Variety reports Anthony Minghella’s death

Anthony Minghella dies, 54

Director suffers brain hemorrhage


LONDON — Anthony Minghella, the Oscar-winning director and writer of “The English Patient,” has died suddenly. He was 54.

A spokesman said he suffered a brain hemorrhage at 5 a.m. Tuesday morning at Charing Cross Hospital in London, where he had undergone a routine operation on his neck.

Minghella most recently directed the BBC/HBO telepic “No 1 Ladies Detective Agency,” based on Alexander McCall Smith’s novel set in Botswana, which is due to premiere March 23 on BBC1.

His last movie was “Breaking and Entering.” His other credits include “Cold Mountain,” “The Talented Mr Ripley” and “Truly Madly Deeply.”

He recently stepped down as chairman of the British Film Institute. He was a partner with Sydney Pollack in Mirage Enterprises.

Time Out on Greg Dyke

Dave Calhoun worries about Greg Dyke’s impact on the London Film Festival in this week’s Time Out:

Greg Dyke and the future of the British Film Institute

Last week, new British Film Institute chairman Greg Dyke gave his first interview in the job. Dave Calhoun bristles at what some of his comments might mean for the London Film Festival

Eyebrows travelled north last month when the coveted chair of the British Film Institute was handed to television executive Greg Dyke, the business brains behind ‘Roland Rat’ and ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’. ‘It’s a scandal,’ fumed one filmmaker in an email to me. ‘What the fuck does Dyke know about film?’

Others, myself included, were more measured. The BFI needs a strong leader at a time when the organisation is teetering at a crossroads: the BFI’s subservience to the UK Film Council, the quango that appointed Dyke, is almost a decade old and causing increasing tension. The limited nature of the BFI’s funding is threatening its core activities – research, archiving, preservation, exhibition, publications – at a time when it faces new challenges, not least the need to embrace the digital age. Above all, the BFI needs someone strong enough to realise ambitious plans for a new national film centre to replace BFI Southbank. The BFI needs a big hitter.

So when Dyke was appointed, I thought: Let’s wait and see. He may not have any background in cinema, but his experience both at the BBC and in commercial television might stand him in good stead to raise the estimated £150 million needed for the new film centre. I hoped, too, that someone with Dyke’s organisational experience might be able to argue strongly for the BFI’s cultural role in opposition to the UKFC’s more commercial interests.

Then, last week, a broadly uncritical interview with Dyke in the Times made my heart sink. We learned that Dyke is ‘an average filmgoer’ but not a ‘buff’ (his word). He supports a new national film centre with the proviso that it ‘has to have connections outside London’. He ‘loved’ ‘Atonement’. Alarm bells started to ring when Dyke moved on to the London Film Festival. He wants it to change. ‘London should have a great film festival,’ he said, no doubt pouring worry into the hearts of its current organisers at the BFI.

‘For what it is, the festival is successful,’ he continued. ‘But I think the idea of making it bigger and glitzier is quite attractive. You want the festival to be for buffs and the general public. A glitzier festival is a good idea. It does something for London.’

Why is this so worrying? Mainly because it raises questions about where Dyke is getting his ideas from and, crucially, what he perceives to be the role of the BFI. Firstly, a radical change for the LFF would go against the better advice of those who know the event the best: the people that run it, who, in private, have spent much of the past year listening patiently to the ideas of bodies outside of the BFI, like the UKFC, Film London and the London Development Agency who would all like to see it change (all are funders of the event). Secondly, on what evidence is Dyke, days into the new job, making these suggestions? Is he a regular at the festival and familiar with its programme?

Thirdly, and most worryingly for signs of the direction of his tenureship, his comments seem similar to noises emanating from the UKFC, noises which I’m aware that the current custodians of the LFF at the BFI oppose: that the London Film Festival should become bigger, more populist, and more glamorous and perhaps move its date from October, not for cultural reasons but so that the festival can act as a flag-waver for the British film industry purely in trade terms and so that distributors can gain more mileage from its programme.

This isn’t supposition. Andrew Eaton, Michael Winterbottom’s producer and deputy chair of the UKFC, told me last year that he thought the festival should move to June. Sources tell me that the UKFC has also suggested that January might work, a suggestion which shows a woeful ignorance of the festival’s current ability to programme films with autumn release dates and potential to win awards. Looking back at last year’s line-up, such a move to January (or July) would have excluded ‘Eastern Promises’, ‘The Darjeeling Limited’, ‘Juno’, ‘Lust, Caution’, ‘I’m Not There’ and ‘Into the Wild’. These sorts of films don’t come round twice a year. Such proposals suggest that programming – the bread and butter of any good festival – hasn’t come into the equation at all.

