Anthony Minghella
Birth Date:
January 6, 1954
Birth Place:
Ryde, Isle of Wight, England, UK
Famous for:
The English Patient' (1996)
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The English Patient


"I never intended to do any adaptations. It just sort of happened to me and so, it was like, I felt it was very urgent that I try to make a postcard of where I was, go back to something that I thought at some level belong. And I think that one of the tensions for me is the difference between what my pen does and what my camera does." Anthony Minghella

Acclaimed British writer/director Anthony Minghella, whose specialization is making film adaptations of popular novels, garnered international praise for his multi-Academy Award winning epic, “The English Patient” (1996), an adaptation of a 1992 Booker Prize-winning novel of the same name by Sri Lankan Canadian novelist Michael Ondaatje.

The filmmaker, who started out as a teacher and writer, made his directorial debut with the BAFTA-winning "Truly Madly Deeply" (1992). He continued to impress critics and viewers with his next films, "The Talented Mr. Ripley" (1999) and "Cold Mountain" (2003). He has directed 5 actors to Oscar nominations: Ralph Fiennes (“The English Patient,” 1996), Jude Law ("The Talented Mr. Ripley,” 1999 and "Cold Mountain,” 2003), Renée Zellweger ("Cold Mountain,” 2003; won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar), Juliette Binoche (“The English Patient,” 1996; won Best Supporting Actress Oscar), and Kristin Scott Thomas (“The English Patient,” 1996).

Minghella was appointed a CBE in the 2001 Queen's Birthday Honours List. He died on March 18, 2008, at age 54, in London, England, following a surgery the previous week to remove cancer of the tonsils and neck. He is survived by his Hong-Kong born choreographer wife Carolyn Choa, his daughter Hannah and son Max.

Italian Roots

Childhood and Family:

In Ryde, Isle of Wight, England, Anthony Minghella was born on January 6, 1954, to Italian immigrant parents Edward (Italian-Scottish) and Gloria Minghella (her ancestors came from the village of Valvori near Rome and owned a ice cream factory; both parents played bit roles in "The English Patient”). He had one brother named Dominic Minghella, a successful scriptwriter who created the British comedy-drama series "Doc Martin" (ITV) and the BBC One's "Robin Hood," and a sister named Edana Minghella, who is now involved in a jazz event on the Isle of Wight. He also had a nephew named Dante, one of the participants in Channel 4's “Child Genius” series.

At age 11, Minghella was sent to St. John’s College, a Catholic boarding school in Southsea, Hampshire, but was eventually sent back home for skipping too many classes. He then went to Sandown High, a local school where he began acting in theater classes. Minghella entered the University of Hull, in Kingston, in 1971 and received a BA degree in English and Drama in 1975. While studying there, he continued acting and began writing for the theater. He then pursued his PhD at Hull and spent the next several years teaching. He left Hull and abandoned his doctoral thesis in 1981 to write radio plays, theater and scripts for BBC-TV.

Minghella was married to Hong Kong-born choreographer Carolyn Choa. They had two children, daughter Hannah Minghella (born on March 24, 1979; worked as Production Assistant on her father's film "The Talented Mr. Ripley") and son Max Minghella (born on September 16, 1985; an actor who made his feature debut in "Bee Season" and starred in "Art School Confidential").

A huge supporter of the soccer club Portsmouth FC, Minghella's had appeared in the Channel 4 documentary “Hallowed Be Thy Game.” His home also had two double bedrooms dedicated to the display of the club's memorabilia.

Minhella died of a hemorrhage on March 18, 2008, at age 54, in Charing Cross Hospital, in London, England, following a surgery the previous week to remove cancer of the tonsils and neck. Several of Minghella's friends and colleagues paid tribute to him, including Jude Law, Kevin Spacey, Ralph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, John Berry, BBC creative director Alan Yentob, producer Lord Puttnam and fellow director Sydney Pollack (Minghella's partner in their production company Mirage Enterprises) also paid tribute to the late director.

