Oscar winner Anthony Minghella dies
UPDATED 6:29 p.m. PT March 18
Writer-director Anthony Minghella, who died early Tuesday in London of an apparent brain hemorrhage, leaves behind a legacy of acclaimed work and a wide range of projects.
At 54, the British filmmaker known for his adaptations of literary material was, in many respects, in the prime of his career.
Minghella and the Weinstein Co. recently concluded a deal with HBO and the BBC to air the adaptation of the literary franchise "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" as a movie and 13-episode television series.
The filmmaker also was attached to write and direct the adaptation of Liz Jensen's France-based psychological thriller "The Ninth Life of Louis Drax," in development at the Weinstein Co., and had served as a producer on the recently wrapped "The Reader," the adaptation of the Oprah Winfrey-blessed German novel from the Weinstein Co. and Scott Rudin that's set for release in the fall.
Minghella had written but not yet cast or shot his segment of "New York, I Love You," the follow-up to the city-centric set of romantic vignettes "Paris, je t'aime" that was set to shoot in Upper Manhattan in April. A rep for the film said the producers were waiting for Minghella's family to respond about how they wanted to proceed with the segment but indicated that they likely would carry on with the segment with another director.
"We are shocked and deeply saddened by the loss of Anthony Minghella," the producers said. "His highly visionary work will continue to live on through the segment he wrote for 'New York, I Love You.' "
They also said that they would dedicate the film to Minghella.
The BBC plans to air the two-hour pilot of "Detective" -- which, like the series, Minghella created and wrote with feature scribe Richard Curtis -- next week. HBO said it still plans to air the movie as a kickoff to the series next year.
The status of the series, however, remains up in the air; it was not clear Tuesday how many scripts had already been completed and if the project could or would go on without Minghella.
For his part, Miramax chief Daniel Battsek -- who noted that Minghella was "a heartfelt and emotional person and his films were an emotional experience, which is not an easy thing to do" -- said he was holding off on any decisions on "The Resurrectionist" for the time being. "There'll be time for that in the future, but right now my thoughts are with his family," Battsek said.
Minghella's projects were just the latest in a career marked by bringing literary works to the screen in a way that balanced his own vision with fidelity to the source material. He won a best director Oscar for "The English Patient."
Minghella, who also was known for exploring the moral ambiguities of his characters, wrote and directed "The Talented Mr. Ripley," based on Patricia Highsmith's novel of murder and guilt, as well as the adaptation of Charles Frazier's Civil War drama "Cold Mountain." He was nominated for nine BAFTA awards and won two and also was Oscar-nominated for his "English Patient" and "Ripley" screenplays. But he'd had a more mixed reception to recent projects like "Breaking & Entering," the 2006 drama starring Jude Law.
Minghella also worked as an artist in other media, including as a playwright, with such work as "Hang Up" and "Whale Music" staged repeatedly in the U.S. and England. He was also a writer on British TV shows including "Inspector Morse" and even had a bit part in Joe Wright's recent "Atonement."
He also made his mark offscreen. He recently stepped down from his post as British Film Institute chairman.
Among Minghella's last public appearances was a BAFTA event last week where he noted his experience in Hollywood.
"The thing that is most notably different about working in the U.S. is that if you are embraced then you are completely accepted," he said. "It was quite giddy because you'd be there and Meryl Streep would come on the phone and you'd think it was your mother pretending to be Meryl Streep or maybe your sister, but it was really Meryl Streep."
Minghella had completed what had been deemed a successful surgery last week for a growth on his neck, reps said, and had been expected to make a full recovery. On Tuesday, talent and executives who had worked with him struggled to absorb the news.
Harvey Weinstein, who had produced and distributed much of his work, noted their longtime relationship. "He was my mentor, my partner and, most of all, my brother," he said.
Reps said it was too early to consider the future of Mirage Enterprises, the transatlantic production banner Minghella ran with partner Sydney Pollack.
"Anthony was a realistic romanticist," Pollack said. "A kind of poet, disciplined by reality. An academic by training, a musician by nature, a compulsive reader by habit and, to most observers, a sunny soul who exuded a gentleness that should never have been mistaken for lack of tenacity and resolve."
Others who served with Minghella as a producer noted his talent in that area. Rudin, who had been working with him on "The Reader," said: "Anthony always had the desire to get the best possible result from any project. He had a forensic ability to excavate (the best from) a screenplay. He was always able to see five or 10 steps down the road to prevent any problem that might come up."
Minghella's perceptiveness, however, extended beyond productions to his own psyche. "I had never thought of myself as a director and found out that I was not," he said at the BAFTA event. "I am a writer who was able to direct the films that I write."
Stuart Kemp in London contributed to this report.