Minghella's Eye for Drama; 'English Patient' Director Revived British Film

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 19, 2008 | Go to article overview

Minghella's Eye for Drama; 'English Patient' Director Revived British Film


Byline: Kelly Jane Torrance, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Anthony Minghella, the Oscar-winning director who helped reinvigorate British cinema, died yesterday at London's Charing Cross Hospital after apparently routine surgery led to a brain hemorrhage. He was just 54.

Mr. Minghella, whose film "The English Patient" won nine Academy Awards, had a growth on his neck removed last week, his publicist, Jonathan Rutter, told Associated Press, adding that "the operation seemed to have gone well."

He is survived by his wife, choreographer Carolyn Choa, his actor son, Max, and daughter, Hannah, who worked as a production assistant on her father's 1999 film "The Talented Mr. Ripley."

I interviewed Mr. Minghella at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2006 about "Breaking and Entering," his last feature film. He was an immensely intelligent man but one who never let his learning lead him to pretense. That showed in his movies as well. He had a varied resume, making small relationship dramas and large-scale epics, but they all shared a deep understanding of the difficulty of communication among men and women.

He was born on the Isle of Wight on Jan. 6, 1954, to Italian immigrants. He studied English and drama at the University of Hull. He won the London Theatre Critics Circle Award for most promising playwright in 1984. That same decade, he began working in television, most notably writing episodes of the highly regarded "Inspector Morse."

His 1990 debut film was made for TV but thankfully received a theatrical release. "Truly, Madly, Deeply" is special not just because it features Alan Rickman as a romantic lead instead of his usual role as a villain. It's also an accomplished debut, deftly treating a difficult subject with both humor and pathos. Juliet Stevenson stars as a woman mourning the death of her beloved boyfriend. When he returns - as a ghost - to the apartment they shared, she finds it hard to deal with his new "life" and to create one for herself.

It's a small, intimate drama, but that isn't what Mr. Minghella became known for making. Soon after, he took on an ambitious project that might have foiled even an experienced filmmaker.

Michael Ondaatje's novel "The English Patient," which follows the memories of a burn victim during World War II, was widely considered unfilmable. …

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