‘Pathfinder’ now on track

'Twister' vet De Bont set to helm pic for Par

NEW YORK — “Pathfinder,” long considered one of Paramount’s best development projects, has likely forged a path to the fast track now that Jan De Bont is set to direct and executive produce and John Patrick Shanley has been brought on to rewrite George Nolfi’s script. Mace Neufeld is producing.

Bought as a spec script in 1985, “Pathfinder” has attracted the attention of some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. The protagonist is one of a group of Pathfinders, or military operatives with special skills. He is captured and spends years in prison, side by side with an cellmate who, like him, endures torture and all kinds of abuse. The pair become very close. Only when the protagonsist escapes does he realize that his cellmate was a plant, himself a master enemy operative who has walked away with a list of Pathfinders given up by the protagonist.The Pathfinder then hunts down his nemesis, who has killed numerous U.S. operatives and has surfaced in the U.S., where he’s messing with nuclear weapons. The film once had Christian Duguay ready to direct, with Arnold Schwarzenegger serious about teaming with Sean Connery. Michael Douglas and Mel Gibson also considered the project before moving on to other things.

Shanley, a specialist in character, will flesh out the relationship between the Pathfinder and his enemy. Under DeBont’s supervision, Shanley is expected to turn in a script within two months, at which time DeBont will look to cast the two leads.

DeBont is working with producer Neufeld for the second time, though the first as a director. Before he became the A-list helmer of “Speed” and “Twister,” De Bont was director of photography for “The Hunt for Red October,” which Neufeld produced. De Bont is repped by Gersh Agency’s David Gersh, and Shanley is repped by CAA’s David O’Connor.

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