Fan Fare

Entertainment behind the scenes

An unforgettable chat with Anthony Minghella

March 18, 2008

Anthony MinghellaEvery once in a while, if you’re lucky and in the right spot at the right time, you get an interview that can stay with you a lifetime.

Eleven years ago while covering the Berlin Film Festival, I sat down with British director Anthony Minghella, who died in a London hospital on Tuesday at the age of 54.

His new film “The English Patient” was screening at the festival when news arrived that it had just picked up 12 Academy Award nominations. Minghella was obviously elated, especially because, as he explained, he had spent four years trying to get the film made that none of the major studios wanted to touch.

“The nominations are beyond any dream anyone is entitled to have,” he said with a wide smile. It was an interview in a Berlin hotel lobby that was supposed to be 10 minutes but ended up lasting nearly an hour — and has stayed with me ever since.

Minghella loved talking about his film. He was proud that his cast agreed to accept deferred salaries after the project was almost abandoned shortly after the start, and how everyone in Hollywood he approached for funding had turned him down.

“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,” said Minghella, an articulate man full of energy and ideas.

He was unlike any other director, producer or actor I have talked to before or since. At the time, in February 1997, he was 43 and just starting out as a filmmaker after being a lecturer at Hull University. He was so full of life and boundless enthusiasm.

“The English Patient” was, of course, a great film. But talking to Anthony Minghella about it was even better, an experience I’ll never forget.

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