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"Making films is like having a passport to go anyplace you want," says Minghella, Oscar-winning director of The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and this season's Cold Mountain, adapted from Charles Frazier's bestseller and starring Renée Zellweger, Nicole Kidman, and Jude Law. "But when you're on location, you're so busy you rarely get to see much of anything at all." Still, Minghella, who was born on the Isle of Wight, has beheld (and re-created) some of the world's most beautiful places, including the Tunisian deserts, Venetian canals, and Romanian hilltops. Here the director tells us what inspires him, what he never travels without, and why there's no place like Rome.
I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT
My iPod. It's filled with Bach and probably every track Glenn Gould ever recorded. And about 300 tracks of American Civil War-era music, which I listened to during 12 months in Romania filming Cold Mountain. When I really want to tune everything out, I listen on my Bose noise-canceling headphones.
I CAN'T WRITE WITHOUT
• Pilot disposable fountain pens. I never trust myself with beautiful, expensive pens, so I carry boxes and boxes of these whenever I travel. Cold Mountain author Charles Frazier turned me on to them.
• Stationery and notebooks, because I like writing longhand, and I save everything. I used 12 school-exercise-type notebooks to draft the screenplay of Cold Mountain. But I also carry a PowerBook wherever I go.
MY DREAM CITY IS
Rome, Rome, Rome. I've filmed there twice and also lived there. There's no better city to get lost in. There are secrets around every corner: a great Italian sushi bar called La Rosetta on Piazza della Rotunda; Cecchino's, a restaurant on Via Monte; and the Prati neighborhood, where I used to keep an apartment. And, of course, there are the The Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, the Borghese Gardens—I always feel like I am following in the footsteps of Fellini and Visconti, two of my heroes.
I COULD EASILY SETTLE DOWN IN
Pienza, in Tuscany. It's this miniature Renaissance city with a perfect piazza. It also has great homemade pasta called pici, and pork at Trattoria Latte di Luna.
I ALWAYS STAY AT
• The Mercer in New York. I was there on 9-11 and an incredible bond formed between the guests and the staff.
• Four Seasons Beverly Hills. I don't think I've stayed in any hotel more often than I've stayed there. They have the best concierges in the world led by a great manager, William Mackey. Hotels in Britain could learn something from these guys—it doesn't hurt to smile.
I LOVE READING
Poetry—right now it's Anne Carson's The Beauty of the Husband, and The Singing by C.K. Williams, who is a friend of mine. Poetry gives me time away from my ridiculous schedule—and stress—in a way that other books do not. But I did recently enjoy A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali by Gil Courtemanche, about the 1994 massacre in Rwanda.
I'M FANATICAL ABOUT
The Portsmouth Football Club. I go online every morning to see how they're doing. And I am incredibly addicted to this electronic soccer game called Championship Manager, which satisfies the armchair coach in me.
WHEN AT HEATHROW
I hang out in the British Airways First-class lounge.
MY LATEST OBSESSION IS
Luggage. I never thought I would care about it, but I've been converted. I carry a black canvas Tumi coffin-sized suitcase, a wheeler carry-on, and this beautiful Ghurka brown-leather shoulder bag.
WHEN I'M ON SET, I HAVE TO HAVE
A piano and Mariage Frères green tea from Paris. While filming Cold Mountain in Romania, I lived for months on a daily diet of green tea and cashews. I also have this great Vietnamese doctor in London who makes his own tea.
I COULD LIVE WITHOUT
Filming in a desert or on a cold mountain ever again. Try erasing Jude Law's footsteps in the snow each time you want a new shot.