Anthony Minghella

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Anthony Minghella

Anthony Minghella.jpg
Born(1954-01-06)6 January 1954
Ryde, Isle of Wight, England
Died18 March 2008(2008-03-18) (aged 54)
London, England
Alma mater University of Hull
Years active1981–2008
  • Yvonne Miller (div.)
  • Carolyn Choa
    (m. 1985)
Children2, including Max
Relatives Dominic Minghella (brother)
Max Minghella (son)

Anthony Minghella, CBE (6 January 1954 18 March 2008) was a British film director, playwright and screenwriter. He was chairman of the board of Governors at the British Film Institute between 2003 and 2007.


He won the Academy Award for Best Director for The English Patient (1996). In addition, he received three more Academy Award nominations; he was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay for both The English Patient (1996) and The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), and was posthumously nominated for Best Picture for The Reader (2008), as a co-producer.

Early life

Minghella was born in Ryde, on the Isle of Wight, an island off the south coast of England that is a popular holiday resort. His family are well known on the Island, where they ran a café in Ryde until the 1980s and have run an eponymous business making and selling Italian-style ice cream since the 1950s. [1] His parents were Edoardo Minghella (an Italian immigrant) and Leeds-born Gloria Alberta (née Arcari). [2] [3] His mother's ancestors originally came from Valvori, a small village in southern Lazio, Italy. [4] [5] He was one of five children, a sister being Loretta Minghella, and a brother Dominic Minghella who would also become a screenwriter and producer.

Minghella attended St. Mary's Catholic Primary School, Ryde, Sandown Grammar School, and St John's College, Portsmouth. Early interests suggested a possible career as a musician, [6] with Minghella playing keyboards with local bands Earthlight and Dancer. [7] The latter recorded an album titled Tales of the Riverbank in 1972, although it was not released until 2001. [8] He attended the University of Hull, studying drama. [9] As an undergraduate he had arrived at university with an EMI contract for the band, in which he sang and played keyboards; while at university he wrote words and music for an adaptation of Gabriel Josipovici's Mobius the Stripper (1975) . [10]

Minghella graduated after three years, and stayed on to pursue a PhD. He also taught at the university for several years, on Samuel Beckett and on the medieval theatre. Ultimately, he abandoned his pursuit of a PhD to work for the BBC. [11]


Minghella's debut work was a stage adaptation of Gabriel Josipovici's Mobius the Stripper (1975) and it was his Whale Music (1985) that brought him notice. [12] His double bill of Samuel Beckett's Play and Happy Days was his directorial debut and debut feature film as a director was A Little Like Drowning (1978). During the 1980s, he worked in television, starting as a runner on Magpie before moving into script editing the children's drama series Grange Hill for the BBC and later writing The Storyteller series for Jim Henson. He wrote several episodes of the ITV detective drama Inspector Morse and an episode of long-running ITV drama Boon . Made in Bangkok (1986) found mainstream success in the West End.

Radio success followed with a Giles Cooper Award for the radio drama Cigarettes and Chocolate [13] first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1988. It was revived on 3 May 2008 as a tribute to its author director following his death. His production starred Juliet Stevenson, Bill Nighy and Jenny Howe. His first radio play Hang Up, starring Anton Lesser and Juliet Stevenson, was revived on 10 May 2008 as part of the BBC Radio 4 Minghella season. [14]

Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990), a feature drama written and directed for the BBC's Screen Two anthology strand, bypassed TV broadcast and instead had a cinema release. He turned down an offer to direct another Inspector Morse to do the project, even though he believed that the Morse episode would have been a much higher-profile assignment. The English Patient (1996) brought him two Academy Awards nominations, Best Director (which he won) and Adapted Screenplay. He also received an Adapted Screenplay nomination for The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999).

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency , a pilot episode television adaptation which he co-wrote and directed, was broadcast posthumously on BBC One (23 March 2008); watched by 6.3 million viewers. He vocally supported I Know I'm Not Alone, a film of musician Michael Franti's peacemaking excursions into Iraq, Palestine and Israel. He directed a party election broadcast for the Labour Party in 2005. The short film depicted Tony Blair and Gordon Brown working together and was criticised for being insincere: "The Anthony Minghella party political broadcast last year was full of body language fibs", said Peter Collett, a psychologist at the University of Oxford. "When you are talking to me, I'll give you my full attention only if I think you are very high status or if I love you. On that party political broadcast, they are staring at each other like lovers. It is completely false." [15]

With Samuel Beckett's 100th birthday celebrations, he returned to radio on BBC Radio 3 with Eyes Down Looking (2006), with: Jude Law, Juliet Stevenson and David Threlfall. [16] An operatic directorial debut came with Puccini's Madama Butterfly . Premiered at the English National Opera (London, 2005), then at the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre (Vilnius, March 2006) and at the Metropolitan Opera (New York City, September 2006). The latter was transmitted live into cinemas worldwide (7 March 2009) as part of the Met's HD series and is now available on DVD. The ENO work was to have led to other operatic projects, directing again at English National Opera and collaborating with Osvaldo Golijov on a new opera for the Met and ENO, writing the libretto and directing the production. [10]

He was honoured with the naming of The Anthony Minghella Theatre at the Quay Arts Centre (Isle of Wight). He made an appearance in the 2007 film Atonement as a television host interviewing the novelist central to the story.