If a change of date means a better festival, so be it. But the reasoning for a new January or June date for the LFF seems almost entirely based on when other international festivals take place – festivals attended by industry folk. Which means that the London audience counts for nothing. This makes Dyke’s recourse to the idea of a festival for the ‘public’ as well as for ‘buffs’ null and void. Why should the public care if the LFF happened the same month as Cannes or Venice? The public wants exactly what the festival offers: interesting films, well picked.

The idea has also been doing the rounds that the LFF should become competitive. Again, the only reason for this would be to raise the festival’s profile within the industry and to shine a light on the city. Leaving aside the question of whether there would be enough good titles to justify another competitive festival, the public – the ‘buffs’ of whom Dyke speaks – have no cause to care whether there are awards or not. An audience wants interesting films; the festival’s healthy ticket sales suggest punters are getting just that.

Which leads to the most disturbing element of Dyke’s comments: his sneering at the idea of a festival for ‘buffs’. Would anyone dispute a sporting event being for lovers of sport? Or the Proms being for lovers of music? Why separate the ‘public’ and ‘buffs’? It smacks of the very philistinism – that cinema should not be seen as an art or an intellectual pursuit – that the BFI exists to defy.

The LFF is not elitist or unpopular. It sells out. It plays a mix of art house and popular work. Last year, Tom Cruise, Naomi Watts and Adrien Brody all turned up. More mainstream films – and there are plenty – would be at the expense of more difficult work. In fact, they would reason the event out of existence; what justification is there for the BFI – a publicly-funded body – to be putting money towards films that would survive in the marketplace?

Dyke needs to show more independence of thought and more understanding of why the BFI and the LFF exist. His role is a cultural one. He has no right to let the LFF become a postcard for the city, like the New Year’s Eve fireworks, or an advert aimed at foreign producers, or a marketing tool for studios and distributors. The LFF is a cultural institution and should be left well alone for London audiences – the buffs – who enjoy it in droves every year.

The article and reader comments can be found at:

Greg Dyke And The Future Of The British Film Institute – Time Out London – Time Out London

Greg Dyke, the BBC and the BFI

From The Times Online today:

The Times
March 6, 2008

Greg Dyke: our man in the stalls at the BFI

The populist new chairman of the British Film Institute says he’s an average filmgoer: ‘I wouldn’t say I was a film buff’

Tim Teeman

He’s a TV man, Greg Dyke. He was when he ran TV-AM, and he was when he left the BBC in 2004 after four years as Director-General to those astonishing scenes of staff chanting his name and thronging him as he left TV Centre for the last time. “That was one of those days that happen once in your life,” Dyke says. “A friend e-mailed from the States to say: ‘The staff walked out when their boss got fired? You do realise this is a first?’”

Television is where his passion still lies and he reveals, in his cheeky-chappy, ebullient way, that he thought the BBC One controller Peter Fincham shouldn’t have been forced out over the Queen controversy of last year (Fincham was appointed ITV’s director of televison last week); and that it was wrong for the editor of Blue Peter to go “over the naming of a cat”. And that he, Dyke, was approached to run Channel 4 after he left the BBC following the Hutton inquiry, “but I told them they needed someone 20 years younger, and they hired Andy Duncan who I recommended”.

Dyke confesses that he misses running the corporation, the money he could dispense, the creative decisions he oversaw: the BBC iPlayer came under his aegis, so was Freeview. Now, as he puts it, he’s a “portfolio man, with directorships here and chairmanships there”, and so it is that he finds himself on his fourth day as the new chairman of the British Film Institute. “It’s not just film, it’s television too,” he says of the new job, and while it is true that the BFI has nearly 700,000 hours of TV in its archive, film – and the jewel in its crown, The Times BFI London Film Festival – is its beating heart. The archive holds 230,000 movies dating from 1895 to today and more than four million film stills. The BFI is a standard-bearer for cinema, but is he?

Dyke says he took on the job, succeeding Anthony Minghella, “because I’m passionate about libraries and access to them. There’s been an explosion in film, theatre and cinema studies and this place has the best library in the world. How best do you utilise it? We live in a digital world and it would be great, if you could sort out the various rights issues, to make our library accessible to everybody.” By this he means all documents, programmes, video, everything, free of charge. When he served on the board of Manchester United the first question his children asked was could he get them tickets. When he got the BFI job, it was the same question.

A passionate man, Dyke is naturally unfettered (thoughts generate thoughts, emotions scud across his features, sentences are frequently left unfinished), but he is chaperoned today by a BFI spokesman, and is muted on the state of the British film industry. “I’ll pass. No one has given me a brief to sort out the British film industry.” Pressed, he says he believes that the film industry is “as healthy as it’s been for some years, and there are some very good film-makers here but the problem is a lot of them end up in America”.

