Anthony Minghella, Oscar-Winning Director of Film, Theatre and Opera, Dies

Obituaries   Anthony Minghella, Oscar-Winning Director of Film, Theatre and Opera, Dies
Anthony Minghella, who won an Academy Award for his direction of the lush World War II-set film "The English Patient" and recently made a big splash in opera with his production of Madame Butterfly, died suddenly on March 18, Variety reported. The cause could not be immediately determined. He was 54.
Anthony Minghella
Anthony Minghella

Following his success with 1996's "The English Patient," which starred Ralph Fiennes as the patient, Mr. Minghella directed a series of prestige films including "Cold Mountain," "Breaking and Entering" and "The Talented Mr Ripley." He was at work filming "New York I Love You" when he died. He also often wrote the screenplays for his movies, usually adapting literary sources, and was nominated for Oscars for the scripts of "The English Patient" and "The Talented Mr. Ripley."

His films, often set in the past and employing beautiful cinematography, frequently resulted in awards for their actors. Juliette Binoche and Renee Zellweger both won Oscars for their supporting turns in Minghella films.

In 2006 Mr. Minghella made a stunning opera debut with his beautifully and inventively designed (puppets were involved), and gracefully acted version of Puccini's Madame Butterfly. It debuted at the English National Opera, and Peter Gelb brought it to the Metropolitan Opera in fall 2006 as the first production of his tenure as artistic director there. It was the first new production of an opera to open a Met season in decades. Reviews were ecstatic.

Mr. Minghella came to directing late. After attending the University of Hull in East Yorkshire, England, he briefly worked as a university professor where he started writing music and plays, according to The New York Times. He was good enough to win the London Theater Critics Award in 1984 for Most Promising Playwright and in 1986 for Best Play with Made In Bangkok.

He later directed his own piece, Hang Up, a two-hander. The piece won prizes as a radio play, the Times wrote, and Juliet Stevenson, one of the actors, asked why Mr. Minghella didn't direct more often. Soon after, the BBC asked for a screenplay and Mr. Minghella asked if he might direct as well. Mr. Minghella made his debut as screenwriter-director in 1990, with the romantic comedy "Truly Madly Deeply," which starred Stevenson. He took his time with each subsequent project, directing only five more films after that. He wrote or co-wrote all but one. At the time of his death, another movie, "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency," had been completed, while his vignette of the multi-story "New York I Love You" was in the works and "The Ninth Life of Louis Drax" had been announced.

He was appointed a CBE in the 2001 Queen's Birthday Honours List.

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