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Anthony Minghella

Anthony Minghella: Interviews

Edited by Mario Falsetto
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Anthony Minghella
    Book Description:

    Anthony Minghella: Interviewsis an illuminating anthology of in-depth conversations with this important contemporary film director and producer. The collection explores Minghella's ideas on every aspect of the cinematic creative process including screenwriting, acting, editing, the use of music in film, and other topics concerning the role of the film director.

    Minghella (1954-2008) was a highly regarded British playwright (Made in Bangkok), and television writer (Inspector Morse) before turning to film directing with his quirky, highly regarded first film,Truly, Madly, Deeply, in 1990. He went on to direct an extraordinary trilogy of large-scale films, all adapted from significant works of contemporary literature. Minghella's 1996 adaptation of Michael Ondaatje's poetic novelThe English Patientwas the director's most critically and commercially successful film and went on to win dozens of awards around the world, including nine academy awards. Minghella followed this film with his entertaining, elegant adaptation of Patricia Highsmith'sThe Talented Mr. Ripley, a film that enjoyed great critical and commercial success and featured some of the best acting of the 1990s by its talented cast of young, rising stars, Jude Law, Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Minghella's ambitious adaptation of Charles Frazier's American Civil War romance,Cold Mountain, was released in 2003, and firmly marked Minghella as a director of intimate, yet large-scale epic cinema worthy of David Lean.Although Minghella was a successful film director and producer, he was also an important part of the cultural life of the U.K. He was awarded a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in 2001 for his contributions to culture, and he was Chairman of the Board of Governors of the British Film institute from 2004 to 2007.

    eISBN: 978-1-62103-964-8
    Subjects: Performing Arts, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. vii-xxix)

    About a decade ago, I was preparing a book of original conversations with film directors, and I was very keen to interview Anthony Minghella. I pursued the filmmaker for about a year, but because of Minghella’s complicated work schedule, and the fact that he was in the midst of shootingCold Mountain(2003) in Romania when I first corresponded with him, it took some time before we finally met. Our first meeting took place following theCold Mountainshoot in the summer of 2003 at his offices, a converted chapel near Hampstead Heath in London. Minghella was in the midst...

  4. Chronology
    (pp. xxx-xxxii)
  5. Filmography
    (pp. xxxiii-2)
  6. Anthony Minghella: In Conversation (Part 1)
    (pp. 3-32)
    Mario Falsetto and Anthony Minghella

    Mario Falsetto: Can you talk about your background and growing up on the Isle of Wight.

    Anthony Minghella: My father migrated to England when he was nineteen in 1939. And like many young, slightly dispossessed Italian boys, he was imported by more successful local families who had already immigrated and set up various forms of business. The business of choice in England was ice cream so my father worked for a fairly wealthy family in Portsmouth, which is close to the Isle of Wight. He eventually left that company with one ice cream van to start his own business on...

  7. The Patient Englishman: Getting Personal with Anthony Minghella
    (pp. 33-47)
    Tomm Carroll and Anthony Minghella

    After ten years of writing plays for Britain’s stage and radio, and then television scripts for such English programs asInspector MorseandThe Storyteller, Anthony Minghella was given the opportunity to direct his first film,Truly, Madly, Deeply, from his own screenplay in 1991. Thanks to the acclaim of that small BBC-financed feature (“the thinking person’sGhost,” it was proclaimed by enthusiastic critics), the British-born Italian suddenly found himself known—and in demand—in the US as a director. He next was hired to helm the script forMr. Wonderful, shot in New York, two years later. That romantic...

  8. I Don’t Have a Speech. I Look Terrible in a Tuxedo. What Could Possibly Go Right?
    (pp. 48-56)
    Anthony Minghella

    This isn’t really a proper diary, of course. I’ve never kept one. Rather, this is penance for missing my advertisedObserverinterview at the Barbican on a day when I found myself scheduled to be in three different countries at the same time. It’s a problem I have, saying no. And there’s rampant expurgation here, too—not simply because I am currently so starved of an inner life, nor to dignify myself, nor to protect anybody; it’s just that otherwise I would be recording an unholy catalogue of pampering, anxiety, solipsism, hubris, exhaustion, and despair. The gnomic version of this...

  9. The Talented Mr. Minghella
    (pp. 57-62)
    Richard Stayton and Anthony Minghella

    Revered mystery writer Patricia Highsmith has challenged numerous filmmakers throughout the decades, from Hitchcock’sStrangers on a Trainto Wim Wenders’sThe American Friend. Her most challenging creation is not a story so much as a character: the deadly chameleon Tom Ripley. In his first film since earning a Best Director Academy Award forThe English Patient, Anthony Minghella takes on the challenge of adapting and directing Highsmith’s murder mysteryThe Talented Mr. Ripley. Also an award-winning playwright and university drama professor, Minghella employed an intellectual approach to the emotional task of writing the screenplay. Here he explicates a few...

