David Puttnam

David Terence Puttnam, Baron Puttnam, CBE, HonFRSA, HonFRPS, MRIA (born 25 February 1941) is a British film producer and educator.[1] His productions include Chariots of Fire, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. He sits on the Labour benches in the House of Lords, although he is not principally a politician.

The Lord Puttnam

Lord Puttnam's official parliamentary photo
Chancellor of the Open University
In office
3 October 2007  12 March 2014
Preceded byThe Baroness Boothroyd
Succeeded byThe Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho
Chancellor of the University of Sunderland
In office
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded bySteve Cram
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
Assumed office
27 October 1997
Life Peerage
Personal details
David Terence Puttnam

(1941-02-25) 25 February 1941
Southgate, London, England
Political partyLabour
Patricia Mary Jones
(m. 1961)
OccupationFilm producer and educator

Early life

Puttnam was born in Southgate, London, England, the son of Marie Beatrix, a homemaker of Jewish origin,[2] and Leonard Arthur Puttnam, a photographer.[3] Educated at Minchenden Grammar School in London, Puttnam had an early career in advertising, including five formative years at Collett Dickenson Pearce, and as agent acting for the photographers David Bailey and Brian Duffy.

Film career

Sandy Lieberson

He turned to film production in the late 1960s, working with Sanford Lieberson's production company Goodtimes Enterprises.

The first feature he produced was Melody (1971) based on a script by Alan Parker, which was a minor hit.

He and Lieberson produced the documentaries Peacemaking 1919 (1971), Glastonbury Fayre (1972), and Bringing It All Back Home (1972).

Puttnam and Lieberson's second film, The Pied Piper (1972), directed by Jacques Demy was not a success, but That'll Be the Day (1973) with David Essex was a hit.

They produced The Final Programme (1973), a science fiction film, and made some more documentaries, Double Headed Eagle: Hitler's Rise to Power 1918-1933 (1973), and Swastika (1974).

Puttnam and Lieberson executive produced the Ken Russell biopic Mahler (1974), and did a sequel to That'll Be The Day, Stardust (1974), directed by Michael Apted.

There were more documentaries: Radio Wonderful (1974), Brother Can You Spare a Dime (1975), James Dean: The First American Teenager (1975) and The Memory of Justice (1976).

A second film with Russell, Lisztomania (1975), was a box office disaster and led to the end of the Puttnam-Lieberson partnership.

Puttnam had a box office success with Bugsy Malone (1976), a musical he executive produced, written and directed by Alan Parker and produced by Alan Marshall. It was the last film Puttnam would make under the Goodtimes Banner. He set up a new company, Enigma Films.[4]

Enigma Films

Puttnam produced Ridley Scott's debut as director, The Duellists (1977).

Midnight Express (1978) which he produced with Marshall, and was directed by Parker from a script by Oliver Stone, was a notable box office success.

Puttnam made his first film in America, Foxes (1980), the directorial debut of Adrian Lyne. It was a box office flop.

Puttnam's next film was his most successful yet. Chariots of Fire (1981), the first feature directed by Hugh Hudson, became a massive hit and won the Academy Award for Best Picture. It was produced in association with Goldcrest Pictures.

Puttnam set up a TV company, Enigma TV, and made a series of TV movies in association with Goldcrest which carry Puttnam's name as executive producer. Six were made as a series called "First Love" for the fledgling Channel Four: P'tang, Yang, Kipperbang (1982), directed by Apted; Experience Preferred... But Not Essential (1982); Secrets (1983); Those Glory Glory Days (1983); Sharma and Beyond (1983); and Arthur's Hallowed Ground (1984). Other films produced for television were Forever Young (1983); Red Monarch (1983); and Winter Flight (1984).

Puttnam continued to produce features. He had another success with Local Hero (1983), written and directed by Bill Forsyth. He also did the acclaimed Cal (1984), directed by Pat O'Connor and The Killing Fields (1984), directed by Roland Joffe.

He continued to executive produce TV movies like The Frog Prince (1985), Mr. Love (1985), Defense of the Realm (1986), and Knights & Emeralds (1986). He produced The Mission (1986) directed by Joffe from a script by Robert Bolt which won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1986).

Columbia Pictures

Puttnam was chairman and CEO of Columbia Pictures from June 1986 until September 1987.[5]

Post Columbia Producing Work

Puttnam returned to producing individual films with Memphis Belle (1990), Meeting Venus (1991), A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia (1992), Being Human (1994), War of the Buttons (1994), The Confessional (1994), and My Life So Far (1995).

He executive produced The Josephine Baker Story (1991), Without Warning: The James Brady Story (1992), and The Burning Season (1994).

