David Puttnam

The Right Honourable
The Lord Puttnam

Puttnam at the Orange British Academy Film Awards in London's Royal Opera House, February 2007
Born David Terence Puttnam
25 February 1941 (1941-02-25) (age 70)
Southgate, London, England
Occupation Film producer and Politician
Spouse Patricia Mary Jones (1961-)

David Terence Puttnam, Baron Puttnam, CBE, FRSA (born 25 February 1941) is a British film producer. He sits on the Labour benches in the House of Lords, although he is not principally a politician.


Early life

Puttnam was born in Southgate, London, England, the son of Marie Beatrix, a homemaker, and Leonard Arthur Puttnam, a photographer.[1] Educated at Minchenden Grammar School in London Puttnam had an early career in advertising (see Collett Dickenson Pearce) and as agent acting for the photographer David Bailey and Brian Duffy

Film career

He turned to film production in the late 1960s, working with Sanford Lieberson's production company Goodtimes Enterprises. His successes as a producer include Bugsy Malone, Midnight Express, The Duellists (Ridley Scott's feature film debut), Chariots of Fire (which won the Academy Award for Best Picture), Local Hero, Memphis Belle, Meeting Venus and The Killing Fields and The Mission with Roland Joffé (which won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1986) mostly in association with Goldcrest.

He was Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Columbia Pictures from 1986 to 1988. During his time at Columbia he was criticised for what some saw as a condescending attitude toward the Hollywood film industry, and for not sufficiently exploiting the studio's few box office hits. This strategic failure contributed to the sale of the studio to Sony.


He was appointed Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 1983, knighted in 1995, and created a life peer in 1997, as Baron Puttnam, of Queensgate, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. In 1998 Puttnam was named in a list of the biggest private financial donors to the Labour Party (UK).[2] In 2002 he chaired the joint scrutiny committee on the Communications Bill, which recommended an amendment to prevent ownership of British terrestrial TV stations by companies with a significant share of the newspaper market. This was widely interpreted as being aimed at stopping Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation from buying channel Five. When the government opposed the amendment, Puttnam brokered a compromise — the introduction of a "public interest" test to be applied by the new regulator Ofcom, but without explicit restrictions.

From 2004-2005 Puttnam chaired the Hansard Society Commission on the Communication of Parliamentary Democracy, the final report of which urged all political parties to commit to a renewal of parliamentary life in an attempt to reinvigorate representative democracy.[3][4] In 2007, he chaired the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Draft Climate Change Bill. Puttnam is currently a trustee of the think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research.

Lord Puttnam on 10 July 2006 at the University of Sunderland School of Computing and Technology Awards Ceremony.

Association with education

He was for 10 years chairman of the National Film and Television School and taught people such as Nick Park. He founded Skillset, which trains young people to become members of the film and television industries. In 2002 he was elected UK president of Unicef.

Lord Puttnam was the first chancellor of the University of Sunderland from 1997 until 13 July 2007. He was appointed an Honorary Doctor of Education during the School of Education and Lifelong Learning's Academic Awards Ceremonies in his final week as Chancellor and was granted the Freedom of the City of Sunderland upon his retirement. In 1998 he founded the National Teaching Awards and became its first chairman. He was the founding chairman of the General Teaching Council 2000-2002. He was appointed as chancellor of the Open University in 2006.[5] He was also the Chairman of NESTA (The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) from 1998 until 2003. He is also chairman of Futurelab and on the board of directors of learning technologies company Promethean.


In 1982 he received the BAFTA Michael Balcon Award for his outstanding contribution to the British Film Industry. In February 2006, he was awarded the BAFTA Fellowship. He made the occasion notable by delivering a particularly moving homage to his late father who had died before he received his Oscar for Chariots of Fire.. He also congratulated contemporary filmmakers (specifically George Clooney) for making films with integrity: the lack of such films being produced had been the reason for his retirement from the film industry in the late 1990s.[6]

In May 2006 he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. On 12 July 2007, he was given the freedom of the City of Sunderland.[7] In 2008, David received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science from Nottingham Trent University in recognition of his extraordinary contribution to the cultural landscape of the UK, in both economic and creative terms, and for his notable support for the Nottingham City-based GameCity Festival.

He suffers from ME, severely debilitating him on occasions.

In 2009 in partnership with Sir Michael Barber, Lord Puttnam released We Are the People an education documentary featuring high-profile figures discussing their own experiences of education.[8]

Other Interests

Puttnam co-authored (with Neal Watson) Of Movies and Money, published in Jan 2000 by Vintage Books.

When he became the chairman of Profero, a London based digital marketing agency In April 2007, he explained the move saying: "My experience over the past forty-odd (some very odd) years has encompassed marketing, entertainment and social issues, a fascinating mix that is integral to the daily lives of consumers and citizens. A business that can combine and magnify these dynamics can only create incredible value for their clients and, as a by-product, themselves. To me Profero is in just such a position, and it’s now my job to help them realise their potential."[9]

He is patron of SCHOOLS NorthEast, an organisation set up in 2007 to promote education and forge relationships between schools in the North East of England.

Puttnam, who had produced Ian Charleson's star-making film Chariots of Fire, contributed a chapter to the 1990 book, For Ian Charleson: A Tribute.[10]

He has also preached at Durham Cathedral at the feast of the Cathedral's commemoration of its founders and benefactors.[11]


Puttnam is patron of the British branch of Child In Need India (CINI UK).[12]

Further reading

  • Yule, Andrew (1989). Fast Fade: David Puttnam, Columbia Pictures, and the Battle For Hollywood. Delacorte Press. ISBN 0-440-50177-6. 


External links

Academic offices
Preceded by
First holder
Chancellor of the University of Sunderland
Succeeded by
Steve Cram
Preceded by
Baroness Boothroyd
Chancellor of the Open University
Succeeded by

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  • David Putnam — For the British film producer and politician, see David Puttnam. 1LT David Endicott Putnam (December 10, 1898–September 12, 1918) was an American flying Ace of World War I. A descendant of General Israel Putnam[1] he was born at Jamaica Plains,… …   Wikipedia

  • Puttnam, David —    b. 1941    Film producer    Formerly in advertising, commercial producer Puttnam’s first project was the Alan Parker scripted Melody (1970). Puttnam gradually assembled an ex advertising film making coterie, producing Ridley Scott’s The… …   Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture

  • Puttnam, David —  (1941–) British film producer; now formally Lord Puttnam …   Bryson’s dictionary for writers and editors

  • Puttnam — /ˈpʌtnəm/ (say putnuhm) noun David Terence, born 1941, British film producer; films include Chariots of Fire (1981) and The Killing Fields (1984) …   Australian English dictionary

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