Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Minghella, Anthony (1954-2008)

Writer, Director, Producer

Main image of Minghella, Anthony (1954-2008)

Anthony Minghella was born on the Isle of Wight in 1954. After leaving the University of Hull, he worked as a script editor and writer for television series such as EastEnders (BBC, 1985-) and Boon (ITV, 1986-1995). He rose to prominence after winning the 1986 London Theatre Critics' Award for his play Made in Bangkok and went on to write three of the Inspector Morse television films (ITV, 1987-2000) and to collaborate with Jim Henson on the prestigious television series, The Storyteller (1988).

Minghella's debut as a writer-director was the elegiac and darkly comic Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990), made for BBC Television but released as a feature film. His experience of writing for television melodramas is evident in the film's preoccupation with the inner lives of its protagonists, but Minghella's vision is highly imaginative. The emotional truth of his examination of a woman's dilemma, torn as she is between joy at the return of her lover and a growing desire for her own space and independence, is complicated and enriched by the fact that her lover is dead and returns as a demanding and increasingly inconvenient ghost.

Truly, Madly, Deeply garnered critical and popular acclaim and Minghella went to Hollywood to direct a romantic comedy, Mr. Wonderful (US, 1993), in which an electrician seeks to match his ex-wife with 'Mr. Wonderful' in order to reduce his alimony payments. Critics were generally unenthusiastic and Minghella's next project was both more personal and more ambitious. The English Patient (US, 1996) met with much greater approbation and won nine Oscars. Based on Michael Ondaatje's celebrated novel, set just as World War Two is ending, the film moves away from the familiar spaces and stories of melodrama to present the memories and past experiences of a seriously wounded soldier, Laszlo de Almásy (Ralph Fiennes), stranded in a ruined house in Italy. The sustained contrast between the immobile 'narrator' and the depicted adventures and passions he experienced in the North African desert bring to the latter enhanced vividness and vibrancy. Thus Minghella finds a way to focus on the vitality of human relationships, the internal and the personal, while moving beyond the confines of small-scale melodrama or romantic comedy.

In Minghella's haunting fourth film, The Talented Mr. Ripley (US, 1999), set in the 1950s and adapted from Patricia Highsmith's novel, piano tuner Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) dissembles his way into an elite group of Princeton graduates and the affections of the very rich Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law). When Dickie rejects Tom, he decides to act ruthlessly and violently to preserve his status and privileges, and finds himself having to maintain a web of deceit that eventually imprisons him.

Most recently, Minghella directed Play (2000), a television adaptation of Beckett's stage play, and produced Iris (US/UK, d. Richard Eyre, 2001), Heaven (Germany/US/France, d. Tom Tykwer, 2002), and The Quiet American (US/Germany/UK, d. Phillip Noyce, 2002). He was awarded a CBE in 2001.

Argent, Daniel, 'The Talented Mister: An Interview with Anthony Minghella', Creative Screenwriting, Jan-Feb. 2000, pp. 63-7
Stilwell, Robynn, 'Symbol, Narrative and the Musics of Truly, Madly, Deeply', Screen, Spring 1997, pp. 60-75
James, Nick, 'The English Patient', Sight and Sound, Mar. 1997, pp. 45-6

Sarah Cardwell, Reference Guide to British and Irish Film Directors

More information


From the BFI's filmographic database

Related media

Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Truly Madly Deeply (1990)Truly Madly Deeply (1990)

Romantic comedy about grief, loss and a roomful of ghosts watching old videos

Thumbnail image of Grange Hill (1978-2008)Grange Hill (1978-2008)

Groundbreakingly realistic TV series set in a London comprehensive school

Thumbnail image of Inspector Morse (1987-2000)Inspector Morse (1987-2000)

Gentle Oxfordshire whodunnits faced by the melancholic detective

Related collections

Related people and organisations