He is currently overseeing pre-production of Ben Stewart’s account of the Arctic 30 incident, Don’t Trust, Don’t Fear, Don’t Beg.   He is the President of the Film Distributors’ Association; Chair of the TSL Advisory Board[6]; Chair of Nord Anglia International School[7], Dublin; Life President, National Film & Television School[8], a UNICEF Ambassador[9], and Adjunct Professor of Film Studies and Digital Humanities at University College Cork[10]. He is the chair of Atticus Education[11], an online education company based in Ireland. Atticus delivers interactive seminars on film and a variety of other subjects to educational institutions around the world.


In 1983, Puttnam was appointed as a Commander of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.[12] In 1995 Puttnam was appointed as a Knight Bachelor.[13] In 1997, Puttnam was created as a life peer[14] and was granted Letters Patent to become Baron Puttnam, of Queensgate in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.[15] In 1998, Puttnam was named in a list of financial donors to the British Labour Party.[16] 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 to 2005, Puttnam chaired the Hansard Society Commission on 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.[17][18] In 2007, he chaired the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Draft Climate Change Bill.

From 2012 to 2017, he has was the Prime Ministerial Trade Envoy to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar (Burma).[19]

From 2012 to 2017, Puttnam, who lives in Skibbereen, County Cork, was named Ireland’s Digital Champion by Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte, TD.[20]

In August 2014, Puttnam was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September's referendum on that issue.[21]

In June 2019, Lord Puttnam was appointed chair of the special House of Lords Democracy and Digital Technologies Committee, set up to investigate the impact of digital technologies on democracy[22].

Association with education

Puttnam was for 10 years chairman of the National Film and Television School whose alumni included people such as Nick Park, and in 2017, he succeeded Lord Richard Attenborough as Life President. He founded Skillset, which trains young people to become members of the film and television industries. From 2002-2009 he was UK president of UNICEF and remains an ambassador.[23]

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.[24] 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 2006-2017.[25] He was also the Chairman of NESTA (The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) from 1998 until 2003. He was also on the board of directors of learning technologies company Promethean.[26]

Lord Puttnam is the patron of Schools NorthEast, an organisation set up in 2007 to represent all schools in the North East of England. He is also a patron of the Shakespeare Schools Festival (now Shakespeare Schools Foundation), a charity that enables school children across the UK to perform Shakespeare in professional theatres.

From May 2014 -2018, Puttnam was Chair of the Academic Board for Pearson College,[27] part of Pearson PLC, the first FTSE 100 company to offer degrees in the UK.

In March 2015 he was made a freeman at the Metropolitan Borough of Gateshead in recognition of his service as chairman at the Sage Gateshead.

In January 2017, Puttnam officially launched London College of Communication's Screen School. Based at its Elephant and Castle site, the Screen School covers courses in film, television, games, animation, sound arts and design and live events.[28]

Lord Puttnam is a member of the Commonwealth of Learning's Board of Governors.[29]


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.[30]

Lord Puttnam is the recipient of over 50 honorary degrees and fellowships from the UK and overseas.

He received an Honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in 2001,[31] and from Trinity College, Dublin in 2016.

He was awarded The Royal Photographic Society's President's Medal and Honorary Fellowship (HonFRPS) in recognition of a sustained, significant contribution to the art of photography in 2003.[32]

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.[33] 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.[34] He was elected to the Royal Irish Academy in 2017.

He suffers from ME, debilitating him on occasions.[35]

In 2009, in partnership with Sir Michael Barber, Puttnam released We Are the People We've been Waiting For an education documentary featuring high-profile figures discussing their own experiences of education.[36]

All in all, his films have won 10 Oscars, 25 BAFTAs and the Palme d'Or at Cannes.[37]

Coat of arms of David Puttnam
A harp standing on a closed book fesswise Proper bound Gules.
Or within an orle of roses a gateway composed of a central arch between two lesse arches and surmounted by a segmental pediment Gules.
Dexter, a curlew Proper gorged with a plain collar Argent charged with square billets Sable; sinister, a stork Proper gorged with a plain collar Argent charged with square billets sable.
Servio Ut Vivam [38]

Other interests

Puttnam was deputy Chairman of Channel 4 Television from 2006-2012. He is president of the Film Distributors' Association (FDA) and chair of the TSL Advisory Board.

Puttnam co-authored (with Neil Watson) Movies and Money, published in January 2000 by Vintage Books.

