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Saturday
May102014

Cast This: Can We Get a Patricia Highsmith Biopic Up in Here?

We're getting three starry Patricia Highsmith adaptations in the next year or so at the cinemas. First up is The Two Faces of January (Viggo, Kiki & Oscar Isaac) and then Carol (Cate, Rooney & Sarah Paulson). 

 The latest to ready itself for the cameras is The Blunderer. The cast will include Patrick Wilson, Jessica Biel, Imogene Poots and Toby Jones. 

Highsmith adaptations are nothing new for the cinema and soon there will be little left to adapt.

Walter Stackhouse (Wilson) is a successful architect married to the beautiful Clara (Biel) and leading a charmed and perfect life. But his fascination with an unsolved murder leads him into a spiral of chaos as he is forced to play cat-and-mouse with a clever killer (Jones) and an over-ambitious detective. Walter's obsession, his lies and his lust for another woman (Poots) will collide in a crush of guilt, innocence and, ultimately, fate.

Highsmith adaptations are nothing new for the cinema and soon there will be little left to adapt.

But why hasn't anyone made a biopic yet?

She was a complicated character in her looks, her art, and her temperament: famously misanthropic (and racist, too), an alcoholic, complicated lifelong relationship with her mother (who once confessed to trying to abort her) who lived to be 95, bisexual with volatile affairs, and a crazy cat lady to boot.

Who should play her in a biopic?  Two names came immediately to my mind but I want to know your thoughts before I reveal them. A few more pictures after the jump [one NSFW] and a few more notes about Hollywood's interest in her work. 

Highsmith was uninhibited enough to pose for nude photosHighsmith as a young novelist in New York

Highsmith in her later years, still a public figure

Since she worked exclusively in the crime drama realm, Hollywood has always loved her. They've been transferring her suspense work ever since Alfred Hitchcock started the ball rolling with Strangers on a Train (1951). Her Tom Ripley novels have been the biggest source of the camera's obsessions adapted multiple times to the screen in French, British, and US films -- most famously with Purple Noon (1960) and The Talented Mr Ripley (1999).

Are there any novels left for the movies to adapt? Here is her complete list of novels - the ones in bold have been adapted OR are part of the Tom Ripley series so they've sort of been adapted. It's only a matter of time for the ones who haven't made it to the screen yet. 

  • Strangers on a Train (1950)
  • The Price of Salt (as Claire Morgan) (1952), also published as Carol
  • The Blunderer (1954)
  • The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955)
  • Deep Water (1957)
  • A Game for the Living (1958)
  • This Sweet Sickness (1960)
  • The Cry of the Owl (1962)
  • The Two Faces of January (1964)
  • The Glass Cell (1964)
  • A Suspension of Mercy (1965), also published as The Story-Teller
  • Those Who Walk Away (1967)
  • The Tremor of Forgery (1969)
  • Ripley Under Ground (1970)
  • A Dog's Ransom (1972)
  • Ripley's Game (1974)
  • Edith's Diary (1977)
  • The Boy Who Followed Ripley (1980)
  • People Who Knock on the Door (1983)
  • Found in the Street (1987)
  • Ripley Under Water (1991)
  • Small g: a Summer Idyll (1995)

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Reader Comments (28)

I'm getting a weird Michelle Williams vibe from that first picture so she's got my vote.

May 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

With that first picture of her, I immediately saw MICHELLE WILLIAMS. I can also see Kirsten Dunst.

May 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

Judy Davis

May 10, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermurtada

I also thought "Michelle Williams with dark hair" when I saw the first photo, but the second photo reminds me of Sally Hawkins.

May 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJan

(PS - She didn't live to be 95, she died in 1995.)

May 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJan

Sally Hawkins!

May 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Felicity Jones! Mia Wasikowska!

May 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Parker Posey.

May 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTravis

Jessica Chastain with David Fincher directing.

May 10, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

The Cry of the Owl has already been turned into a movie with Julia Stiles and Paddy Considine. Check it out if you want but it isn't that good lol.

May 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBhuray

Jan: it's her mother who lived to be 95.

May 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Good suggestions. If this would have been done years ago I would have said: Glenda Jackson. Now I say Sally Hawkins. The resemblance is uncanny in that third photo I think

May 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

Bhuray - The Cry Of The Owl was also made into a film by Claude Chabrol in 1987, which I haven't seen.

May 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRobMiles

Sally Hawkins was the first person to come to mind after seeing the pictures. That'd be brilliant, somewhat unexpected casting.

May 10, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterthefilmjunkie

Sally all the way,maybe linda hunt or amy madigan yrs ago.

May 10, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermark

Parker Posey, Linda Cardellini or Charlotte Gainsbourg

May 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterFernando Moss

My back in the day suggestion is Debra Winger.

May 10, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

I actually think of Irene Jacobs when seeing her pics here

May 10, 2014 | Unregistered Commentertombeet

Give the biopic three chapters: Young - Rooney Mara with Cate Blanchett as the mum, Middle age - Cate Blanchett with Glenn Close as the mum, Older - Glenn Close with Angela Lansbury as the mum.

Given that Highsmith is not instantly recognizable i don' t think looks really need to come into it.

May 10, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermatt

20-odd years ago I would've said Shelley Duvall, but I like the Sally Hawkins vote. If there's any bookending with her as an older woman, maybe Shelley Duvall can have a supporting role?

May 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDanny Hall

I could see Sissy Spacek playing an older Patricia Highsmith.

May 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCraig

I really can see Julianne Nicholson in this part.

May 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterV

Gretchen Mol, who should have been a superstar long ago. Even when the movies did right by her (The Notorious Bettie Page), the public didn't do right by the movie and stayed away. She was also great with Seann William Scott in a long-shelved film which eventually went direct to DVD under the title "American Loser".

May 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKen

Also cast Chloë Sevigny as Marijane Meaker.

May 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterV

Olivia Colman-- she has the look and can do dark characters.

May 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Judy Davis would be perfect. Sally Hawkins would also be great. Although I admit my first thought was Sarah Paulson or (forgive me) Hilary Swank.

Both Two Faces and Carol have such wonderful casts. I can hardly wait. The only one I really like on The Blunderer is Toby Jones ( love him).

May 11, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Lots of good suggestions, but I'm going for Lili Taylor.

May 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

There is a Ross Macdonald biopic circulating with international filmmaker Vincent Ward. Macdonald, arguably America's greatest crime writer, will have an anthology of his work published by Library of America in 2015, assuring his placement in the literary pantheon. There is a movie in the works based on his classic work "The Galton Case" from the director of "Parkland" and Hollywood producer Joel Silver.

June 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLew Archer

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