Lord Puttnam


Suggested Films:


The Mission (1986)
The Killing Fields (1984)
Local Hero (1983)
Chariots of Fire (1981)
Midnight Express (1978)

David Puttnam was born in London on the 25th February 1941 and was educated in at Minchenden Grammar School in London. Born of a working class family in England, he was the son of an Army Film Unit cameraman and began his working life as a photographers agent.

He soon moved to movie production and made a few little-known films before he, and director Alan Parker, scored big with ‘Bugsy Malone’ (1976) – fully breaking in Jodie Foster as a child actress. He and Parker then went on to make the Academy Award winning Midnight Express (1978). Amidst all the acclaim for that gripping true story of an American placed in a Turkish prison after drugs are found on him in customs, Puttnam publicly apologized for any exploitative affects the film had on audiences, thus earning him the reputation as a ‘responsible renegade’.

But it was to be a film about a Christian sprinter that would truly shoot Puttnam into the spotlight. ‘Chariots of Fire’ (1981) was to be a massive success on both sides of the Atlantic and was to give Puttnam the chance to deliver those immortal lines at the Oscars…
A succession of quality material ensued beginning with ‘Local Hero’ (1983) , ‘The Killing Fields’ (1984) , ‘Defence of the Realm’ (1985) and ‘The Mission’ (1986). Whilst I do not plan to speak in detail about these films a short treatise may be useful. Currently ‘The Killing Fields’ is in the film section and ‘The Mission’ will added shortly.

‘Local Hero’ was written and directed by the multi talented Mr Bill Forsyth - a modern day fairytale, of riches beyond belief, being brought to a small fictional Scottish town called Furness. The Texan Knox oil and gas company decide that they need a new site for a new refinery, and the small town of Furness is just perfect. So they use `middle man`, McIntyre (Peter Riegert) to fly to bonnie Scotland and try to convince the natives that they should sell out for a worthy fee. ‘The Mission’ was a cinematic feast courtesy of Roland Joffe, Jeremy Irons and Robert DeNiro. It was another critical and financial success for Puttnam.

Shortly after this film he became chief of production for Columbia Pictures where he promised to focus on cost-effective productions with an emphasis on artistry and depth. Puttnam's reputation was for modestly budgeted productions which achieved critical acclaim and moderate box-office receipts, while dealing with socially and politically sensitive subjects. With an impressive network to support his ambitions in Hollywood, Puttnam created enormous expectations. He promised to keep costs down with leaner, lower-budgeted fare that would also serve an international rather than simply American audience. He resigned a year later, having failed to turn its fortunes around or stiffen the moral fibre of its movies, and he relocated back to England. Goldcrest, with which his company had been associated, had collapsed.

In 1990 he produced ‘Memphis Belle’ which met with reasonable success in a number of spheres. In 1999 he produced ‘My Life So Far, directed by Chariots colleague, Hugh Hudson, but to much more muted effect.

Awarded a CBE in 1982, he became Lord Puttnam in 1997. Currently he has become an incessant lobbyist for government support of the British film industry – who would fancy such a job!!














david puttnam, british film, british director, british movie