As a small boy hovering around big movie sets, actor Max Minghella got his first taste of filmmaking from the inside. With a pensive, studious face characterized by a combination of dark hair and full-browed eyes, the lanky Minghella was a practitioner of careful observation. Though aided by a background in theater, this admitted mimic-by-habit was perfectly suited to slip into a wide variety of Hollywood's multi-ethnic onscreen personas.
Born on Sept. 1, 1985 to Oscar-winning London-born film director Anthony Minghella and Chinese-born choreographer Carolyn Choa, Minghella and his older half-sister grew up in Hampstead, an affluent London suburb. Somewhat of a lonely child, the younger Minghella's home life was often marked by the physical presence of one parent. His father was often away on film shoots, although the son occasionally was privy to accompany the father. Watching the elder Minghella direct Hollywood's top talent in "The Talented Mr. Ripley" (1999) and even appearing very quickly in "Cold Mountain" (2003) as one of the gunslinging soldier extras, Minghella observed the proceedings, but had no preconceived notions about ever working in his father's field.
As a teen, Minghella attended the University College School, but after becoming hopelessly mesmerized by a London stage production of Kenneth Lonergan's "This is Our Youth," was convinced it would be difficult for him to downplay the sense of intrigue performing held for him. It seemed his education would be more fittingly honed at the National Youth Theatre instead, which he attended in order to study acting. Minghella realized he was good at it, and in an ideal series of events, his audition video made it to Hollywood where he was signed to one of its major talent agencies. Even more surprising than the attention of Tinseltown, however, was Minghella himself, who had simply assumed he would be drawn to the director's chair instead.
The opportunities afforded by Hollywood were not quite cut and dry, however, as Minghella spent a few years trying to get past the stigma of his name. In what would serve as his true film debut, Minghella was ultimately cast as Richard Gere's wayward son in an adaptation of "Bee Season" (2005). While in California's Berkeley area for the "Bee Season" shoot, Berkeley-based film director Terry Zwigoff happened to be passing by the set and ended up meeting the actor. After discovering the two shared a mutually-skewed sensibility, Zwigoff decided he had stumbled upon the leading man for his latest satire, "Art School Confidential" (2006). The actor's second film began shooting in July, barely after his first had wrapped.
Fresh off of back-to-back productions, Minghella gained entry into the arena of big budget star vehicles, when he was cast in a small part as George Clooney's son in the political drama, "Syriana" (2005). He shot his part soon after its August start date, but after a whirlwind three films, Minghella considered a more grounded existence, having been accepted into New York's Columbia University. He immersed himself in a mixture of sociology, history and theater courses, with an eye towards resuming his film work during the summer hiatus.
In November of 2005, "Bee Season" and "Syriana" received limited theatrical releases, opening wider in more theaters the following month. Though his role in "Syriana" was brief, the crucial performance as a teenager in the midst of a spiritual crisis in "Bee Season" was critically praised. As 2006 kicked in, Minghella was considered an actor to watch and May finally saw the release of Zwigoff's long-delayed "Art School Confidential." The film took a laser-precision approach to lampooning the art world, but the results yielded a mixed critical reception. Whatever the film's perceived miscalculations, it was Zwigoff - not his cast - who ultimately bore the brunt of the criticism.
Towards the middle of the month, Minghella finished classes at Columbia and headed to Austin, TX to star in "Elvis and Anabelle" (2007), a magical realist romance about love between a mortuary employee and a resurrected beauty queen. Though he was ready to make the leap to full-time actor in his heart, he resolved to continue on in his studies and make films only as time off from school would allow. The fall class schedule had forced him to drop out of the lead role in an adaptation of Michael Chabon's novel "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh" (2007), but in November, eager to take on another role, he made time to join the ensemble cast of "The Office" (NBC, 2005- ) star John Krasinski's directorial debut, "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men" (2008). Sadly, just as Minghella was making a name for himself as an up-and-coming young actor, his proud father passed away suddenly on March 18, 2008, plunging the industry on both sides of the Atlantic into mourning. Anthony Minghella - who had undergone recent surgery for a growth in his neck - had suffered a fatal hemorrhage at London's Charing Cross Hospital and was dead at age 54.
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Had a minor, uncredited appearance as an extra in his father Anthony Minghella's film "Cold Mountain"
Landed a minor role as George Clooney's son in the geopolitical drama "Syriana"
Made his film debut in "Bee Season" as the son of a dysfunctional Jewish American family
Made his leading role debut in Terry Zwigoff's quirky comedy "Art School Confidential"
Played a mortician's son in "Elvis and Anabelle"; premiered at the South by Southwest film festival
Joined the ensemble of "How to Lose Friends & Alienate People"
Appeared in John Krasinski's directorial debut "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men"
Co-starred in David Fincher's "The Social Network," a film about the origins of Facebook
Cast in "The Ides of March" with George Clooney, who also directed, co-wrote and produced
Appeared in the comedy "The Internship"
Had a recurring role on "The Mindy Project"
Began starring as Nick Blaine on "The Handmaid's Tale"
Made writing and directing debut with "Teen Spirit"