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Love, Loss And Anthony Minghella 

Episode Guide: Anthony Minghella

Episode Guide: Anthony Minghella

Posted: Tuesday, 8th July 2008

When Anthony Minghella the Oscar-winning director of The English Patient and The Talented Mr. Ripley died suddenly in March, the news was greeted with shock. He was one of Britain's finest directors and a much-loved figure whose talents also embraced the worlds of opera, playwriting and television.

This special edition of Imagine... is the first opportunity to assess in depth his many talents and for those who knew him best to pay tribute. An impressive list of contributors includes Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Alan Rickman.

The programme is presented by Alan Yentob, who as controller of BBC Two, commissioned Minghella's breakthrough film, Truly Madly Deeply. Alan discovers Minghella was a man who had many strings to his creative bow and who remained universally liked and admired in an industry not known for its sentiment.

Minghella spent his childhood on the Isle of Wight where his family were Italian immigrants. The family still run their ice cream business there today. Alan learns how being part of a large family later helped Anthony feel at home with the noise and bustle of film sets.

This fascinating programme reminds us Minghella was a successful writer. He penned the pilot episodes for Inspector Morse, before turning his considerable talents to the cinema.

He'd eschewed the offer of directing an episode of Morse in favour of writing and directing a low budget film he'd written for the BBC - Truly Madly Deeply. When it became a smash it drew the attention of Hollywood and Minghella was besieged with offers.

Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was one of those who missed out on the rights to Truly Madly Deeply. As Weinstein says here, he told Minghella, 'I'll never be late (for you) again'. And he wasn't. When Minghella’s funding fell through on The English Patient, Weinstein stepped in with the $30 million he needed to make the movie. Weinstein's faith in Minghella was repayed when The English Patient went on to secure nine Oscars at the 1997 Academy Awards.

Minghella made big-budget commercially successful movies with top stars. Yet in movies like The Talented Mr Ripley and Cold Mountain he also focused on the sensibilities of art house cinema and explored complex issues.

Matthew Springford's moving film investigates how Minghella created movie magic and gives insights into Minghella's artistry. It offers fascinating details of his struggles in Hollywood from those who worked closest to him: Juliet Binoche on The English Patient, Philip Seymour Hoffman on The Talented Mr. Ripley and Renee Zellweger on Cold Mountain amongst others.

Minghella's energy seemed to know no bounds. In later years he enjoyed a stint as Chair of the British Film Institute, directed a successful production of Puccini's Madam Butterfly in London and New York and returned to television with The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. Minghella leaves a vacuum at the heart of our cultural life and if this programme is anything to go by, he will be sorely missed.

Love, Loss And Anthony Minghella, BBC One, 8th July 2008, 10.35pm.

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