OUT ON THE BAYOU
DECEMBER 24,1999 ' HOUSTON VOICE
> Continued from page 15
toothy smile. "Look, Ripley is gay. So what? It
just adds another dimension to a bigger picture. I don't want to make it sound like I'm
trying to downplay it because it's a bad thing
or something. It's just that a lot of people are
saying that Middle Amenca can stomach a
mass murderer, just not a gay one."
Paltrow doesn't buy into the notion that
some film-goers are going to ignore "The
Talented Mr. Ripley" because of its homo-
erotic content. In fact, she's confident mainstream audiences are aesthetically starving
for a film just like it.
"I think a whole lot of people have been
waiting for a great, beautiful, epic Hollywood
movie which is totally subversive and 'un-
Hollywood' at the same time," Paltrow said.
"Sure, in a lot of ways it is a risky, bold project,
but I think it's a film that everyone will be able
to understand and enjoy."
Based on author Patricia Highsmith's first
in a series of suspenseful "Ripley" novels,
"The Talented Mr. Ripley" tells the story of
Herbert Greenleaf (James Rebhom), a wealthy
American industrialist who has grown tired
of the hedonistic, playboy ways of his son.
Upon meeting Tom Ripley (Damon), a
seemingly ambitious, friendly, young go-
getter, the elder Greenleaf sends him to sundrenched, 1950s Italy to help convince his
progeny, Dickie (Law), to return to the U.S.
and take the helm of the family business.
But the amiable, sensitive Ripley turns out
to be a bit of sociopath, becoming dangerously obsessed with rich, young Dickie's
lifestyle and falling in love with the handsome socialite.
When Dickie grows tired of Ripley's
fawning, Ripley murders him and assumes
his identity. But the killing doesn't stop
there. The body count mounts as Dickie's
friends and the authorities slowly start to
unravel Ripley's devious, evil web.
"I don't see Ripley as evil at all," Damon
said. "1 see him as somebody who is deeply,
deeply lonely. Believe it or not, he has a
great capacity for love and is tremendously
sensitive. It's easy to see why he would fall
for someone like Dickie. Dickie's charismatic and has this beautiful sunlight around
him. But he just doesn't understand the
effect that his charisma has on the people
around him—and that's his fatal flaw.
Dickie is very careless about it and that's
how people are always getting stepped on
by him. When Ripley kills him, it's a crime
After Tom Cruise passed over the role of
Ripley to appear in Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes
Wide Shut," Minghella pursued Damon to
discuss the part.
"1 had seen Matt in 'Courage Under Fire'
and was incredibly impressed with his
range as an actor," Minghella said. "I didn't
know if he would want the role, though,
because it seemed like Hollywood was
grooming him for their latest hunk or male
sex symbol. I didn't know if the role of
Ripley would fit into that 'master plan,' and
I told him that."
Damon says he was surprised at
Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law in 'The Talented Mr. Ripley/ a movie generating some fuss over
Ripley's sexual orientation, something Law said is 'typical American silliness.'
"He told me I would be perfect, but he
wasn't sure if I would want to take the role
because of Ripley's yearnings for other
men," Damon said. "Since my other movie
parts had been such hard-core heterosexual
characters, he thought career-wise, I
wouldn't want to play a gay character."
But reading the script for "Mr. Ripley"
convinced Damon to take the part.
"I knew ! wanted to play Ripley, no matter who he wanted to go to bed with. I
never questioned it or thought of it as a
bold move. I just knew that I would have
been a fool to pass it up. I mean, if I was
given scripts as good as this one, all the
time, I'd play gay characters from now on,"
Law says he finds all the fuss over
Ripley's sexuality silly—and typical
"It's hard to believe that U.S. audiences
would make such a big deal about Matt's
character being gay," said Law, who portrayed Oscar Wilde's lover in "Wilde" and
a bisexual hustler in "Midnight In The
Garden Of Good And Evil."
"It's almost like there's this feeling that
big American movie stars should stray
away from any role that has anything to do
with homosexuality. That's so ludicrous.
Americans seem to be more comfortable
with characters that murder dozens of people than they are with two men hugging
each other. That just doesn't make sense. ...
But as a society, Americans need to get
away from the idea that you're a brave and
courageous actor just because you play a
gay man. I mean, if that were the case I
should be a national hero with statues of
me erected all over the States."
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