At weddings, Super Bowl parties, late-night backyard hangs — Max Minghella was always off in the corner with his camera.
“I can’t tell if he used it as a crutch, like, ‘I don’t want to interact with people,’ or if he found it more interesting to view social events through a lens,” says actor Jamie Bell, who calls Minghella his closest friend. “But a few days later, you’d get a link, and he’d turn what seemed to be an arbitrary hangout with the usual suspects into something quite staggering.”
It was something Minghella, now 33, acknowledges he did “pretty fanatically” in his 20s — making musically driven home videos that he describes as both sentimental and voyeuristic. He was making his living as an actor, but creating his “weird little videos” somehow felt more natural to him. “With acting, it was like, ‘I can’t believe I’m getting away with doing this,’ and with directing, I felt, ‘Oh, I should be doing this. I’m in the right place.’ Which doesn’t mean I’m good at it.”
Audiences can judge that for themselves with Minghella’s directorial debut, ‘Teen Spirit’, now playing in the UAE. The film, which Minghella also wrote, stars Elle Fanning as a withdrawn teenager who sees a path to escape her life on the remote Isle of Wight when she scores a coveted spot on a television singing competition. Fanning performs her own vocals in the movie, which was acquired at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival upon its premiere in September.
With the release of ‘Teen Spirit’, Minghella will no doubt face the eye rolls of those who view him as just another actor who thinks he can cut it behind the camera. But he’ll also face inevitable comparisons to his father, the late Oscar-winning director Anthony Minghella.
Max says he isn’t “conscious” of feeling the weight of his dad’s shadow, “Though that doesn’t mean it’s not there. I’ve never done therapy. I should do therapy. I think I need to.
“He’s like genuinely one of my favourite filmmakers, and I don’t know if there’s a bias thing or not. I just really connect to a lot of his material. I also don’t know how to replicate that. I think we inherently have very different voices and sensibilities. I don’t think anybody is going to watch [‘Teen Spirit’] and say ‘this feels like this was made by the guy who made ‘The English Patient’.’”
Minghella is bouncing between LA and Toronto, where he’ll wrap the third season of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ in May. He says working on the series has been the happiest professional experience of his life — he likes the routine, and says there’s no “bad egg” on set.
But he hopes he’s able to keep making movies — films he’d like to see “bridge the gap” between commercial blockbusters and indies.
“I get very excited to go and see big movies like ‘Transformers,’ and then I don’t love them,” he says. “I’m hoping to make movies that don’t look like they’re going to be total spinach or work to get through, but are made with some pathos.”