Max Minghella never expected to be an actor.
The son of “The English Patient” director Anthony Minghella and dancer-choreographer Carolyn Jane Choa, Minghella says, “I one-thousand-percent anticipated working in movies, but acting was probably the last thing I thought I’d end up doing.” That all changed when he was 16 and caught a production of Kenneth Lonergan’s “This Is Our Youth” and, he says, “sort of got obsessed with the idea of saying those words.”
That obsession has resulted in a very busy dance card. This month, Minghella is co-starring in “Spiral” — a new chapter in the “Saw” franchise — and appearing in the fourth season of the Emmy-winning Hulu series “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
Minghella is also busy behind the camera: His feature film debut as writer-director, 2018’s “Teen Spirit,” was well-received, and he’s attached to direct the HBO Max movie “Shell,” which he calls “a completely bonkers script” by Jack Stanley. He’s also writing several things for his production company, Blank Tape, which he co-runs with Jamie Bell. Up next for the company is “Fred & Ginger,” a biopic that will star Bell as Fred Astaire and Margaret Qualley as Ginger Rogers.
Growing up on his father’s sets and making his own independent film has given Minghella a front-row seat to the gravitational forces that are reshaping the business. In some ways, however, he remains loyal to certain totems of the past. During the Zoom conversation, he angles his camera to spotlight a shelf in his home full of VHS tapes and notes: “I’m a person of a different era.” With so many platforms and outlets — and with a worldwide pandemic shutting down theaters for the past year — he says he misses the ceremony around movie releases. “It’s very difficult for me to sort of wrap my head around because I’m used to it being an event, a cultural event, and I think movies now, for better or worse, have become so much less active in daily conversation. But I’m optimistic, maybe naively, that, you know, film culture will return in a meaningful way.”
His new film could help spark that return to theaters. “Spiral: From the Book of Saw” opens May 14 and serves as a reboot of sorts to the long-running franchise. It stars Minghella as the new partner to Chris Rock’s seasoned detective, following the pair as they investigate a copycat killer who was inspired by Jigsaw. Minghella met Rock at a party shortly before being cast. “He said to me, ‘You know, we’re going to work together on something,’” recalls Minghella. “And I was convinced he thought I was someone else.” A couple weeks later, he received the “Spiral” script and was thrilled. He had recently been watching “Beverly Hills Cop” and “Lethal Weapon” and longing for something in the buddy-cop genre. “There was something so serendipitous about it,” he says. “I’ve never experienced that before in my career where something I was so craving was available to me at the same time.”
Director Darren Lynn Bousman says casting Minghella was an easy call: “Max is such an amazing talent. He was so passionate about the material and ensuring that everything felt real and organic.”
You can also catch Minghella on the small screen as “The Handmaid’s Tale” rolls out its fourth season. “None of us take it for granted,” he says of the series. “We’re all extremely conscious of how unique this experience is. There’s such a sense of gratitude that’s been there from the beginning. We know this is special while it’s happening.”