A director known primarily for his classy, richly textured screen adaptations of famous novels, Anthony Minghella gained international recognition with his 1996 adaptation of Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient. Nominated for 11 Academy Awards, the film ultimately won nine including Best Film and Best Director statuettes for Minghella.
Born to Italian parents on the Isle of Wight on January 6, 1954, Minghella grew up next door to the neighborhood cinema. An early film devotee, he managed to score free film admission by befriending the cinema's projectionist. Despite his lifelong interest in the cinema, Minghella took a long and circuitous path to filmmaking. After earning a degree from the University of Hull, where he lectured on literature, he began writing plays. In 1984, three years after he started his playwriting career, he was named Most Promising Playwright of the Year by the London Theatre Critics. Further adulation followed in 1986 when Minghella's Made in Bangkok was named the year's best play.
Minghella, who had also written for television and radio, made his film directorial debut in 1991 with Truly, Madly, Deeply. A romantic fantasy starring Juliet Stevenson as a musician whose beloved boyfriend (Alan Rickman) returns to her from the dead, it marked an extremely auspicious beginning for the director. The film earned a number of international awards, including the Australian Film Institute's prize for Best Picture. Minghella's follow-up, Mr. Wonderful (1993), was his first Hollywood production. A drama starring Matt Dillon, Annabella Sciorra, Mary-Louise Parker, and William Hurt, it proved to be a disappointing experience for its director, who became very disillusioned with major-studio filmmaking.
Despite Minghella's disenchantment with Hollywood, when he began adapting The English Patient for the screen in 1995, he did so with the intention of making the film in concert with 20th Century Fox, who ended up retracting its involvement five weeks before shooting was to begin. It was only after producer Saul Zaentz persuaded the independent and more artistically adventurous Miramax to finance the film (the studio eventually provided 26 million dollars of the film's 31-million-dollar cost) that The English Patient became a reality. In the final analysis, it was the film that made Miramax's reputation to a large degree and put Minghella on the cultural map. A lush romantic drama starring Ralph Fiennes as an enigmatic Hungarian adventurer, Kristin Scott Thomas as his married lover, and Juliette Binoche as the nurse who cares for him after he is horribly burned, it was one of the year's biggest hits. Earning a privileged spot on nearly every critic's "year's best" list, the film swept the international awards and propelled Minghella into the realm of A-list directors. It also won the 1996 Oscar for Best Picture.
Minghella remained on somewhat familiar ground for his follow-up to The English Patient, a 1999 adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley. A lush period thriller set in '50s Italy, it featured cinematography by John Seale, who had earned an Oscar for his work on The English Patient, and the starring lineup of Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Jude Law, and Gwyneth Paltrow. Thanks to its strong cast (particularly Jude Law, who earned an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the spoiled, doomed Dickie Greenleaf), stunning production values, and deft direction by Minghella The Talented Mr. Ripley became a broad critical success and gleaned several award nominations in the States, including a Best Adapted Screenplay nod at the 1999 Academy Awards, Golden Globe nominations for Best Director and Screenplay, and a Best Director nod for Minghella from the National Board of Review.
Minghella subsequently embarked on another literary adaptation, bringing Charles Frazier's celebrated Civil War novel Cold Mountain to the screen. It took the d