'English Patient' director Anthony Minghella dies

British film director Anthony Minghella, who won an Oscar for The English Patient, died in a London hospital on Tuesday after a short illness, his agent said. He was 54.

Minghella died from complications following surgery last week for cancer of the tonsils and neck, agent Leslee Dart said. “The surgery had gone well and they were very optimistic,” she said.
“But he developed a haemorrhage last night and they were not able to stop it.”

He was married to Carolyn Choa and had two grown-up children, Max and Hannah.

Film producer David Puttnam said it was a “shattering blow”.

“He was a great guy, a very, very nice man, a brilliant writer, excellent director and someone who contributed more than most to our industry,” Puttnam told BBC News 24 television. “He’s going to be hugely missed.”

British Film Institute director Amanda Nevill said: “We are deeply, deeply shocked and terribly sad. All our thoughts go out to his family. His art was about communicating to you and allowing you to see the world differently. He was just such a wonderful man.”

Minghella won the Academy Award for best director in 1996 for the war-time romance starring Ralph Fiennes. He was also nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay for the thriller The Talented Mr Ripley. He wrote the Cold Mountain screenplay.

The English Patient, based on author Michael Ondaatje’s novel, was an unexpected global hit.

In an interview with Reuters after its release, Minghella said he struggled to raise the money to make the film, which won 12 Oscar nominations.

“It was a very hard job to get someone to give us the money for this,” he said. “It was a very unpromising document: a European film about a man haunted from his war-time past, good actors but no stars and a director who had little experience.

“It was understandable that people [in Hollywood] had no faith in the film. But they were all completely wrong.”

Born to Italian parents and brought up on the Isle of Wight, he studied drama at the University of Hull in north-east England. He began his career writing scripts for theatre and television dramas before moving into feature films.

In 2003, he was appointed the head of the British Film Institute, the body created to make film more accessible to the public. Two years later, he staged his first opera in London.

The director and writer had been filming an adaptation of Alexander McCall Smith’s novel The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. It was due to be shown on the BBC on Easter Sunday and on the HBO network in the United States.—Reuters