Speaking yesterday at Screen International's Modernising European Cinema Summit in Berlin, Anthony Minghella expressed his dismay at the continuing criticism he faces in the US for shooting Berlinale opening film Cold Mountain in Romania.
Even though his decision to film the Civil War drama in Europe rather than North Carolina saved an estimated $30m, Minghella believes that the Hollywood studios are "starting to feel less generous" toward productions which are perceived to be taking investment and employment away from the US. In certain quarters, he revealed, Cold Mountain is even being called "an American film that has been stolen by Europe."
"I certainly feel that we caught the cold wind of aggravation as a result of Cold Mountain," Minghella said. "Hollywood has traditionally vacuumed up talent from around the world, welcomed it and been very gracious to it'it has been a great quality of that industry, but it also has to work in reverse."
Minghella said that his ambition to make "serious movies of scale" is becoming ever harder to realise. He cited MGM's decision to pull out of Cold Mountain three weeks before shooting (leaving Miramax to pick up the slack) as being symptomatic of the studios' reluctance to back complex, big budget projects. "A movie that costs money because it's going to be ambitious in terms of how it is going to look and who's going to work in it and on it, but which doesn't sacrifice content or editorial control'those films are really dinosaurs."
The English director warned that the European industry is now likely to suffer as a result of the weak dollar. "This trend of the American film or elements of the American film being passed out to Europe will stop immediately - not because of some aesthetic consideration but because the currency fluctuations have such an impact."
After his "five year Odyssey" making Cold Mountain, Minghella now plans to write and direct a lower-budgeted, contemporary film. He is also pursuing his interests with Mirage, the company in which he is a co-partner with Sydney Pollack. One of the key goals of Mirage is to offer filmmakers the same freedoms that Pollack and Minghella themselves enjoy. "We're in a place where we have final cut as a company and as individuals so it's a way of our putting our arms round other filmmakers and saying 'we can protect your film.'"