Acclaimed director who achieved the impossible

ANTHONY Minghella was considered one of Britain s most creative talents in the film industry. His greatest triumph came in 1997 when he won an Oscar for Best Director for The English Patient, a novel industry insiders said was impossible to adapt for the

ANTHONY Minghella was considered one of Britain's most creative talents in the film industry.

His greatest triumph came in 1997 when he won an Oscar for Best Director for The English Patient, a novel industry insiders said was impossible to adapt for the screen. The film, starring Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche and Kristin Scott Thomas, scooped a total of nine Academy Awards.

In 2000, he was also nominated for the best adapted screenwriting award for The Talented Mr Ripley.

Highgate actress Juliet Stevenson, who starred in Minghella's film Truly Madly Deeply, said: "I've known him for 25 years and he was a very beloved friend. I worked with him on lots of different occasions. Everybody has focused on the films but he was and still is primarily a writer. He is without doubt the greatest writer I've ever worked with.

"He had a fantastic ability to understand the rhythms of our internal lives. His dialogue was like an emotional musical score. His passion for music informed his writing extensively and for an actor it was a gift.

"He was without doubt the greatest writer I have ever worked with. A giant-hearted man, loved everywhere he went. He had a unique and irreplaceable position in my life.''

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As chairman of the British Film Institute (BFI) since 2003, Mr Minghella became the face of the country's film industry. He gave up the role shortly before his death.

BFI director Amanda Nevill said: "We are incredibly shocked and saddened as Anthony was so hugely loved across the BFI, and so greatly admired throughout the film world and across the whole cultural landscape.

"He was an inspirational and charismatic figure who truly understood the power of film to change our understanding of the world we live in."

Hollywood actor Jonathan Pryce paid tribute to the influence of the director. Mr Pryce, who lives in Highgate, said: "He will be a huge loss. I was terribly saddened and shocked by the news. Whenever I met him I was always impressed by his compassion and openness, which is rare in this business. He was good champion of other people's work and managed to keep a lot of his work within this country and used British actors, which was good for the industry."

He made his breakthrough as a director in 1991 with Truly Madly Deeply, a heart-rending love story, which won him a Bafta and set him on the road to success. In 2003, his epic Cold Mountain, starring Jude Law, Renee Zellweger and Nicole Kidman, was nominated for seven Oscars.

Mr Law, who also worked on the film Breaking and Entering set in King's Cross and Primrose Hill, said this week: "He was a brilliantly talented writer and director who wrote dialogue that was a joy to speak and then put it on to the screen in a way that always looked effortless.

"He made work feel like fun. He was a sweet, warm, bright and funny man who was interested in everything from football to opera, films, music, literature, people and, most of all, his family whom he adored and to whom I send my thoughts and love. I shall miss him hugely."

Mr Minghella's last piece of work was an adaptation of the Alexander McCall Smith novel The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency, which will be screened on BBC1 on Sunday.

For many years he lived in South Hill Park, Hampstead, where members of the community remember him fondly. Jonathan Bergman, from Amberden estate agents, said: "We were all very upset when we heard the news and proud that he used to live on our street. He was a wonderful guy. When he walked into the room he filled it with his special presence."

Mr Minghella would often pop into Polly's cafe on South End Road. Manager Pat Brothers said: "He was a really unassuming nice man and his whole family were, too. I was really shocked to hear the news. When we advertised for a new waiter he joked that he used to do the job and said he would bring his CV in for me. I still have it somewhere."