How ‘Ripley’ Star Eliot Sumner “Risked It All” With The Audition for Freddie Miles

In Netflix’s Ripley — Steven Zaillian’s foray into the world of con man Tom Ripley (Andrew Scott) based on Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 novel The Talented Mr. Ripley — Eliot Sumner’s Freddie Miles is English. Considering that in both the book and previous 1999 movie, the character is very American, the singer-actor took a risk with the audition.

“I got sent the audition in February 2021, and this was still pandemic time, so I’d been doing a lot of tapes but not getting much work, and this one comes up and I couldn’t really believe it,” says Sumner, whose parents are Sting and actress Trudie Styler. “I thought that I definitely wouldn’t get it. I did it the way that I heard it in my head, and I risked it all by playing Freddie as an English person. Intuitively, I thought it might add some contrast to the rest of the characters. … Steven Zaillian wrote to me personally, saying that he’d like to give me the part, which blew my mind.”

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Playing Freddie, a role previously portrayed by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman in the movie adaptation written and directed by Anthony Minghella, initially seemed daunting. “He’s one of my favorite heroes of cinema, and I knew that nothing could go up against the way that he played Freddie, so I had to make it as unique as possible,” Sumner says. “In a way, that freed me from the shadow, and Steven’s vision for Ripley was so ingrained in it being its own thing.”

Sumner, whose acting credits include The Gentlemen and No Time to Die, says that Tom and Freddie have more in common than they know, but that doesn’t stop them from going head-to-head in episode five, in which — spoiler alert — Tom bludgeons Freddie with a heavyweight ashtray.

“Fraudulence is quite common with all the characters,” says Sumner. “Tom is a con man on paper. But Freddie’s definitely not a playwright. Dickie’s not an artist. Marge is not a very good writer. And even Inspector Ravini is lying about where his wife comes from. So, there’s all of these very microscopic character traits that link them. It’s fascinating.”

For Sumner, playing dead for most of the fifth episode was a challenge. The actor adds that there was quite a bit of choreography involved in Tom dragging Freddie’s body out of the apartment. “It was about four months of being known as ‘The Body’ on set,” says Sumner, laughing. “It was physically quite taxing, as bizarre as that sounds, because I was just lying there, but the dragging around and not breathing for minutes on end … I’m sure they could have fixed that in post, but I wanted to do it properly.”

Sumner’s performance has been critically acclaimed, and it turns out that Sumner’s father is just as much a fan. “He loves it,” says Sumner. “He’s really into it. I knew he would be — it’s his cup of tea.”

And playing the role was just as monumental for Sumner: “Slipping into Freddie was really easy to do in a kind of scary way. It’s a lot of fun. I find that his confidence and his arrogance, you don’t really get to see that every day in normal, polite society. I’m really sad that I might not ever get to play Freddie again.”

This story first appeared in a May standalone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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