  10. The Talented Mister: An Interview with Anthony Minghella
    (pp. 63-72)
    Daniel Argent and Anthony Minghella

    Daniel Argent: What initially interested you in adapting Patricia Highsmith’s novelThe Talented Mr. Ripley?

    Anthony Minghella: The character of Ripley is one that once you’ve encountered him, he never really goes away. I think it leaps away from the actual text of the novel and from any questions about the quality of the novel. It’s such a creation, it’s such a pungent example of the alienation of people in postwar society. Ripley is an index of how far from the center people feel and how much at odds with their own personality that people are led to feel and...

  11. My Bloody Valentine
    (pp. 73-80)
    Nick James and Anthony Minghella

    On a hot day in July 1999 at the Jim Henson studios in London’s Camden Town, Anthony Minghella is, he tells me, about to do something “tentative and experimental.” Here he is, the shorts-wearing, Oscarwinning director ofThe English Patient(1996) invitingSight and Soundinto the cutting room of his latest filmThe Talented Mr. Ripleyto see a few sequences. He and his collaborator, the revered editor Walter Murch, are properly genial and accommodating, yet there’s an air of nervousness. On their side, it’s because having previewed an early cut of Ripley to largely approving colleagues and advisors,...

  12. Italy: The Director’s Cut
    (pp. 81-87)
    Anthony Minghella

    Last year I spent a great deal more time in Italy than anywhere else, but on reflection it’s clear to me that I wasn’t really in Italy, but in a country of my own imagination. Film directors are thieves; magpies. They resemble barbarians bringing home the spoils, ransacking each city for its treasures. They plunder landscapes, corrupt geography, redraw maps, and invent villages. Screenplays, too, are notoriously hieroglyphic. They resemble architects’ blueprints and collide with many of the same practical obstacles when translating ideas into reality.

    In my screenplay ofThe Talented Mr. Ripley, adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s mordant 1950s...

  13. Behind the Eyes of a Killer
    (pp. 88-92)
    David Gritten

    When the writer-director Anthony Minghella sets about adapting a novel for film—a task at which he is astonishingly skilled—this is how he goes about it. First, he borrows a country cottage; for his last two films, he has used one in Dorset owned by his friend, film producer Duncan Kenworthy. It was here that Minghella brilliantly molded Michael Ondaatje’sThe English Patientinto an Oscar-winning big-screen epic, and where he also wrote his latest film,The Talented Mr. Ripley(released on February 25), based on Patricia Highsmith’s unsettling psychological thriller from 1956.

    He drives down to the cottage...

  14. Happy Days
    (pp. 93-96)
    Ted Sheehy, Anthony Minghella, Damian O’Donnell and Neil Jordan

    At the launch of the Beckett on Film season in Dublin, Anthony Minghella, Damien O’Donnell, and Neil Jordan spoke with Ted Sheehy about filming Samuel Beckett’s plays.

    Ted Sheehy: Is it just that it’s Beckett’s work or can you conceive of yourselves otherwise wanting to make short films that are formally experimental?

    Anthony Minghella: I think you’d get a different answer from every director but in my case it was entirely connected with a long-held admiration for Beckett. I studied Beckett, I tried to do a doctorate on Beckett’s work,Playwas the first play I ever directed—it was...

  15. Anthony Minghella: In Conversation (Part 2)
    (pp. 97-118)
    Mario Falsetto and Anthony Minghella

    Mario Falsetto: What initially attracted you to Patricia Highsmith’s novelThe Talented Mr. Ripley? What was at the core of it for you, because the character of Ripley is fairly different in the novel. In the novel he seems quite sociopathic, completely amoral and almost asexual. You definitely made him more psychological. In your film, he’s more sympathetic and has some sense of morality about his crime.

    Anthony Minghella: When I look back, some people think I got Ripley very wrong. People felt that I had larded the character with a conscience. The striking thing about Ripley in the novel...

  16. Down from Cold Mountain
    (pp. 119-122)
    Andrew Pulver

    Strange as it may seem, Anthony Minghella regards himself as something of an outsider, cinematically speaking. “I live in London,” he says in his rich, sonorous voice, “but I’ve never made a film here sinceTruly, Madly, Deeply. I don’t know anybody. I’m so detached from what’s happening.”

