Oscar-winning director Anthony Minghella, a towering figure in contemporary British cinema, has died at the age of 54, the BBC reported today, citing his publicist, Judy Daish. The cause of death was not immediately disclosed. Minghella won an Oscar as best director for the 1996 film The English Patient. He received two screenwriter nominations, the first for The English Patient, and then, three years later, for The Talented Mr. Ripley. In addition, he served as executive producer of last year's Oscar-nominated film Michael Clayton. Minghella had just completed serving two three-year terms as chairman of the British Film Institute, stepping down early this month. In that position he had been a tireless advocate for the British film industry, telling the BBC in 2003: "We're not getting enough movies made here. Our studios aren't busy enough. We don't have enough studios." Informed of Minghella's death fellow British director David Putnam, now Lord Putnam, remarked, "This is a shattering blow from someone who was a major figure in an important industry and had a lot to go on and contribute." His death comes just days ahead of Monday's telecast in the U.K. of his two-hour film, The Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, about an African woman who heads a detective agency in Botswana. He had been promoting the TV movie as recently as this week, telling one interviewer that it represented "a real labor of love, but lovely labor."