Before “The English Patient”, no one had even heard of the son of Gloria and Edward Minghella, ice cream factory owners. Anthony Minghella was born on the Isle of Wight at Ryde, on 6 January 1954, where he went on to attend
Instead, Minghella concentrated on producing plays in the mid seventies working his way into television as a script editor for children’s BBC TV show “Grange Hill” and later as a staff writer on “Jim Henson’s Storyteller”. He would later go on to write for mainstream British television, writing for the series “Inspector Morse” in particular.
In 1990, his made-for-TV drama “Truly Madly Deeply” gained critical acclaim and went on to be released in theatres. Thus, his foray into cinema began. Minghella focused on adapting literature that had a rich visual vocabulary, moving dialogue and powerful themes that won accolades and found audiences.
It was because of such vision that Minghella won the Oscar for “The English Patient” in 1997. It was nominated for a massive 12 awards and ultimately won 9 but it wasn’t just the Oscar that honored the picture it also won the Golden Globe Award and the BAFTA Award for Best Film. It was also a Box Office success quickly gaining the status of the highest-grossing non-IMAX film (and second highest-grossing film overall) to never reach the weekend box office top 5.
He had recently finished work on “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency,” an adaptation of a novel by Alexander McCall Smith, for HBO and the BBC. It will serve as a pilot for a series.
Like his films which never failed to find awards and accolades, his death also finds a plethora of tribute from friends, co-workers and viewers from around the world. Ralph Fiennes, actor, “The English Patient”, spoke of him, “I am devastated and shocked to hear of Anthony Minghella’s death. Anthony possessed a sensitivity and alertness to the actor’s process that very few directors have. He directed most of The English Patient with an ankle in plaster, never losing his gentle humour and precision. He delighted in the contribution of everyone - he was a true collaborator. His films deal with extreme aloneness and the redemptive power of love, even at the moment of death. I will remember him as a man who always wanted to get to the heart of the matter.”
The writer Canadian-Sri Lankian Michael Ondaatje was extremely satisfied with the adaptation of “The English Patient” and called Minghella "one of [his] dearest friends".
Chris Jones, critic for Chicago Tribune, writes “Minghella was struck down in the middle of his career. I remember him as an enviable wunderkind, a renaissance man of the drama who could do anything he wanted.”
Famed director Sydney Pollack spoke to the New York Times, “He was interested in the magic. Not fake magic, like hiding the ball under the cup, but real magic, the kind that occurs between people. Nowadays, everybody making movies wants to get the clothes off fast and the guns out quick, he was just the opposite. He was interested in the poetry, lavishing the viewer with story, and scope and richness. Look at what you got for your $12 ticket with Anthony.”
“He was interested in the magic,” Mr. Pollack said. “Not fake magic, like hiding the ball under the cup, but real magic, the kind that occurs between people. Nowadays, everybody making movies wants to get the clothes off fast and the guns out quick, he was just the opposite. He was interested in the poetry, lavishing the viewer with story, and scope and richness. Look at what you got for your $12 ticket with Anthony.”
Anthony Minghella died due to post-complications he suffered from Tonsil Cancer surgery on 18 March, 2008.
(Originally published at the March 30th, 2008, edition of Dawn Images)