Selfish yuppie Charlie Babbitt's father left a fortune to his savant brother Raymond and a pittance to Charlie; they travel cross-country.
What I didn’t know was that the delay was caused by the production falling to bits. At one point, very early on in casting, Demi Moore’s name had come up, and the studio wanted her. Anthony wanted me and Willem Dafoe. He stuck to his guns – and the studio pulled out. In the end, Harvey Weinstein stepped in and saved it.
The film opens with a pre-war biplane flying above the desert, carrying two passengers in its open cockpits. The film will tell us who these passengers are, why they are in the plane, and what happens next. All of the rest of the story is prologue and epilogue to the reasons for this flight. It is told with the sweep and visual richness of a film by David Lean, with an attention to fragments of memory that evoke feelings even before we understand what they mean.
The triumph of the film lies not just in the force and range of the performances, but in Minghella's creation of an intimate epic: vast landscapes mingle with the minute details of desire, and the combination is transfixing.
Anthony took my imagination, creation and composition to another level. He inspired me to be bold, to achieve my full potential for all our projects. It was Anthony’s vision musically that hugely benefited our collaborations, and I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to work with both him and Walter. He was, and still is, my soulmate.
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Ralph and I were both very young and passionate about our roles. But love scenes are really hard. It’s like jumping stark naked into an icy swimming pool. You just have to plunge right in. Then suddenly something will bring you back and you realise you are stark naked in a room with people who aren’t and they are all gawping at you.
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A young Shakespeare, out of ideas and short of cash, meets his ideal woman and is inspired to write one of his most famous plays.
Kristin Scott Thomas: ‘The love scenes with Ralph Fiennes were like jumping naked into an icy swimming pool’
In fact, the music for the whole film is made from pre-recorded music by Richard Strauss, Johann Strauss, György Ligeti and Aram Khachaturian. In Kubrick’s opinion, this eclectic soundtrack worked so well that he threw out the specially composed score by Alex North. Unfortunately, he did not have the courage to tell North, and it was only at the New York premiere that the composer learned what had happened to his music.
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My favourite scene in the film is when Katherine is saying goodbye to Almasy, Ralph’s character. As she walks away she says: “Do you miss me yet?” He says: “Not yet.” And she says: “Ha! You will.” Then she haughtily turns on her heel – and walks into a pole. And they wanted to cut it! Saul Zaentz, the producer, and I fought so hard to keep it. I loved that bumbling quality when she is trying so hard to keep her dignity.
I sent Anthony the piece but he called me up saying: “Gabriel, I want you to lift her! I want you to swing her!” So I rewrote the piece completely, adding pizzicati strings and mandolins, but each time Anthony would give me the same response. It became a joke between us. Of course, once it was recorded, he loved it – as it was finally “lifting and swinging her”. At the Oscars, when The English Patient won nine awards, we were still joking about this.
The film was released to critical acclaim, and received 12 nominations at the 69th Academy Awards, eventually winning nine, including Best Picture, Best Director for Minghella and Best Supporting Actress for Juliette Binoche.
During editing, I realised I had to replace the Aria from Bach’s Goldberg Variations as the original, which Anthony planned to use, didn’t fit any more. This was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. It took me a long time to write a piece of music, a piano prelude in three voices. This theme was used, among others, for the famous scene where Juliette Binoche is hoisted up by rope in the torch-lit church.
• Gabriel Yared will be taking part in a Q&A after a screening of The English Patient on 20 April at the Barbican in London. Kristin Scott Thomas interview by Homa Khaleeli.
All of this back-story (there is much more) is pieced together gradually by the dying man in the bed, while the nurse tends to him, sometimes kisses him, bathes his rotting skin, and tries to heal her own wounds from the long war. There are moments of great effect: One in which she plays hopscotch by herself. A scene involving the nurse, the Sikh, and a piano. Talks at dusk with the patient, and with Caravaggio. All at last becomes clear.
Two types of aircraft are used in the film, a De Havilland D.H.82 Tiger Moth and a Boeing-Stearman Model 75. Both are biplanes. The camp crash scene was made with a ½-size scale model.
