Fifty-four-year-old U.K. filmmaker
Anthony Minghella, whose 1996
The English Patient scored a remarkable 12 nominations and won nine (including best picture and best director), died Tuesday morning of a brain hemorrhage as he recovered from what a spokesman termed "routine surgery" at London's Charing Cross Hospital. Minghella's remarkable career spanned television, theater and film, and ranged from children's programs to grand opera.
Minghella grew up on the Isle of Wight, three miles off the coast of England, where his Italian-immigrant parents ran an ice-cream factory. By the late 1980s, sharp-eyed observers had noticed his scripts for the Jim Henson television series The Storyteller. Minghella's supernatural romance Truly Madly Deeply (1990), starring Juliet Stevenson and Alan Rickman, inspired a modest but intensely devoted following.
The English Patient, a favorite target of Oscar detractors who claim the awards are profoundly out of touch with the tastes of ordinary moviegoers (among the films it beat out for best-picture category were Fargo and Jerry Maguire), catapulted Minghella onto the A-list. His subsequent features included the commercial hit The Talented Mr. Ripley (which starred Matt Damon and earned Minghella a second Oscar nod for writing) and the less popular Cold Mountain and Breaking and Entering. In 2000, Minghella became director Sydney Pollack's partner in the independent production company Mirage Enterprises, whose recent credits include the acclaimed Michael Clayton. Minghella served as chairman of the prestigious British Film Institute from 2003 until February 2008, and in 2006 directed Madame Butterfly at New York's Metropolitan Opera House.
Minghella's last project was the made-for-cable pilot The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, based on the first of Alexander McCall Smith's best-selling, Botswana-set mystery novels; its March 14th London premiere was greeted by human-right protesters concerned that the series' upbeat picture of life in Botswana ignores the government's persecution of Bushmen. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is scheduled to debut on BBC TV at the end of March, and will be seen in the U.S. on HBO.
Minghella's 22-year-old son, Max, is a promising actor, and Minghella's brother, Dominic, is a successful writer for U.K. television. Minghella's survivors include his wife, Hong Kong-born choreographer Carolyn Choa. - Maitland McDonagh
Use our Online Video Guide to watch an interview with Minghella.