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Because of his start as a writer, actor and teacher in theater, filmmaker Anthony Minghella directed some of the most emotionally compelling films of the late-20th century and beyond. Ever since his directorial debut, "Truly Madly Deeply" (1990), it was evident that Minghella was on a path to make films of extraordinary depth and richly-textured nuance. When he made his multi-Academy Award winning epic, "The English Patient" (1996), Minghella's status as a top shelf writer-director who was able to compel great performances from actors was only confirmed. He continued forging his legacy with strong adaptations of difficult novels, "The Talented Mr. Ripley" (1999) and "Cold Mountain" (2003), both of which earned critical kudos and numerous award nominations. After delving into opera with a 2005 staging of "Madame Butterfly" and helming the sub-par comedy-drama, "Breaking and Entering" (2006), Minghella's artistic output was cut short at the age of 54, when he died suddenly from a fatal brain hemorrhage. But he left behind a strong, yet incomplete body of work that would long rival the great directors of any generation.Born on Jan. 6, 1954 in Ryde, Isle of Wight, England, Minghella grew up devouring...
Because of his start as a writer, actor and teacher in theater, filmmaker Anthony Minghella directed some of the most emotionally compelling films of the late-20th century and beyond. Ever since his directorial debut, "Truly Madly Deeply" (1990), it was evident that Minghella was on a path to make films of extraordinary depth and richly-textured nuance. When he made his multi-Academy Award winning epic, "The English Patient" (1996), Minghella's status as a top shelf writer-director who was able to compel great performances from actors was only confirmed. He continued forging his legacy with strong adaptations of difficult novels, "The Talented Mr. Ripley" (1999) and "Cold Mountain" (2003), both of which earned critical kudos and numerous award nominations. After delving into opera with a 2005 staging of "Madame Butterfly" and helming the sub-par comedy-drama, "Breaking and Entering" (2006), Minghella's artistic output was cut short at the age of 54, when he died suddenly from a fatal brain hemorrhage. But he left behind a strong, yet incomplete body of work that would long rival the great directors of any generation.
Born on Jan. 6, 1954 in Ryde, Isle of Wight, England, Minghella grew up devouring movies, ice cream from his family's ice cream business, and his grandmother's life story during long walks along the picturesque beaches. When he was 11 years old, he was sent to St. John's College, a Catholic boarding school in Southsea, Hampshire, on the English mainland. Bored with his new surroundings, Minghella began skipping classes - much to the dismay of his family - and was eventually sent back home. Even more dismaying, he was sent to Sandown High, a local grammar school. While there, he began acting in theater classes and came under the guidance of his English teacher, Gareth Pritchard, who helped steer the rambunctious youth towards higher education. In 1971, Minghella attended the University of Hull, where, in addition to acting, he began writing for the theater, despite the objections of his parents. After three years, he graduated and immediately began pursuing his PhD, having enjoyed his experience at Hull so much. After applying for an open teaching position, Minghella spent the next several years teaching Samuel Beckett and medieval theater.
In 1981, Minghella left Hull to write radio plays, theater and scripts for BBC-TV. He enjoyed modest success writing and directing "Whale Music" (1981), a play about a young pregnant girl who gives up her baby for adoption. Other productions followed, but it was his 1986 play "Made in Bangkok," staged on the famed West End, that catapulted Minghella's career. His hard-hitting look at the sexual exploitation of women from Thailand at the hands of British men earned him Best Play Award from the London Theatre Critics. Minghella's television career thrived as well - he wrote several scripts for Jim Henson's puppet fairy tale series, "The Storyteller" (1988-89), which originally aired in the U.K. and was later aired in the United States in 1997. Meanwhile, he directed his first feature, "Truly Madly Deeply" (1990), a romantic comedy about a bereaved woman (Julie Stevenson) who literally wills her dead lover (Alan Rickman) back from the grave. Minghella managed to transcend typical romantic comedy territory by offering a more honest, thoughtful and emotionally satisfying story, and in the process, established himself as a new and talented feature director.
As expected with his critical success across the Atlantic, Hollywood inevitably came knocking with an offer for him to direct his first studio film, "Mr. Wonderful" (1993). Working from a script by Amy Schor-Ferris and Amy Polon, he fashioned a whimsical romantic comedy about a man (Matt Dillon) who falls back in love with his ex-wife (Annabella Sciorra) while trying to fix her up with another man. Although the box office results were disappointing, the director's reputation for character development was duly noted. While he perhaps seemed an appropriate choice to tackle the screenplay adaptation of Michael Ondaatje's dense but poetic novel "The English Patient" (1996), Minghella was hardly the obvious choice to direct. Managing to forge a cogent script from dense fiction, he crafted a film that combined the grandeur of a David Lean epic with the romantic intimacy of a Frank Borzage drama. A touching love story amidst the upheaval of World War II, "The English Patient" centered on a Hungarian man (Ralph Fiennes) burned beyond recognition in a plane crash who tells a field nurse (Juliette Binoche) about his love affair with the wife (Kristin Scott Thomas) of a fellow Englishman (Colin Firth). Sweeping in vision and rich in emotion, "The English Patient" earned an impressive 12 Academy Award nominations and took home nine, including for Best Picture and Best Director.
