Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Anthony Minghella, 1954-2008 by Carmody Wilson

Anthony Minghella, the Oscar-winning director of such films as The English Patient and Cold Mountain, has died. No cause of death has been revealed, but the shockwave reeling around the cinema world tells of the suddenness of his passing. Minghella had just finished shooting The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, co-written with Richard Curtis, and had two other projects on the go when he died.

It’s hard to write, so soon after a director’s death, of the lasting legacy of the work, but it’s easy to say that Anthony Minghella will be remembered as being among the greats. Not only was this writer/producer/director/music producer a man of many hats, he wore them stylishly and so well. A dab hand at his craft, whatever it was chosen to be, Minghella, surprisingly, got his start in children’s television. He wrote and directed several early episodes of the now-defunct childhood drama Grange Hill, and mirroring his great success with the harrowing, emotional, and lushly told narratives of his film career, wrote and directed much of Jim Henson’s gothic The Storyteller series.

His first film the frightfest-rom-com Truly Madly Deeply, starring Juliet Stevenson and Alan Rickman, won Minghella a Bafta for best screenplay, and would set him out on the road to critical and awards season success that would characterize his later career. The next film Minghella directed was the Matt Dillon vehicle Mr Wonderful, another romantic comedy. What’s surprising is that the director went from this fairly light-themed popcorn stuff directly into the director’s chair for one of the biggest, most sweeping romances in cinematic history, a gig that would win Minghella the industry’s most coveted awards and accolades.

When production began on The English Patient, worries were high among the literary community that Michael Ondaatje’s beloved book would be butchered by Hollywood movers and shakers, and indeed, it very nearly was. But a production overhaul was announced, Minghella stepped in, and 9 Oscars, 2 Golden Globes and 6 Baftas later, it is still regarded as one of Hollywood’s greatest achievements. Minghella’s next directing projects, The Talented Mr Ripley, which he also adapted from the Patricia Highsmith novel, and American civil-war dramaCold Mountain, again saw him as a multiple award nominee.

His visual style, his ability to beautifully and effectively convey complex and emotional historical storylines, are what characterizes his work, and at the very least, Anthony Minghella has left behind an impressive, age-defying body of work for the cinematic world, and all his fans, to remember him by.

No comments: