Anthony Minghella

Anthony Minghella

Born 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 had just completed directing the two-hour pilot for "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" (HBO, 2008-09). He was just 54 years old.