Oscar-winning director Anthony Minghella, who died Tuesday, showed a flair for telling stories of sweeping scale. But Minghella (shown, above, on the set of "Cold Mountain") seemed first and foremost an actor's director, given how well he guided so many actors to truly memorable performances.
It was Alan Rickman's performance in "Truly Madly Deeply,"after all, that cemented his status in the hearts of American female moviegoers. As the devoted, complicated (and dead) husband in that 1990 film, Rickman showed that his mellifluous baritone lent itself to more than just villainy.
In the 1999 film "The Talented Mr. Ripley," Minghella captured the raw magnetism of Jude Law while also helping Matt Damon display a degree of psychological complexity he had not previously seemed capable of.
Law received two Oscar nominations for Minghella films, for his party boy in "Ripley" and for his determined Civil War soldier in 2003's "Cold Mountain." But it's actually the female performances in Minghella's films that stand out most.
Juliet Stevenson's portrait of grief in "Truly Madly" - raw, authentic and unforgettable - should have earned her an Oscar nomination. And, for her nuanced performance as a nurse caring for a disfigured man in 1996's "The English Patient," Juliette Binoche received not just a supporting actress nomination but an Oscar, partly because, by this time, Minghella's talents had a powerful American champion in (then) Miramax honcho Harvey Weinstein.
Minghella was also the first to truly define Renee Zellweger's singular gifts. Her performance as a can-do mountain woman in "Cold Mountain" earned her a supporting actress Oscar and suggested that Minghella recognized what previous directors - and perhaps even Zellweger herself - did not: that she's a born character actress.