Ripley Interview: Steven Zaillian & Maurizio Lombardi on Filming in Monochrome

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Written By Sedoso Feb

ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with Ripley director Steven Zaillian and star Maurizio Lombardi about the Netflix adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel. The duo spoke about the black-and-white visuals and working with Andrew Scott. The series is set to debut on the streaming platform on April 4.

“In the series, Tom Ripley, a grifter scraping by in early 1960s New York, is hired by a wealthy man to travel to Italy to try to convince his vagabond son Dickie Greenleaf to return home,” reads the show‘s synopsis. “Tom’s acceptance of the job is the first step into a complex life of deceit, fraud, and murder. Meanwhile, Marge Sherwood, an American living in Italy, suspects darker motives underlie Tom’s affability.”

Tyler Treese: I thought some of the most interesting scenes are after the murders, seeing how Ripley responds to the aftermath. How was it letting the camera linger and just really showcase Andrew’s reactions to those scenes?

Steven Zaillian: Yeah, I mean, it’s important to me. It was always important to me to put the audiences in his brain and, basically, make him a surrogate for them. I feel like you need that time to see what he’s thinking, how he’s thinking, and what he’s going to do and that everything that happens, like you said, in the aftermath is holding together this myriad of lies that he’s created, and it’s not easy to do, and it’s not easy for him because he’s not a professional killer, you know? He’s not any better at it than we would be. So to be able to spend that time with him, I feel, was a way of showing the story in a different way than we’ve seen it before.

Maurizio, you are great in the series, and your scenes with Andrew are filled with tension. What stood out about him as a scene partner?

Maurizio Lombardi: When you play with such a great actor, it’s so easy. You can concentrate totally on your character because Andrew is so natural. So, easy answer. It’s unbelievable for me because I appreciate Andrew in the flashbacks. I love this series, and then I have, in front of me, another character that’s so distant from the one in the flashbacks, as you can see. “Wow, another face, another body, another sexuality.” That’s incredible.

Steven, Ripley is just so gorgeously shot in black and white. What were the challenges with that? Was it more challenging doing this or easier? How did that pan out?

Zaillian: No, it would’ve been really challenging to do it in color because my feeling is that it should be like a film noir look. From the very beginning, I felt that. Every picture that I took when we were scouting, when we were setting things up, when I was doing my research, were all in black and white. So the thought never presented itself to me to do it in color. Even from the location scouting and all of the sets that David Gropman built, we never, ever looked at a color photograph.

And part of that is because I felt the mood of the story does not want to be some brightly lit, beautiful postcard of Italy. It’s Italy, but it’s Italy in 1960, and it wants to feel kind of dark and dangerous, even if you’re at a beautiful villa. I don’t want that blue ocean! [Laughs]. I want a gray ocean back there. It was important to me that it feel that way.

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