Peter Whitehead (filmmaker)

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Peter Lorrimer Whitehead (8 January 1937, in Liverpool – 10 June 2019, in London) was an English writer and filmmaker who documented the counterculture in London and New York in the late 1960s. He is also known for his work as a director of promotional film clips (precursors to the modern music video) including a version of "Interstellar Overdrive" for Pink Floyd and several clips for The Rolling Stones. Paul Cronin’s two-part documentary In the Beginning Was the Image: Conversations With Peter Whitehead (2006) consists of new and archival interviews with Whitehead plus extracts from his work.

The Falconer[edit]

In 1997, Iain Sinclair collaborated with Chris Petit, sculptor Steve Dilworth and others to make The Falconer, a 56-minute semi-fictional "documentary" film about Whitehead, set in London and the Outer Hebrides. This film was described by Sinclair in 2003 as "Initially he (Whitehead) loved the film...his determination to tell his story was such that he kept bombarding us with amazing fragments and endless images, because he's one of the few people whose entire life was documented in images".[1] The film also features Stewart Home, Kathy Acker and Howard Marks.


Whitehead's books include Nora (1990), Hartshead Revisited: A Fiction? (1993) and Bronte Gate (1999). His novels include The Risen (1994) and Terrorism Considered as One of the Fine Arts (2007).

In 1997 Whitehead published Baby Doll (Velvet, 1997), drawing on photographs he took in 1972 during production of his feature-length film Daddy (made with artist Niki de Saint Phalle). Many of the photographs are of model/actress/heiress Mia Martin (known for her appearances in the Benny Hill shows and Hammer films such as The Satanic Rites of Dracula). The writer Iain Sinclair said of these works "[Daddy is a] nightmarish film...shot in some chateau in France...unspeakable...I couldn't even bring myself to look at the material in the book".[1]


Music videos[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Peter was born in Liverpool, England. Peter was from a working class background and was awarded a scholarship to attend a private school in Harrogate. He was top of his class in almost all subjects, he was the captain of the Rugby team and was the church organist. This led him to receive another scholarship to attend university in Cambridge, England. He began studying Science and physics and excelled in both of these subjects. He soon changed to study art and film at SLADE Art School. While at Cambridge he met Diane Cottrill and had two daughters, Tamsin and Sian Whitehead.

After leaving Cambridge he moved into his film making career, during which time he met Actress Coral Atkins and had a son, Harry Whitehead.

In 1969, he decided he could not do film making any more and escaped to the desert in Morocco at which time his career as a falconer began.

In 1980, he met Dido Goldsmith, the daughter of Teddy Goldsmith and niece of Sir James Goldsmith. They were married six weeks after meeting. The couple had four daughters, Robin, Leila, Charlene and Rosetta Whitehead.

Whitehead's daughter, film maker and photographer Robin Whitehead, died from a heroin overdose on 24 January 2010 at the age of 27.[2] Her family alleged that Robin's involvement with the musician Pete Doherty and his circle of friends contributed to her death.[3]

Whitehead died on 10 June 2019, aged 82.[4]


  1. ^ a b "The Verbals", Kevin Jackson in Conversation with Iain Sinclair, Worple Press, 2003
  2. ^ Alleyne, Richard (September 7, 2011). "Overdose victim Robyn Whitehead knew she was in danger hanging out with Pete Doherty, inquest hears". The Telegraph. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  3. ^ Alderson, Andrew (January 30, 2010). "Goldsmith death: Robin Whitehead was 'sucked into the mad world of Pete Doherty'". The Telegraph. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  4. ^ Sweeting, Adam (June 13, 2019). "Peter Whitehead obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved July 30, 2019.

External links[edit]