Of shaking up the BFI, he says: “It would be a bit arrogant for me to come from outside and say: ‘This is how we should do it’. You’ve got to listen, throw ideas around.” But:

“Organisations need to reinvent themselves – always. That’s why you change the leadership in organisations.” He is keen to oversee the construction of a £200 million film centre and cinema complex, bringing all the BFI’s operations together under one roof (currently it is split between the National Film Theatre on the South Bank and an office in the West End). “It will say something about the film industry. But it has to have connections outside London. It can’t just be another thing on the South Bank. This is called the British Film Institute, not the London Film Institute.”

He foresees the creation of a series of metropolitan hubs – mini-BFIs, or partnership organisations, with which the BFI can link up in Manchester and Edinburgh and other big cities. The Government has already given a chunk of money, now the BFI is out to raise the rest with private investors and corporate partnerships. Dyke is inspired by the restoration of the Royal Festival Hall, though is also a realist, adding, “Of course first you’ve got to make sure the bloody library survives. What you want is both scholarship and entertainment.”

To that end, Dyke wants to ramp up the red carpet glamour element of The Times BFI London Film Festival. “It may not happen this year. But London should have a great film festival. For what it is, the festival is successful, but I think the idea of making it bigger and glitzier is quite attractive. Film can be a mixture of artform and commercial. You want the festival to be for buffs and the general public. A glitzier film festival is a good idea. It does something for London, which I think is a sensational city of many communities, a transformed city. The festival should reflect that excitement.”

In 2003, the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee said that Dyke “was almost cursory about the BBC’s approach to investment in British films. There was little to suggest that the BBC had a serious strategy.” This clearly still rankles with him. “Yeah, that was completely unfair. I was really pissed off with them. The first thing I did at the BBC was set aside £10 million a year to spend on British film. It was not part of the BBC’s remit to save the British film industry, but I asked Alan Yentob: ‘Go and invest this in interesting films’. By the standards of what the BBC was spending it was small money and a good investment. We made a few good films, like Billy Eliott [sic].”

Is his interest in film “cursory”? “I’m an average filmgoer, I wouldn’t say I was a buff,” he says plainly, and then disproves that by launching into an engaging description of his many cinema loves. On a recent flight he watched No Country for Old Men, which he couldn’t watch at the cinema with his partner Sue because she likes “relationship films and comedies and I like tough movies”. He “loved” Atonement and, a huge Bob Dylan fan, feasted on I’m Not There. The best film he has seen this year was The Lives of Others: the ending was a little implausible, he thinks, “but I was born in 1947 and more than half of my adult life was dominated by the Cold War. It seemed inconceivable that it would end, but it was suddenly not there. The film captured that moment.”

As a boy, Dyke grew up in Hayes, Middlesex, and would go to Saturday morning pictures in Southall, “before the cinema got turned into a bingo hall”. He recalls seeing Norman Wisdom films and wonders if he’d find them funny now. His dad took him to see The Bridge on the River Kwai and Spartacus. “When I did Desert Island Discs I realised all my choices came from when I was aged between 20 and 30. It’s like that with film. Annie Hall is another favourite – that wonderful scene with the lobster – which captured something about love, relationships and passion and disappointment.”

He namechecks One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and recalls “being completely blown away” by Richard Attenborough’s directorial debut, Oh! What a Lovely War: “It was one of those films you wanted to stand up and applaud. It summed up the complete inanity of that sort of war – that incredible final shot where all you can see for miles and miles is crosses.” More trashily, Carrie “was the only film I’ve been in where over half the audience was screaming at that shot of the hand appearing out of the earth.” In Cabaret, he loves “the scene at the end where Sally waves her hand in the light. The film told you something about a particular place at a particular time.” A keen fly fisherman he relished the landing of a whopper in A River Runs Through It.

Film, he thinks, can be too violent. “In Britain we’re tough on TV violence but liberal about sex. In America they’re conservative about sex but happy to show someone getting blown to bits at 6pm. I don’t think you can show violence for its own sake and say: ‘Oh look, that’s a beautiful shot’. There has to be a reason for it.” He balks at Tarantino’s films.

Dyke may say that his role at the BFI is about “strategy, not running the place”, though whether it’s in his genetic make-up to be hands-off with a new trainset is another matter. He gets most animated, for instance, when discussing risk-taking. “Most organisations are risk-averse. We’re pretty short of money and there are limitations. You don’t risk everything, but sometimes you have to say: ‘That’s a great idea, we have got most of the money, we’ll get the rest from somewhere, let’s go’. The BFI will face tough choices. But you have to ask: ‘Can this money be better used somewhere else?’”

