In the age of anti-hero TV, it’s almost surprising we haven’t gotten a Tom Ripley series yet. But Oscar-winning screenwriter Steven Zaillian is on it with Deadline reporting that Zaillian plans to adapt Patricia Highsmith’s novels focusing on the sociopath anti-hero. No network has signed on yet, but sources tell Deadline that this will likely be a straight-to-series order with Zaillian writing and directing most of the first season’s episodes.
Per Deadline, “Zaillian will use the five novels written by Highsmith — The Talented Mrs. Ripley, Ripley Under Ground, Ripley’s Game, The Boy Who Followed Ripley and Ripley Underwater — as a road map to show Ripley’s progression from con artist to serial killer.”
The larger question is whether or not audiences still have an appetite for this kind of character. Obviously, the Tom Ripley character has endured for decades (The Talented Mr. Ripley was first published in 1955), but in the TV landscape, anti-heroes are a dime a dozen, so I’m curious what Zaillian is going to do to make his series stand out apart from name recognition. While The Talented Mr. Ripley, Ripley Under Ground, and Ripley’s Game have all been adapted, only 1999’s The Talented Mr. Ripley could arguably be called a hit having earned $128.8 million at the box office off a $40 million budget and earning five Oscar nominations.
That being said, if you play out the character over a longer time frame and you have the luxury of a road map for where you want him to go, there might be something there, so it’s not surprising that networks are eager to give this series a go, especially when they can say “From the writer of Schindler’s List and The Night Of”.