When Puttnam 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."[39]

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.[40]

On Sunday, 19 August 2007, Puttnam gave the oration at the annual Michael Collins commemoration in Béal na Bláth, County Cork.[41]

He has also preached at Durham Cathedral at the feast of the Cathedral's commemoration of its founders and benefactors.[42]


Puttnam is patron of the Irish education charity Camara Education[43] and CFS/ME charity Action for ME.[44]


Selected filmography as producer

Some films made or bought while head of Columbia (1986–1988)

Puttnam greenlit and "picked up" a number of films while head of the studio, none of which had been released by the time he left the position. They included:[45]

Further reading

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


  1. "Lord David Puttnam: The Lessons of Leveson". Sunderland University. Archived from the original on 7 March 2013. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
  2. "Lord David Puttnam reveals the secrets of the trade". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  3. Film Reference: David Puttnam Biography Retrieved 6 March 2013
  4. Duedil company information: Enigma Productions Limited
  5. Aljean Harmetz (2 February 1989). "In Re: Columbia Pictures And Puttnam's Orphans". New York Times. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
  6. https://www.launchingfilms.com/about-us
  7. https://www.nordangliaeducation.com/schools/dublin/international/article/2017/10/17/lord-david-puttnam-to-chair-school-advisory-board
  8. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/david-puttnam-named-life-president-uks-national-film-tv-school-1019531
  9. https://www.unicef.org.uk/celebrity-supporters/david-puttnam/
  10. https://www.ucc.ie/en/news/archive/2014andbeyond/2013/puttnam-delivers-film-studies-lecture-.html
  11. http://www.davidputtnam.com/masterclass-seminars
  12. "No. 49212". The London Gazette (7th supplement). 30 December 1982. p. 9.
  13. "No. 53893". The London Gazette (2nd supplement). 30 December 1994. p. 2.
  14. "No. 54851". The London Gazette. 1 August 1997. p. 8910.
  15. "No. 54934". The London Gazette. 30 October 1997. p. 12205.
  16. "'Luvvies' for Labour". BBC News. 30 August 1998. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  17. White, Michael (24 May 2005). "Puttnam urges parliament to modernise". The Guardian. London.
  18. House of Commons Library – Standard Note – The Puttnam (Hansard Society) Commission: Members Only? Parliament in the Public Eye Archived 25 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  19. "David Cameron: We must push in 'global trade race'". BBC News. 12 November 2012. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  20. Kennedy, John (17 December 2012). "Oscar-winning producer Lord David Puttnam named Ireland's Digital Champion". siliconrepublic.com. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  21. "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories". The Guardian. London. 7 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  22. https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?ibxr=0#inbox/FMfcgxwChchSPNGTtKJPtxGjcdJDVXGX
  23. "Lord David Puttnam: UNICEF UK ambassador". unicef.org.uk. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  24. "David Puttnam-Policy Advisory Council". IPPR. Archived from the original on 12 April 2013. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
  25. "Lord David Puttnam". Open University. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
  26. "Lord Puttnam, Promethean from 2006-2015, Senior Independent Director". PrometheanWorld.com. Archived from the original on 9 February 2015.
  27. "Chair of the Academic Board". Pearson College. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
  28. "Film producer Lord Puttnam launches LCC Screen School with a message for creatives in Brexit and Trump era – London College of Communication News". blogs.arts.ac.uk.
  29. https://www.col.org/about/governance/current-members-cols-board-governors
  30. "Brokeback emerges as Bafta winner". BBC News. 19 February 2006. Retrieved 8 October 2006.
  31. "Heriot-Watt University". www1.hw.ac.uk. Archived from the original on 13 April 2016. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  32. Royal Photographic Society's Centenary Award Accessed 13 August 2012
  33. "Freedom of city for film producer". BBC News. 12 July 2007. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  34. "Lord David Puttnam - Honorary graduates - Your Alumni Association - Alumni - Nottingham Trent University". ntualumni.org.uk. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  35. "Puttnam tells of 16 years with ME". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  36. ""Archived copy". Archived from the original on 20 November 2009. Retrieved 27 November 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)"
  37. "2012–Lord David Puttnam of Queensgate CBE, FRSA". Cardiff University. Archived from the original on 15 June 2013. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  38. Debrett's Peerage. 2000.
  39. "Lord Puttnam becomes chairman of Profero". MAD. 16 April 2007. Archived from the original on 6 January 2009. Retrieved 13 October 2008.
  40. Ian McKellen, Alan Bates, Hugh Hudson, et al. For Ian Charleson: A Tribute. London: Constable and Company, 1990. pp. 7–11.
  41. "Michael Collins was a peace icon, says Puttnam". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 25 August 2014.
  42. Durham Cathedral website
  43. "Lord Puttnam announced as Patron of Camara Education : Camara". camara.org. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  44. "Introduction". Action for ME.
  45. Alexander Walker, Icons in the Fire: The Rise and Fall of Practically Everyone in the British Film Industry 1984–2000, Orion Books, 2005 p60-62
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
The Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho
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