    It’s hard to take this entirely at face value. At forty-nine, Minghella is arguably this country’s most blue-chip film director. He is an Oscar winner, double BAFTA winner and, withThe English Patient, the maker of a landmark in the British film renaissance. Recently he was appointed chairman of the British Film...

  17. The Man with the Epic in His Eyes
    (pp. 123-126)
    David Gritten

    It’s a trim Anthony Minghella who greets me at his office, an exquisitely converted Victorian chapel near Hampstead Heath, all sliding doors, hardwood floors, and open-plan work spaces. He’s lost forty-eight pounds in the last year, a fact I didn’t register when we met in Transylvania last October on the set ofCold Mountain, the new film he has written and directed; back then Minghella wore layers of bulky clothes to keep the chilly weather at bay. On learning he was putting on weight due to a thyroid condition prevalent in his family, he embarked on a radical new diet;...

  18. Mastering the Mountain
    (pp. 127-131)
    Bob McCabe

    Anthony Minghella, the Isle of Wight’s most famous son, heir to his parents’ famous ice cream empire and, lest we forget, Academy Award–winning director, would like to set the record straight on what he describes as “one of the great myths of my life.” He never wrote forGrange Hill. He was a story editor on the program for four years, his first post-university job in television. But still, as he laughs, “It doesn’t go away. Somehow I’ve acquired it as a great writing credit.”

    WhenEmpiremeets up with the delightful, softly spoken filmmaker, it is late on...

  19. He Shoots, He Scores
    (pp. 132-134)
    Nick Taylor

    The offices of Mirage, the production company Anthony Minghella owns with the producer Sydney Pollack, are in a former chapel in north London. The walls are decorated with huge prints of Kristin Scott Thomas and Juliet Stevenson, Jude Law and Nicole Kidman—images shot on the sets of Minghella’s films.

    But in a previous life the building was the studio of photographer Gered Mankowitz, whose pictures of the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix have become some of the most iconic rock images of the 1960s.

    Minghella is a writer and director with a giant passion for music, and the ghosts...

  20. Actors
    (pp. 135-144)
    Anthony Minghella

    I don’t have any special pleading about my relationship with actors. I like actors. A lot of directors don’t like actors and think that they get in the way of the mechanics of filmmaking, of the pyrotechnics of filmmaking. But I’m not attracted to the kind of movies where the actor takes second place.

    I know as an absolute fact that the best moments in movies are acting moments. They’re not shots, and they’re not locations, and they’re not effects. When I think about the moments in movies that I have loved, it’s always about an actor revealing himself or...

  21. Breaking and Entering: Screenplay by Anthony Minghella
    (pp. 145-147)
    Jason Davis and Anthony Minghella

    “I’d never intended to divert into the role of an adapter of novels,” begins writer/director Anthony Minghella. “It happened because I had a great adventure withThe English Patient, and, while that film took its time to find financing, I took a job adaptingThe Talented Mr.Ripleynot intending ever to direct it. After I madeThe English Patient, I didn’t want to let go of Ripley , so I directed it and then foundCold Mountainalmost as soon as I’d begunRipley. There was a kind of queue of adaptations,” explains Minghella, who scored Academy Award nominations for...

  22. I Wanted to Make a Film about Home
    (pp. 148-150)
    Tom Charity

    Over the course of his fifteen-year career as a film director, Anthony Minghella has travelled far and wide.The English Patient(1996) took him to Italy and to North Africa. TheTalented Mr. Ripley(1999) criss-crossed Sicily, Naples, Rome, Tuscany, and Venice. And, though it was set in and around South Carolina,Cold Mountain(2003) was largely shot in the Carpathians, Romania.

    All three films were lavish period movies adapted from bestselling novels. Now, for the first time sinceTruly, Madly, Deeplyin 1991, Minghella has written an original screenplay and returned home to Britain. It is, as the film’s...

  23. Final Thoughts: Theories, Poetry, and Morality
    (pp. 151-162)
    Anthony Minghella

    I haven’t watched many movies, but I’ve watched some movies many, many, many times. There are some movies I go back to like food—The Tree of the Wooden Clogs, I Vitelloni, Three Colors: Blueand the Taviani brothers’ movies I watch repeatedly. Each time I go back to great films, I see something I feel I’ve never seen before. Obviously, all you can do as a filmmaker is aspire to make the kind of movies which you’ve been excited by as an audience member. What you want is to be part of that process of making pieces that work,...

  24. Additional Resources
    (pp. 163-164)
  25. Index
    (pp. 165-170)