moving, but theres no animosity.
Ive been pretty much audited everywhere, and its never
as much fun as one would hope. I hope to be here in the Autumn,
to do an English film.
Q. Do you find it harder now to travel around now you have
A. It is now theyre well past the age of starting school.
When they were little, it was very easy, you could just grab the
dipers, but they get to an age when they get their own minds and
it gets more difficult as time goes on.
Q. Has this influenced the decisions youve made regarding
A. It has a huge influence, yeah. When are their vacations?
How long does it take, etc, etc? It may seem like a sort of daft
way of choosing things, but I like to have a life and I dont
want to miss my children growing up. So it does have a big influence,
Q. Do they enjoy visiting the film sets?
A. No! They liked very much meeting Rowan Atkinson, partially
because they find him funny, and partially because he has a McLaren
F1, which they got to ride in. That, to them, was a good film,
but, generally, they dont like it. Theyre very sullen
when they come to visit me on set.
Q. Did introducing your children to Rowan make you a bigger
hero in their eyes?
A. All parents are big losers to be avoided around their friends
at any cost. It may have got me some brownie points for a brief
Q. Are there drawbacks for a Hollywood star who does not live
A. I dont see any drawbacks to it really. Ive
continued to work in the States. Like most people, I probably
havent found the ideal things to work on, or the things
that really would have completely involved me, but I think thats
the same for any actor.
So I dont see that its made that much difference.
I just did a month-long press tour in the States and most people
seemed to think I either live in New York, or Im English,
or Im Yugoslavian.
Q. Would you consider playing Ripley again?
A. I think that totally depends on how this goes, as to whether
that would even be a possibility.
Q. Would you say he was one of your favourite characters?
A. I had a lot of fun playing him. Most of the things that
were my favourites, I did on stage because its just a whole
different way of working, and the writing is different, and the
way you work on it is different.
Q. How did you find working with Ray Winstone?
A. Im a huge fan of Ray Winstone's. I remember seeing
Nil By Mouth, over on The Strand, and I thought I was going to
be chucked out of the theatre because I was just laughing so hard.
Sometimes Liliana had a way of directing people where she would
grab you by the lapels, allegedly to guide you somewhere, but
sometimes it was quite sort of brusque, and seeing her put her
hands on Ray, I would have to warn her, that wasnt going
to work here. I had a great time with him, hes someone I
think is just a terrific performer, so it was a real pleasure.
Q. Will you do anymore directing?
A. Sure, Id do it again, but it would have to be a story
I would feel qualified to tell. 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.
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
Q. You are branching out into clothes. Whats the name
of your label?
A. Our film companys called Mr Mudd, so we were going
to call it Mrs Mudd. However, there was a problem with that, so
its going to be called Uncle Kimono. Its sort of late
Fifties, early Sixties, California beach boy, Palm Springs, lounge
lizard, Swiss banker that got fired.
Q. Whats your next film?
A. Its a film called Colour Me Kubrick, about this Englishman
who went around impersonating Stanley Kubrick for a couple of
years a while back, who would find a stupid heavy metal rock band,
and say he was going to promote them in Vegas.
He tricked a lot of known people, who really believed he was Stanley
Kubrick, because no one really saw him. He was a kind of a wanker,
who just used it to meet boys.
Q. Can we look forward to you appearing on stage in the near
A. Ill come back sometime, but havent found something
lately I was desperate to do.
Q. You play a lot of menacing characters, but you seem to
be a calm and pleasant person, what really pushes your button?
Q. Is that from childhood?
A. Probably. Be they physical, emotional, political, intellectual,
usually pseudo. That kind of pushes my button, which Im
not proud of. One should be careful about what buttons one has
to be pushed.