Though he had his pick of follow-up projects, Minghella decided to film his adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel "The Talented Mr. Ripley" (1999), a highbrow thriller that followed the exploits of an outsider (Matt Damon) who covets the life of a wealthy playboy (Jude Law) enough to consider murder. Having tweaked and nurtured Highsmith's original story into a compelling script, Minghella made certain to maintain control as director. Once again, he crafted an intimate epic set against a lavish historical backdrop. While some fans of the novel carped over changes to the story, most reviews were respectful, though not overly praising. The film did earn several Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations, but failed to win anything from either competition. Meanwhile, Minghella filmed another adaptation of a popular novel, Charles Frazier's "Cold Mountain" (2003), which followed the struggle of a deserting Confederate soldier (Jude Law) attempting to return to his beloved Ada (Nicole Kidman) during the American Civil War, while she attempts to learn self-reliance through hardship, along with the help of the rustic, but wise young woman Ruby (Renee Zellweger).
While some critics found "Cold Mountain" uneven, many award-giving entities praised it as among the top films of 2003. Minghella's contributions where largely overlooked, sans a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Writers Guild Awards, though the acting - particularly from Zellweger - was richly rewarded. Around this time, Minghella also began attaching himself to projects strictly as a producer, helping to shepherd such notable films like "The Quiet American" (2002), "Heaven" (2002), "The Interpreter" (2005) and "Michael Clayton" (2007). He even made an acting appearance as an interviewer at the end of "Atonement" (2007). For his next directing project, he again joined forces with Jude Law for "Breaking and Entering" (2006), a humorous drama about a thriving architect (Law) who embarks on a quest of self-discovery and ultimately redemption when he hunts for the burglar that broke into his office - not once, but twice - stealing all his company's high-tech equipment. Sadly, "Breaking and Entering" proved to be Minghella's final completed film. On Mar. 18, 2008, while recovering from surgery for a growth on his neck at Charing Cross Hospital in West London, Minghella died from a fatal hemorrhage. He has just completed directing the two-hour pilot for "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" (HBO, 2008- ). He was just 54 years old.
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CAST: (feature film)
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Made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in June 2001.
"I directed before I wrote. When I was a student, I was directing. I had no thoughts of becoming a writer. My thoughts were about how to make music, how to direct music, how to be involved as a musician and a director in the theater and film, or something. I had written a series of songs that I wanted to lace together into some event to direct, and in lacing together, I found myself writing scenes. And what happened was I found something in that process which really intrigued me, and almost accidentally found myself writing for a living. And the thing that I would say without any hesitation is I'm a writer who directs. I think it would be tragic for me if I didn't direct another film; I think it would be impossible for me to stop writing." --Anthony Minghella quoted in Written By, March 1997.
"I made a pact with John Seale, the cinematographer, and production designer Stuart Craig ,., that we would never invest in the landscape. There is no shot in the film ["The English Patient"] which begins on some gorgeous scenery or bit of architecture. We were interested only in that activity generated by character which requires you to look beyond an elbow or a neck." --Anthony Minghella quoted in the London Times, March 3, 1997.
On his screenplay for "The English Patient", Minghella told the London Times (March 3, 1997): "the camera is so prosaic that the film required a full frame, a much denser architecture than the novel. I suppose there's a certain literalness to the way I've done the screenplay - although, in relation to other screenplays, it's wild."
"Yes, we weren't keen at first [on Minghella's decision to pursue a career in the arts and not to work in the ice cream business], his mother was horrified, but how could we have anticipated what would happen." --Edward Minghella (Anthony's father) to the London Times, March 26, 1997.
"The advantage I have when I walk on a set with my own writing is that I know every beat and impulse and nuance of it because it's come directly through me, and so there's nothing I don't know about the screenplay. It means I'm free to let go of it completely." --Minghella to DGA Magazine, May-June 1997.
"I was trained as an academic, but my instincts as a writer are unintellectual. There's nothing 'from the head' when I go to make movies. I'm interested in emotional journeys rather than theoretical ones. 'The Talented Mr. Ripley', for instance, is very influenced by Italian filmmakers like Fellini, De Sica, the Taviani brothers and Rossellini, whose movies have an enormous spirit of humanity that doesn't judge, doesn't simplify. I love that, and I think that like them, 'Ripley' has an operatic edge to it--it's naked, raw and emotional." --Minghella quoted in Movieline, December 1999-January 2000.
Stephen Rebello: ... Have you found yourself surprised, delighted, bemused by what projects were offered you?
Anthony Minghella: No, because I knew what I was going to do next. I'm not really in the marketplace for the kind of opportunities which accrue to directors who have some success. I'm not for hire. There's nobody and nothing in "The English Patient" I didn't want in it, and it was made entirely the way I wanted, If it didn't work, it was my problem. I fell entirely the same about "Ripley". I'll stand passionately by the result.
--From Movieline, December 1999-January 2000.
"He's the infra-red end of the spectrum of collaboration. Ultra-violet is someone like Milos Forman, who has a team of editors and tells them how to make every cut. Anthony gives me freedom and responsibility. But he asks for advice from everyone on the picture. He even asked Miramax and Paramount! He listens to everyone, and when people really think you're listening they'll give you strange and valuable ideas. But when we're editing it's just the two of us. There is no other stage after us, and really what I feel we're doing is completing the script-writing process." --editor Walter Murch on working with Anthony Minghella to David Thomson in The New York Times, December 19, 1999.
On why he had to direct "The Talented Mr. Ripley" for which he wrote the screenplay before directing "The English Patient", Minghella told Eric Harrison of theLos Angeles Times (December 19, 1999): "I felt such a profound connection with the material that I couldn't bear the thought of somebody else doing it."
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