Last reel for Puttnam as he begins mission to educate

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Within days of his elevation to the House of Lords, David Puttnam has completed his transformation from movie mogul to Government mover and shaker by signalling his intention to stop making films altogether.

Lord Puttnam, the producer of Chariots of Fire, Memphis Belle and The Mission, has said that he wants to concentrate on helping to re-shape the industry so as to provide better training and education for future British film makers.

The producer was recently appointed to head a new Government task force for the creative industries, which is aimed at getting the most from young British talent.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Lord Puttnam said: "I'm very keen to move my centre of gravity away from the movie business to what I call the education business. The next big industry that will be affected by the cinema industry is education. In areas like this we're good at creating but bad at exploiting."

Lord Puttnam has been gradually distancing himself from Hollywood since he returned to Britain, disillusioned by his experience at the helm of Columbia Pictures.

He recently produced a book, The Undeclared War, in which he called on Britain and Europe to break the America's strangle-hold of film-making.

In another recent interview, he indicated his annoyance at the lack of altruism among his film industry peers. He said: "Everyone always asks, `What's in it for me?' and this really depresses me."

His own reluctance to cash in on his success has meant that he has had to live a more humble lifestyle than other movie moguls. Last September he was obliged to sell Kingsmead Mill, his house in Wiltshire, for a reported pounds 3m to James Dyson, the vacuum cleaner tycoon.

But Lord Puttnam, who has north London working-class roots, has become a fervent Labour supporter.

Although he was active in the SDP in the 1980s, he forged links with Labour during an eight-year campaign for film industry tax breaks.

After Neil Kinnock's general election defeat in 1992, the film-maker was quick to offer a job to the Labour leader's adviser John Newbiggin.

Since the election he has twice visited Downing Street to be feted by Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, and was made a Labour peer earlier this month.

Mr Kinnock's daughter, Rachel, is production co-ordinator of Puttnam's current movie, World of Moss, which will be one of four he will make before he finally takes his bow.

The other films are the musical Serenade, A Very Long Engagement, which is set in the Great War, and Fadeout about a Czech actress during the war.

After which, Lord Puttnam will be able to devote his time to creating the right conditions for the emergence of a string of new Puttnams. "It's a young man's game," he said in the interview. "And unless you're prepared to believe in all the bullshit there's a certain way in which you can't do it."

From Bugsy to Killing Fields

Lord Puttnam, 56, began his career in advertising and photography before making his name in 1976 as the producer of Bugsy Malone, a gangster spoof with the parts played by children.

The following year he produced The Duellists, which won a Jury prize at Cannes, and paved the way for Midnight Express, which won two Academy awards in 1978 for its depiction of prison hell and Chariots of Fire, which won four academy awards in 1981 and was based on the race for Olympic gold in 1924.

After Local Hero, the story of an American executive in a Scottish village, and Cal, a Northern Ireland love story, his career reached new pinnacles with The Killing Fields (1985), which depicted the horrors of war in Cambodia, and The Mission (1986), a story of 18th century Jesuit priests in South America. Recent works have included Memphis Belle (1990) and Le Confessional (1995).

Comments