Anthony Minghella, a WGGB member for the past twenty years, has died at the age of 54.
Although he won an Oscar for directing The English Patient, Minghella always said that he saw himself, first and foremost, as a writer. Indeed, he adapted the screenplay for The English Patient from Michael Ondaatje’s novel.
He began his career writing for the stage, and went on to write plays including Whale Music, Two Planks And A Passion, Love Bites and Made In Bangkok.
Minghella first worked in television as a script editor before writing for shows including The Storyteller series and Inspector Morse.
His most celebrated TV work was Truly Madly Deeply which he wrote and directed. Although intended for BBC Two, it went on to receive a cinema release, winning a BAFTA for best screenplay and kickstarting Minghella’s career in feature films.
In 2000 he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Talented Mr Ripley (from the novel by Patricia Highsmith), which he also directed.
Minghella recently completed directing and co-adapting (with Richard Curtis) The Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency from the books by Alexander McCall Smith.The film is due to be shown by the BBC over Easter.
Olivia Hetreed, Chair of the Guild's Film Committee, writes:
I first noticed Anthony Minghella’s writing in a dazzlingly well-observed TV drama about failing relationships called What If It’s Raining in 1985 for the new Channel Four. He had been working for Grange Hill as a script editor and writer and soon went on to write the Storyteller series for Henson, produced by Duncan Kenworthy.
Duncan told me what a brilliant writer Anthony was and what a delight to work with. His tremendous talent was confirmed for me by his West End play Made in Bangkok a couple of years later. At the same time he was writing some of the best episodes of Morse. Of course I wasn’t at all jealous.
Truly, Madly, Deeply was one of the first films to break out from TV and hold its own cinematically. Funny and deeply romantic, if rather rough-looking nowadays, its warmth of heart reflected its creator and the performances of Juliet Stevenson and Alan Rickman, both better known then as stage actors, attested to his ability with performers. He created characters who were fallible, impassioned, sometimes absurd but never less than human and lovable.
Anthony then went on to have a glittering career and achieved tremendously in what is a tragically curtailed life. As a writer, director and producer he was always courteous, humane and passionate. He was generous to other film-makers, a mentor and an inspiration, both in the public domain as Chair of the BFI and in person.
The last time I met him he was preparing to shoot his Precious Ramotswe pilot in Botswana and enthusiastically grappling with the challenges that threw up. His company seemed to have the same mild-mannered, deceptively quiet style as the man himself, while becoming a significant player in the market. His loss is a real blow to cinema and the Arts in this country.