Dakota Fanning takes deep dive into ‘Ripley’

Tom Ripley, everyone’s favorite murderous sociopath, is back in a big way with Netflix’s eight-episode, black-and-white “Ripley.”

Adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s novel about con man Ripley (the out British stage and screen star Andrew Scott) who’s sent to Italy by well-meaning but tragically wrong parents to find what’s up with their son Dickie Greenleaf (Johnny Flynn).

In Naples Ripley meets Dickie and his girlfriend Marge Sherwood (Dakota Fanning). She seems to have gotten an upgrade from Gwyneth Paltrow’s one-dimensional Marge in the 1999 “The Talented Mr. Ripley” with Matt Damon’s Ripley.

Fanning’s Marge is much more complex — a writer, artist, photographer, author.

“I was thrilled to do a really deep dive into the character of Marge,” Fanning, 30, said in a Zoom interview. “When you have eight episodes to explore a story and characters, you get to go deeper and I was happy that that was what we were doing.

“I think that was what attracted Steve Zallian to writing, directing and adapting Patricia Highsmith’s novel. He wanted a lot of time with these characters. What I — right off the bat! — was attracted to is that the series is really written from Tom’s perspective.

“You meet Marge through Tom’s eyes. That meant, for better or for worse, there was a lot of freedom to figure out who Marge was. It was really important to me to fill in those blanks because everyone has their own reality in this series. Tom Ripley has his narrative and Marge has hers and it was modulating where those realities intersect and where they diverge.

“What’s really important,” Fanning added, “Marge is the only character that has Tom’s number from the beginning. She just doesn’t trust him from the moment she lays eyes on him.

“I liked getting to be somebody that was able to go toe-to-toe with Ripley. Marge and Tom have quite the dynamic and Andrew and I had so much fun exploring that.”

Highsmith debuted Ripley in 1955. The now-classic French version “Purple Noon” made Alain Delon an international star in 1960. Why our enduring fascination with this sociopath?

“People are fascinated with the character, for sure. There is something about Tom — he’s not a professional at this, he is messy at the end. But he’s very good at lying and being able to manipulate his way out of things.

“There’s something weirdly relatable about how he does it. You see the mistakes he makes. Sometimes the viewer feels like they’ve been almost complicit in what he does, because you’re not exactly sure whether you’re supposed to be rooting for or against him.

“But totally, a fascinating character.”


Netflix streams all 8 episodes of “Ripley” April 4

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