Truly Madly Deeply


Making his directing debut in the staging of his own play called "Mobius the Stripper" in his homeland in 1975, England born Anthony Minghella honed in on his craft at the University of Hull, where he also lectured in drama. After enjoying modest success with the play "Whale Music" (1981), he left his doctorate education at Hull to write radio plays, theater and scripts for BBC-TV. He later penned teleplays for the British series "Studio" in 1983.

Around the mid 1980s, Minghella's career began to take off. After being named Most Promising Playwright of the Year by the London Theatre Critics in 1984 and scripting the British teleplay "What If It's Raining" (1985), he garnered attention for his West End debut, "Made in Bangkok" (1986), which won Best New Play at the London Theatre Critics Circle Awards.

Minghella subsequently wrote three episodes (1997-1990) of the English TV series based on Colin Dexter’s popular novels, "Inspector Morse," with John Thaw in the title role. He also wrote for the BBC radio play "Cigarettes and Chocolate" (1988), which won him the Giles Cooper Award. He next worked on the script for the British TV-movie "Living with Dinosaurs" (1989). He also penned NBC's short-lived TV series "The Jim Henson Hour" (1989).

Entering the 1990s, Minghella made his feature directorial debut with "Truly Madly Deeply," which he also wrote. The movie was successful and won several awards, including a BAFTA for Best Original Screenplay.

"Australia was the first place where I ever received an award, which was the AFI for best foreign film for 'Truly Madly Deeply.' I was so happy about that. My producer told me a week after we'd got the award. I was so disappointed that I couldn't accept it. And it feels odd for me because I haven't seen that movie since I made it. I have no idea what that film is like. I feel haunted, no pun intended, because wherever I go in the world there are these 'Truly Madly Deeply' fans. I have a great nostalgia for it and for the simplicity of it. I made that entire film in probably the time that it took for me to scout the locations for 'Ripley.' It was like a secret making that film. I had no idea what I was doing. I've become much more obsessive about making films now and maybe that's not a good thing." Anthony Minghella

Minghella then developed the NBC live-action/puppet television series "The Storyteller" (1990), an American/British co-production which was created and produced by Jim Henson. Three years later, he made his first American film, "Mr. Wonderful" (1993), a romantic comedy starring Matt Dillon and Annabella Sciorra.

1996 saw Minghella with his international breakthrough feature, "The English Patient," which he both wrote and directed. The romantic drama film, set after the WW II, is adapted from a 1992 Booker Prize-winning novel of the same name by Sri Lankan Canadian novelist Michael Ondaatje. It deals with a critically burned man (played by Ralph Fiennes), his Canadian nurse (Juliette Binoche), a Canadian thief (Willem Dafoe), and an Indian sapper in the British Army (Naveen Andrews) as they live out the end of World War II in an Italian villa. "The English Patient" scooped up 12 Academy Award nominations and won nine, including Best Picture and Best Director. Minghella and his film also took home awards from the Empire, London Critics Circle Film, Mainichi Film Concours, BAFTA, Broadcast Film Critics Association, Directors Guild of America, Guild of German Art House Cinemas, Satellite, Southeastern Film Critics Association, and USC Scripter Awards.

Minghella next adapted and directed the film version of Patricia Highsmith's 1955 novel, "The Talented Mr. Ripley" (1999), which marked his first collaboration with Jude Law. Minghella's work received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Directing, an Academy Award nomination for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published, and a BAFTA nomination for Best Screenplay - Adapted. He also won Best Adapted Screenplay at the Santa Fe Film Critics Circle Awards and Best Director at the National Board of Review Awards.

