Anthony Minghella is dead at 54
- Tony Blair pays tribute to Minghella
- British newspapers – obituaries on Minghella
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Comment at end
18th March, 2008
MINGHELLA HAS DIED
The sad news of the untimely death of Anthony Minghella’s death at the age of 54 will come as a shock to many in the film industry. And equally to many in the government and the Labour party.
The Academy Award-winning film director and playwright was chairman of the board of governors at the British Film Institute between 2003 and 2007.
Born on the Isle of Wight, he was the son of Gloria and Edward Minghella, ice cream factory owners.
His films included Truly, Madly, Deeply, The English Patient, The Talented Mr Ripley and Cold Mountain.
In 2005 he was responsible for the general election campaign featuring Tony Blair & Gordon Brown working together towards what was to be Labour’s third election victory. He was, at least in part, responsible for overcoming the view that the Brothers B were more often at war than at peace. In many ways, the government’s victory in May 2005, was due to this talented son of the owners of an ice cream factory.
No further information on the cause of death has yet been released.
Mr Minghella died this morning at Charing Cross Hospital in Hammersmith, West London, after suffering a brain haemmorhage. “He was operated on last week for a growth in his neck and the operation seemed to have gone well,” said his agent, Judy Daish. “At 5am today he had a fatal haemorrhage.”
LONDON (AP) — Oscar-winning director Anthony Minghella, who turned such literary works as “The English Patient,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “Cold Mountain” into acclaimed movies, died Tuesday of a hemorrhage following surgery. He was 54.
Minghella’s publicist, Jonathan Rutter, said the filmmaker died at London’s Charing Cross Hospital. He said Minghella was operated on last week for a growth in his neck, “and the operation seemed to have gone well. At 5 a.m. today he had a fatal hemorrhage.”
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who became friends with Minghella after the filmmaker directed a Labour Party election ad in 2005, said he was “really shocked and very sad.”
“Anthony Minghella was a wonderful human being, creative and brilliant, but still humble, gentle and a joy to be with,” Blair said. “Whatever I did with him, personally or professionally, left me with complete admiration for him, as a character and as an artist of the highest caliber.”
Jude Law, who starred in Minghella’s “Cold Mountain,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and 2007’s “Breaking and Entering,” said he had “come to value him more as a friend than as a colleague.”
“He was a brilliantly talented writer and director who wrote dialogue that was a joy to speak and then put it onto the screen in a way that always looked effortless. He made work feel like fun. He was a sweet, warm, bright and funny man who was interested in everything from football to opera, films, music, literature, people and most of all his family.”
The 1996 World War II drama “The English Patient” won nine Academy Awards, including best picture, best director for Minghella and best supporting actress for Juliette Binoche. Based on the celebrated novel by Canadian writer Michael Ondaatje, the movie tells of a burn victim’s tortured recollections of his misdeeds in time of war.
In a 1996 interview with The Associated Press, Minghella said too many modern films let the audience be passive, as if they were saying, “We’re going to rock you and thrill you. We’ll do everything for you.”
“(‘The English Patient’) goes absolutely against that grain,” he said. “It says, `I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to make some connections. There are some puzzles here. The story will constantly rethread itself and it will be elliptical, but there are enormous rewards in that.'”
Minghella (pronounced min-GELL’-ah) also was nominated for an Oscar for best screenplay for the movie and for his screenplay for “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”
His 2003 “Cold Mountain,” based on Charles Frazier’s novel about the U.S. Civil War, earned a best supporting actress Oscar for Renee Zellweger.
The 1999 “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” starring Matt Damon as a murderous social climber, was based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith. It earned five Oscar nominations.
Among his other films were “Truly, Madly, Deeply” (1990), and last year’s Oscar-nominated “Michael Clayton,” on which he was executive producer.
Minghella also turned his talents to opera. In 2005, he directed a highly successful staging of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” at the English National Opera in London — choreographed by Minghella’s wife, Carolyn Choa. The following year, he staged it for the season opener of New York’s Metropolitan Opera. It was the first performance of the Met’s new era under general manager Peter Gelb.
Minghella was recently in Botswana filming an adaptation of Alexander McCall Smith’s novel “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.” Due to air on British television this week, the book is the first in a series about the adventures of Botswanan private eye Precious Ramotswe; a 13-part television series was recently commission by HBO.
Jeff Ramsay, press secretary to Botswanan President Festus Mogae, said the director had been coming to the country ahead of the detective film and learning about Botswana. He said Minghella had told him how he had been forced to shoot “Cold Mountain” in Romania and that it had “seemed wrong.” He said this made the director “more sure that the film could only be shot in Botswana.”
“Much more than a TRUE artist who thrilled in offering his divine gift with the world, Anthony Minghella was a dear, dear trusted friend,” Jill Scott, who plays Ramotswe, said in a statement. “My heart aches with grief. Words can not express how deeply he will be missed or how deeply he was loved.”
Born the second of five children to southern Italian emigrants, Minghella came to moviemaking from a flourishing playwriting career on the London “fringe” and, in 1986, on the West End with the play, “Made in Bangkok,” a hard-hitting look at the sexual mores of a British tour group in Thailand.
He worked as a television script editor before making his directing debut with “Truly, Madly, Deeply,” a comedy about love and grief starring Juliet Stevenson and Alan Rickman.
Producer David Puttnam told the BBC that Minghella was “a very special person.”
“He wasn’t just a writer, or a writer-director, he was someone who was very well-known and very well-loved within the film community,” Puttnam said. “Frankly he was far too young to have gone.”
Minghella is survived by his wife; his actor son, Max Minghella; and his daughter, Hannah.
Associated Press Writers Raphael G. Satter in London and Celean Jacobson in Gaborone, Botswana, contributed to this report.