David Puttnam

Active - 1971 - 2017  |   Born - Feb 25, 1941   |   Genres - Drama

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Biography by Sandra Brennan

Producer David Puttnam valued artistry and the moral accountability of film characters over box-office returns. Born of a working-class family in England, he got his start as an advertising photographer in London during the 1960s. He then moved to movie production and made a few little-known films before he and director Alan Parker scored big with Bugsy Malone (1976). 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." During his career, he had an eye for talented new directors and facilitated the debuts or breakthroughs of filmmakers such as Ridley Scott, Roland Joffe, and Bill Forsyth. He became chief of production for Columbia Pictures in 1986. There he promised to focus on cost-effective productions with an emphasis on artistry and also promised to bring in international filmmakers to diversify the type of films Columbia put out. Many of the films he produced there dealt with sensitive areas of society and politics. Puttnam avoided exploitation films and became aggressively dogmatic in his criticism of films such as Rambo because he felt the film's message morally irresponsible. He also showed little respect for the intelligence and moral fortitude of his audiences; eventually his ethical arrogance began to grate on those he worked with, and Puttnam was persuaded to leave Columbia -- with a $3 million golden parachute to soften the blow. His productions there were never released. Finally Puttnam went back to England where he continued to make films.

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