Anthony Minghella died Tuesday at 54, and while he was best known as a director (winning an Oscar in 1996's The English Patient, which as everybody knows is the greatest film ever made), I feel the need to point out what a superb writer he was.
The English Patient is based on Michael Ondaatje's Booker Prize-winning novel, but its transformation to film is a thing of beauty. Minghella wrote the screenplay, with an assist from Ondaatje himself, and said that it was excruciating to leave out so much of the gorgeous novel. It bothered him greatly to excise so much of Kip's (the Indian sapper) story, but decisions had to be made, and he made every single one of them correctly.
Minghella was the first person I ever interviewed for The Herald, at the Borders bookstore in Fort Lauderdale, in person, long before most people knew who he was (I did, if only for Truly Madly Deeply, which, combined with the powerful allure of blond highlights in Sense and Sensibility, caused me to fall deeply in love with Alan Rickman, an ailment that persists to this day. I kept wanting him to strangle Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd.)
What I liked best about Minghella - he was funny and lively and friendly - was his absolute passion for Ondaatje's novel. It was clear that it had moved him and that he loved it and was also thrilled to have been able to adapt it to the screen. (I also suspect he had a little crush on Juliette Binoche, but really, who wouldn't?)
Minghella just wrapped the first film of Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. Who knows what other wonders he would have gone on to produce? Film lovers, especially those equally in love with books, will miss him like crazy.