John Malkovich remarked in an interview with the BBC that before starring in this film, he came close to directing The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) and that he was in negotiations to obtain the rights to direct a remake of the first "Talented Mr Ripley" adaptation, Purple Noon (1960).
In Patricia Highsmith's original novel, most of the action takes place in France, not Italy, Tom Ripley and Jonathan Trevanny are both married to Frenchwomen who are named Heloise and Simone, not Luisa and Sarah. The character of Reeves is also different, in the novel he is an American fence whose motives are more obscure than they are depicted in the movie.
Financial difficulties caused shooting delays which meant director Liliana Cavani had to leave the production before filming had been completed, due to a previous commitment to direct an opera at La Scala in Milan. John Malkovich took over and completed the film, directing around a third of the footage. Consequently, this marks his unofficial debut as a director