March 19, 2008 in Nation/World

Writer-director Minghella dead at 54

Dennis McLellan Los Angeles Times
The Spokesman-Review photo

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Anthony Minghella, the Academy Award-winning director of “The English Patient” whose other acclaimed films include “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “Cold Mountain,” died Tuesday in London. He was 54.

Minghella died in a London hospital from complications of surgery for tonsil cancer a week earlier, said his spokeswoman, Leslee Dart. He had not been ill before the surgery, she said.

The London-based writer-director’s death came as a shock to his friends and colleagues, who remembered him as a gentle, caring and intelligent man – and an inspiring leader on a film set.

Producer-director Sydney Pollack, Minghella’s partner in the production company Mirage Enterprises, described him in a statement as a “realistic romanticist” and “a sunny soul who exuded a gentleness that should never have been mistaken for lack of tenacity and resolve.”

Minghella was a critically acclaimed playwright and a successful TV writer in England when he wrote and directed his first film, “Truly, Madly, Deeply,” a 1991 British romance starring Juliet Stevenson and Alan Rickman.

That was followed by “Mr. Wonderful,” a 1993 comedy romance starring Matt Dillon and Annabella Sciorra.

Then came “The English Patient,” the 1996 World War II romantic epic that, as a London Independent writer once observed, “opened every door in Hollywood to Minghella.”

The film swept the Academy Awards, winning nine of the 12 categories it was nominated for, including director, picture and supporting actress for Juliette Binoche.

“Anthony possessed a sensitivity and alertness to the actor’s process that very few directors have,” Ralph Fiennes, who co-starred in “The English Patient,” said in a statement. “He directed most of ‘The English Patient’ with an ankle in plaster, never losing his gentle humor and precision. He delighted in the contribution of everyone – he was a true collaborator.”

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