"My job's the same as it's always been," says British producer David Puttnam, nearly two months after his "Chariots of Fire" upset all the homegrown favorites to win this year's Academy Award for best picture. But that doesn't mean that the victory hasn't had any effect on his fortunes, admits Puttnam, who's currently holed up on location in Scotland, where his next film is shooting. "Before the awards, we were shooting this film with very sketchy resources," he says from the Scottish hotel currently serving as his home base. "We just didn't have the money we needed to finish it. We're still making it on a small budget, but at least now we've got all the money we need.
"I've often moaned and groaned about it in the past, but I'm used to working on a shoestring," says the man whose previous films include "Midnight Express," "The Duellists" and "Performance." "Now, finally, I don't have to try to shoot a film while I'm also frantically running around attempting to raise money. For me, that's a comparative luxury."
The film that has become the beneficiary of Puttnam's newfound solvency is "The Local Hero," the second movie to be directed by Bill Forsyth (whose debut outing, "Gregory's Girl," won acclaim in England and has just opened in this country). "It's about big oil coming to Scotland," says Puttnam. "It's sort of a Capraesque comedy, with overtones of 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.' Big oil, in the person of Burt Lancaster, comes to Scotland, and the movie deals with the culture clash that results. It should be really nice."
"By the way," adds the effusive Puttnam, "I had to leave the States the morning after the Academy Awards, so I never really got to see the reaction to our win. Tell me: What did most Americans think about 'Chariots' winning?"
Well, there really wasn't a single reaction--but given the predictability of the awards lately, it was, first of all, a big surprise . . .
"A surprise to me as much as anybody, believe me," cuts in Puttnam. "And as far as I'm concerned that's our biggest accomplishment: I think we've opened up the possibilities of what films can be made, what films can be successful and what films can be expected to win awards."