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Minghella and Clarke Are Gone

by Anne Thompson
March 18, 2008 5:52 AM
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Minghellalaw_getty2031Anthony Minghella died of an unexpected cerebral hemorrhage on Tuesday after the removal of a growth in his neck last week. He was 54. Minghella had been finishing up the BBC/HBO series "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency," which he co-wrote and co-produced with Richard Curtis, before its debut March 23. Minghella was always putting in long days on numerous projects. Here's the Variety obit. UPDATE: And the NYT.

Here's Minghella's three-time leading man Jude Law (Talented Mr. Ripley, Cold Mountain, and Breaking and Entering) and other BBC coverage. Here's Robert Eliasberg. Stephen Schaefer. And Peter Bradshaw.

I got to know Minghella, who was always accessible and charming, on the Oscar campaign circuit for The English Patient (which I somehow intuited was going to win best picture), and then again with Oscar contenders The Talented Mr. Ripley and Cold Mountain.

I had fallen in love with his first film as a writer-director, the intense tale of ghostly love, Truly Madly Deeply, starring the incomparable Juliet Stevenson and Alan Rickman. Minghella's films are literate, beautiful, often a tad British and remote (which sometimes hurt their boxoffice performance). But I've always been a hopeless smart-house Anglophile.

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In September 2006, I conducted video interviews with Minghella and his long-time producing partner at Mirage, director Sydney Pollack, as part of an "Anthony Minghella Night" fundraiser at Long Beach's University Art Museum. (It is available for VOD download on Charter On-Demand.) Minghella talked about technology and culture in modern cinema: "films haven't changed, they've just gotten faster," Minghella said, predicting that "the current leaps in technology, the digital age, will have a radical and convulsive impact on cinema as we know it, not the least in making it available to anybody and everybody, giving cinema the opportunity to grow, change, and perhaps dwindle as a commercial enterprise, while flourishing as an art form."

No slouch himself, Pollack said Minghella was a brilliant, articulate, generous, and hard-working collaborator, who he leaned on for advice and feedback. For his part, Minghella took nothing for granted and cared deeply about making intelligent movies. In that regard, Pollack, English Patient producer Saul Zaentz and Harvey Weinstein were his great champions.

Minghella had more great work in him. "He seemed like someone who'd do art for another 40 years," said producer Albert Berger, who with his partner Ron Yerxa worked with Minghella on Cold Mountain, which shot for over 100 days in wintry Romania.

Berger and Yerxa found Minghella unusually collaborative. "He didn't want to be the only voice in the room. He liked being challenged," Berger said. On Bee Season, which marked the acting debut of Minghella's son Max, Minghella came in as a friend of the court and opened doors at Mirage so that filmmakers David Siegel and Scott McGehee could work with his editor there, and gave the directors guidance when needed.

Minghella lost weight, stopped drinking and trained like a prizefighter to get into shape for the long marathon in severe conditions on Cold Mountain. "I couldn't believe how much work he got done in one day," said Yerxa. "He had no assistant, people walked in and out of his trailer. He had no filter. He answered everyone's email within hours with a thoughtful reply. He was writing every night. He must not have slept." Minghella's work ethic infected the cast and crew, including Law and Nicole Kidman, who were willing to put in the same long hours with short turnarounds.

At the film's end Minghella and his associate producer stayed up all night signing personalized photo tintypes as gifts for the crew.

Here's Minghella's appearance on Charlie Rose for The Talented Mr. Ripley:

And now comes the announcement that 2001: A Space Odyssey author Arthur C. Clarke has died. (Rendezvous with Rama is another fave.) My college friends never let me live down calling my boyfriend Peter (who played Buster Keaton in my first short) "a movie moron" because he had not seen 2001.

From CNN:

Science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, who co-wrote the epic film "2001: A Space Odyssey" and raised the idea of communications satellites in the 1940s, died Wednesday at age 90, an associate confirmed.

Clarke died early Wednesday at a hospital in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he had lived since the 1950s, said Scott Chase, the secretary of the nonprofit Arthur C. Clarke Foundation.

"He had been taken to hospital in what we had hoped was one of the slings and arrows of being 90, but in this case it was his final visit," Chase said.

Clarke and director Stanley Kubrick shared an Academy Award nomination for best adapted screenplay for "2001."

The film grew out of Clarke's 1951 short story, "The Sentinel," about an alien artifact left on the moon.

[Originally appeared on Variety.com]

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