He still misses the BBC. He gets wistful and twitchy when asked if he’d ever go back – the response is a soppy and faraway “No”. But he was “quite glad” he wasn’t there last year, “which was obviously a rough time, though I would have handled things differently. I wouldn’t have sacked the editor of Blue Peter for changing the name of a cat. It’s not a heinous crime. I just think Peter Fincham should have said he had made a mistake over the Queen documentary.” He shouldn’t have resigned? I ask. “He didn’t resign,” Dyke says with lifting of the eyebrow. “We all make mistakes.”

Dyke still chairs the TV company that makes Bob the Builder and Thomas the Tank Engine. He made a documentary about Lord Reith last year. Would he go to ITV? “I tried to buy ITV two years ago and I’m glad I didn’t. It’s in terrible shit (yesterday it was announced ITV profits over the past year were down by just over a third). I’m very critical of the way Michael Grade [now ITV’s Executive Chairman] treated the BBC. He was Chairman [of the Board of Governors] and to walk out at the moment of renegotiating the licence fee left [the BBC Director-General] Mark Thompson completely isolated. That was not acceptable.”

Because of the visible devotion he commanded at the BBC, big organisations – and on the day we meet a government minister whom he won’t name – ask him how to get their staff on side. “Every head of an organisation looked at that and said, ‘Would my staff do that for me?’” The key is valuing your workers, listening to them, he says.

As for the film world, Dyke shares a footballing passion with Stewart Till, chairman of the UK Film Council and until recently chairman of Millwall FC; Dyke is chairman of Brentford. What else could win over doubters who believe him not “film” enough? “Watch this space,” he says. Does he like arthouse? He laughs. “I wander over to Richmond Filmhouse every so often. They have nice comfortable seats, whereas the Odeon in Richmond is hardly the most comfortable place to watch films.” Comfy seats and Carrie: the BFI should prepare itself for an unfamiliar dose of proud populism.

Movieum, MOMI and South Bank film centre

The Telegraph website ran this item on the Movieum of London today:

Back in the picture with The Movieum

Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 01/03/2008

As a new film museum opens, Sheila Johnston asks whether it will find an audience

For years, London has been without a film museum. Now it has one, the Movieum, which opened its doors at County Hall last week. But is it the collection that the capital needs?

The Movieum is the invention of Jonathan Sands, a buoyant impresario in the Barnum & Bailey tradition. Sands, 35, ran a prop-hire company for many years. It was, in his own words, a bit of a “rag and bone” operation, but it enabled him to amass a hoard of movie memorabilia.

This provides around 50 per cent of the Movieum exhibits; the rest was donated. He did not seek outside funding.

At the press view, County Hall did indeed look a lot like Steptoe’s junkyard, but by opening time it had smartened up greatly, while retaining a weird, slightly ramshackle quality. In the central atrium, a Dalek jockeys for position with the golden spacesuit from Sunshine, Judge Dredd’s motorbike and the oversized pillar box from The Borrowers.

Nearby, a Mini from The Italian Job, loaded with bullion, is parked near a Chaplin impersonator, a Star Wars installation and the original Rank gong (it is fibreglass and, sadly, does not go “BONG”).

Michael Keaton’s Batman outfit faces off against Joaquin Phoenix’s faux leather breastplate from Gladiator and Christopher Reeve’s Superman suit. The latter is, Sands says, his prized possession.

There are also visual displays and interactive elements, but for many visitors the focus will be these holy relics and fetish objects. The show’s charm lies in its sense of a personal passion; it makes no claim to being comprehensive.

The collection celebrates the British film industry exclusively and does not extend back much before the 1950s. But it is open – and Sands expects it will remain so, since he has the premises on a 25-year lease.

The popular Museum of the Moving Image on a nearby site closed in 1999 to a tremendous public outcry. Anthony Smith, who helped set up Momi while Director of the British Film Institute, is still angry about its demise.

“It is a folly for which generations of BFI governors may hang their heads in shame,” he said last week.

“The Movieum is a nice addition to London – and a larger reproach.” There is now talk of a BFI Film Centre, incorporating a museum. The institute’s chairman, Greg Dyke, says it will emphasise digital material rather than artifacts. But it will not be ready before 2013. The site and the funding are yet to be settled.

One might assume that Sands – who also produced last year’s Star Wars exhibition at County Hall – would be needing a rest. Not so. This week he was in Paris, planning a Movieum near the Eiffel Tower. In June the London gallery hosts a retrospective of items from the Stanley Kubrick estate and in the summer he is off to Tokyo to talk about a Japanese outpost.

He is certainly persuasive. Listening to him, you almost believe a man might fly.