THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY
About the Production (from novel to movie)
Two producers, William Horberg and Tom Sternberg, became involved in obtaining the rights to Patricia Highsmith's novel almost seven years ago.
Horberg says: "I read the book more than 15 years ago and have always been intrigued by it. I thought it was a fantastic story for a movie with its universal theme of the fantasy of taking over someone else's life, but as a project it had become somewhat legendary. A French producer, Robert Hakim, had made a film of the book with his late brother Raymond in 1960 called "Purple Noon," starring Alain Delon and directed by Rene Clement. Hakim still controlled the rights, and over the years I had heard many stories about filmmakers who pursued the property only to run into problems with him."
Nevertheless, when Horberg left Paramount Pictures in 1992 to become a producer with Sydney Pollack at Mirage Enterprises, he gave Pollack a first-edition hard-back copy of the novel as a gift, hoping it was a project they could pursue together.
Highsmith's novels have served as the basis for several films, including Alfred Hitchcock's "Strangers on A Train." Graham Greene dubbed Highsmith "the poet of apprehension" and wrote that "she created a world of her own - a world claustrophobic and irrational." The New Yorker called Highsmith's books "peerlessly disturbing."
At Mirage, Horberg started making inquiries about "Ripley" only to encounter the same frustrations as those who had preceded him.
Meanwhile, producer Tom Sternberg, who knew the Hakim family, had been interested in the book for many years.
"After Hakim's death," Sternberg says, "the family came to me, knowing me as a producer, and asked me to set up 'Ripley' as a film project in America. I heard from my lawyer, whose firm also represented Sydney Pollack, that he and Bill were interested in the property. Anticipating that dealing with the Hakims was going to be very difficult, I thought the involvement of Sydney in the project, with his reputation as a great American producer/director, could be a big asset. Bill and I met, liked each other, and we all decided to set it up together."
Before entering into an agreement to sell the rights formally, Hakim's widow and two of her daughters asked to meet with Pollack, Horberg and Sternberg in Deauville. She was a big fan of Pollack's work and had enjoyed Pollack's latest film, "The Firm," which had recently premiered in the area. After the face-to-face discussion, the Hakims agreed to sell the rights to Mirage Enterprises and Sternberg's company, Timnick Films. Paramount Pictures agreed to finance the project and help develop the property. Progress was underway. What was needed now was a writer.
"Sydney and I were huge fans of Anthony Minghella and had tried to interest him in material before," Horberg says. "He had never done anything like 'Ripley' and we thought that might be an enticement for him, so we sent him the book."
At the time, Minghella was actively involved with "The English Patient." He had written the script for that film and was preparing to direct it.
"I had cast Ralph Fiennes in the leading role but had to wait before filming could begin," Minghella says. "Ralph was in a very successful production of 'Hamlet' that had to finish its Broadway run, so we pushed our start date back six months. When I received the offer for 'Ripley,' I read the novel. I thought, 'I like this book, I like this character.' I had the time and decided to write the screenplay."
A meeting was set up quickly between Minghella and the producers to discuss the property, and Minghella told them his thoughts. What appealed to him, above all, was the theme of someone stepping into another person's life. He was going to develop this as a major element in his screenplay.
The producers reacted enthusiastically. It was apparent that everyone was thinking along the same lines. Minghella wrote a first<
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