Minghella in sweet deal

CANNES — Oscar-winning director Anthony Minghella has signed to direct a feature version of his own radio play “Cigarettes and Chocolate” for Miramax Films.

The piece, originally written and performed for BBC Radio in 1988, is about a woman who decides to give up speaking, causing her family and friends to blame themselves for her silence and make extraordinary confessions to her.

It’s set during Lent in the buildup to a performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, Minghella’s favorite piece of music, at London’s Royal Festival Hall on Good Friday.

The project looks likely to be one of Minghella’s next three pics, although what the other two will be remains to be resolved. Minghella is now heavily in demand after the Oscar success of “The English Patient,” which was made by Miramax.

He is currently contracted to deliver another draft of “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel, for Paramount through Mirage.

He is also in the midst of deciding whether to direct Cormac McCarthy’s bleak Western novel “All the Pretty Horses” for Mike Nichols at Columbia.

English patience

Minghella told Daily Variety he is trying not to rush himself creatively.

The one certainty seems to be that he will direct “Cigarettes and Chocolate” for Miramax at some point, having signed a firm deal. But he still has to do a considerable amount of work to open out his radio play into a movie.

“It was a tremendous creative experience to work with the Miramax team throughout the production and launch of ‘The English Patient,’ ” Minghella said in a statement. “I am delighted we are solidifying our relationship and working together again.”

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