Murderesses Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart find themselves on death row together and fight for the fame that will keep them from the gallows in 1920s Chicago.
I was living on an island in Brittany called Île-aux-Moines, or The Island of Monks, but travelled to San Francisco to play my music to Anthony, Walter Murch, and the producer, Saul Zaentz. One of my great memories is trying my best to recreate the orchestral score in front of them using just the piano and my voice! After some very encouraging feedback, I went back to work on my island.
A silent movie star meets a young dancer, but the arrival of talking pictures sends their careers in opposite directions.
I got an audition and it was extraordinary. I went into a room and there was Ralph Fiennes. The only thing I remember about him was that he was wearing very squeaky trainers and was devastatingly good looking. We sat down and read – and it all just fell into place. Then, when we got to the end, Anthony said: “Can we do it all again?”
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Backward into memory, forward into loss and desire, “The English Patient” searches for answers that will answer nothing. This poetic, evocative film version of the famous novel by Michael Ondaatje circles down through layers of mystery until all of the puzzles in the story have been solved, and only the great wound of a doomed love remains. It is the kind of movie you can see twice--first for the questions, the second time for the answers.
A look at this year's competition for Best Actress.
The film was shot on location in Tunisia and Italy. with a production budget of $31 million.
The “present” action takes place in Italy, during the last days of World War II. A horribly burned man, the “English patient” of the title, is part of a hospital convoy. When he grows too ill to be moved, a nurse named Hana (Juliette Binoche) offers to stay behind to care for him in the ruins of an old monastery. Here she sets up a makeshift hospital, and soon she is joined by two bomb-disposal experts and a mysterious visitor named Caravaggio (Willem Dafoe).
It took a filmmaker with Anthony Minghella's vision to even attempt an adaptation of Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient. And it took a filmmaker with Minghella's talent to pull it off.
The cast is superb: Binoche, with her thin, seraphic smile; Scott Thomas, aware of the spell she casts but not flaunting it; Fiennes, especially, radiating sexy mystery, threat shrouded in hauteur. Doom and drive rarely have so much stately star quality.
It's an ambitious film and director Anthony Minghella's skill lies equally in his screenplay, which delivers explanation only in fragments but keeps us involved for what is an epic running time.
The English Patient (1996)
Afterwards, they said I’d got the part. Then there was just this radio silence. I thought they’d forgotten about me or had found someone else. I was too scared to phone in case I was told: “No, sorry, we are not doing it with you after all.” I went on holiday and by the time I came back in August I still hadn’t heard. So I finally rang the studio in Italy. It just rang and rang. Eventually, someone picked up and said: “Oh yes, you’re arriving on 4 September.”
Being nominated for a best actress Oscar was stressful to be truthful. I think I would feel differently today, but at that age I was so anxious and I felt under scrutiny. The success of the film was thrilling, though. I watched it not long ago. It was definitely one of my favourite films to do. It was made from the heart, with integrity, and it’s beautiful.
A respectable, intelligent but less than stirring adaptation of an imposingly dense and layered novel.
Ondaatje's novel has become one of the most widely read and loved of recent years. Some of its readers may be disappointed that more is not made of the Andrews character; the love between the Sikh and the nurse could provide a balance to the doomed loves elsewhere. But the novel is so labyrinthine that it's a miracle it was filmed at all, and the writer-director, Anthony Minghella, has done a creative job of finding visual ways to show how the rich language slowly unveils layers of the past.
These are the two people--the count and the British woman--who were in the plane in the first shot. But under what conditions that flight was taken remains a mystery until the closing scenes of the movie, as do a lot of other things, including actions by the count that Caravaggio, the strange visitor, may suspect. Actions that may have led to Caravaggio having his thumbs cut off by the Nazis.
Dafoe's character must remain murkier, along with his motives, but it is clear he shelters a great anger. And Andrews, as the bomb-disposal man, lives the closest to daily death and seems the most grateful for life.