His last work was the screenplay of the film adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical Nine (1982); Arthur Kopit (book) and Maury Yeston (score). It is based on the film . He shared credit with Michael Tolkin on the screenplay.

The Film, Theatre & Television department at the University of Reading, opened in 2012, was named in his honour.

Personal life and death

Minghella met his first wife, Yvonne Miller, when they were students. [17] They had one daughter, Hannah, [18] who is currently the Head of Motion Pictures at J. J. Abrams' Bad Robot. Minghella and Miller eventually divorced and in 1985 Minghella married Hong Kong–born choreographer and dancer Carolyn Jane Choa. [5] They had one son, Max, an actor, screenwriter and director. Max is best known for his role as Nick Blaine in the Hulu drama series The Handmaid's Tale .

Minghella's younger brother, Dominic Minghella, is the creator of the popular British television series Robin Hood and Doc Martin , and a scriptwriter. His sister, Loretta Minghella, is First Church Estates Commissioner at the Church Commissioners, having previously been Director of Christian Aid. [19] His sister Edana participated in a jazz event on the Isle of Wight, and his nephew Dante is one of the participants in Channel 4's Child Genius series.

Minghella was a fan of Portsmouth F.C., and appeared in the Channel 4 documentary, Hallowed Be Thy Game. His home had two double bedrooms dedicated to the display of Portsmouth memorabilia dating back to the club's founding in 1898. [20] [21]

Minghella died of a haemorrhage on 18 March 2008 in Charing Cross Hospital, Hammersmith, following an operation the previous week to remove cancer of the tonsils and neck. [22] [23]

He is commemorated with a green plaque on The Avenues, Kingston upon Hull. The 2009 film Nine is dedicated in his memory. [24]

Memorial plaque

A memorial plaque to Minghella was unveiled on 2 March 2016 by Jude Law, at Western Gardens, Ryde, Isle of Wight. [25]


1978 A Little Like Drowning YesYes
1990 Inspector Morse YesTV episode "Driven To Distraction"
1990 Truly, Madly, Deeply YesYes BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay
1993 Mr. Wonderful Yes
1996 The English Patient YesYes Academy Award for Best Director
BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominated—BAFTA Award for Best Direction
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Director
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay
1999 The Talented Mr. Ripley YesYesNominated—Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominated—BAFTA Award for Best Direction
Nominated—BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Director
2000 Play YesShort film
2003 Cold Mountain YesYesNominated—BAFTA Award for Best Direction
Nominated—BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Director
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay
2006 Breaking and Entering YesYesYes
2008 The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency YesYesexecutiveTV pilot
New York, I Love You YesexecutiveSegment "Shekhar Kapur"
2009 Nine YesPosthumous release

Producer only

2001 Iris Executive producer
2002 Heaven
The Quiet American Executive producer
2005 The Interpreter
2006 Catch a Fire
2007 Michael Clayton Executive producer
2008 Love You More
The Reader Nominated—Academy Award for Best Picture (posthumously)

Acting roles

1978 A Little Like Drowning Eduardo
2007 Atonement Interviewer

Selected plays


YearWork Academy Awards BAFTA Awards Golden Globe Awards
1990 Truly, Madly, Deeply 31
1996 The English Patient 12913672
1999 The Talented Mr. Ripley 5715
2003 Cold Mountain 7113281
2008 The Reader 515141
2009 Nine 415

Directed Academy Award performances

Minghella was directed multiple Oscar winning and nominated performances.

Academy Award for Best Actor
1997 Ralph Fiennes The English Patient Nominated
2004 Jude Law Cold Mountain Nominated
Academy Award for Best Actress
1997 Kristin Scott Thomas The English PatientNominated
Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
2000 Jude Law The Talented Mr. Ripley Nominated
Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1997 Juliette Binoche The English PatientWon
2004 Renée Zellweger Cold MountainWon

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  25. "Memorial Plaque for Anthony Minghella Unveiled". 2 March 2016. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  26. Set in 1392, the play by Anthony Minghella hilariously recounts the citizens of York staging a medieval production of the Mystery Plays, ready for King Richard II and Queen Anne's visit to the city. Suddenly the entire community of York explodes in a fever of affectation, expense and comical posturing, as rival guilds battle it out to impress the royal party with their wagon plays.