Hitting the new millennium, Minghella formed Mirage Enterprises with Sydney Pollack. Three years later, he wrote and directed the screenplay for the feature adaptation of Charles Frazier's Civil War-era novel published in 1997, "Cold Mountain" (2003), starring Jude Law and Nicole Kidman. A tale of hope, longing, redemption, second chances and faith, the film earned Golden Globe nominations for Best Director and Best Screenplay as well as BAFTA nominations for Best British Film and Best Screenplay – Adapted. Minghella also won the National Board of Review's Best Screenplay – Adapted while Renée Zellweger won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance as Ruby, the close friend and confidant to Kidman's character.

Minghella helmed the highly successful staging of Giacomo Puccini's opera in three acts (originally two acts), "Madama Butterfly," at the English National Opera in London in 2005/2006 which was choreographed by his wife, Carolyn Choa. He also wrote and directed the original screenplay of "Breaking and Entering," a romantic drama about a landscape architect (played by Jude Law) who begins to re-evaluate his life after dealing with a young thief (played by Rafi Gavron). The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 13, 2006.

Minghella recently executive produced the dramatic legal thriller film written and directed by Tony Gilroy, "Michael Clayton" (2007), which was produced by Sydney Pollack. The film, that stars George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, and Tilda Swinton, received positive reviews from critics. It received seven Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Picture, and won one for Best Supporting Actress (Tilda Swinton). Also that year, he played a small part as an interviewer in director Joe Wright's film adaptation of Ian McEwan's 2001 critically acclaimed novel, "Atonement.”

Shortly before his death, Minghella executive produced, directed the pilot episode and co-wrote the adaptation of a series of novels by Rhodesian-born author Alexander McCall Smith titled "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency," a television drama series starring Jill Scott. The show premiered on March 23, 2008, on Easter Sunday (within a week of Minghella's death).

Following his death, Minghella's final project, called "New York, I Love You,” will be taken over by “Elizabeth” director Shekhar Kapur. Minghella had asked Kapur to replace him days before he went into surgery for cancer of the neck and tonsils. He later died from complications following the operation. He had written, but not yet cast, his section of the feature, which was due to begin filming in Manhattan in April.

"I had never thought of myself as a director and found out that I was not. I am a writer who was able to direct the films that I write." Anthony Minghella


  • National Board of Review: Best Screenplay - Adapted, "Cold Mountain," 2003

  • Santa Fe Film Critics Circle: Best Adapted Screenplay, "The Talented Mr. Ripley," 2000

  • National Board of Review: Best Director, "The Talented Mr. Ripley," 1999

  • Empire: Best British Director, "The English Patient," 1998

  • London Critics Circle Film: British Director of the Year, "The English Patient," 1998

  • Mainichi Film Concours: Best Foreign Language Film, "The English Patient," 1998

  • Oscar: Best Director, "The English Patient," 1997

  • BAFTA: Best Film; Best Screenplay - Adapted, "The English Patient," 1997

  • Broadcast Film Critics Association: Best Director; Best Screenplay, "The English Patient," 1997

  • Directors Guild of America: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, "The English Patient," 1997

  • Guild of German Art House Cinemas: Foreign Film (Ausländischer Film), "The English Patient," 1997

  • Satellite: Best Motion Picture Screenplay - Adaptation, "The English Patient," 1997

  • Southeastern Film Critics Association: Best Screenplay, "The English Patient," 1997

  • USC Scripter: "The English Patient," 1997

  • BAFTA: Best Screenplay - Original, "Truly Madly Deeply," 1992

  • Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival: Critics Award, "Truly Madly Deeply," 1992

  • Evening Standard British Film: Most Promising Newcomer, "Truly Madly Deeply," 1992

  • Mystfest: Audience Award; Best Screenplay; Critics Award, "Truly Madly Deeply," 1992

  • Writers' Guild of Great Britain: Film - Screenplay, "Truly Madly Deeply," 1992

  • Australian Film Institute (AFI): Best Foreign Film, "Truly Madly Deeply," 1992

  • Giles Cooper: "Cigarettes and Chocolate," 1988

  • London Theatre Critics Circle: Best New Play, "Made in Bangkok," 1986

  • London Theatre Critics Circle: Most Promising Playwright, 1984

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