George Nolfi

H'wood writer carries unique pedigree

George Nolfi doesn’t exactly hail from the kind of pedigree one associates with today’s screenwriters. He didn’t attend film school, or hold court behind the counter of his neighborhood video store. His mother, a clinical psychologist, and his father, who worked in government and ran his own company, hardly encouraged young George to junk out on films and TV.

Nolfi arrived in Hollywood — where he now lives as one of the industry’s more sought-after screenwriters — by way of Princeton and Oxford. As an Ivy Leaguer, he studied public affairs with a heavy dose of philosophy. In England he was working toward a Ph.D. in philosophy when the writing bug struck.

“I didn’t realize then that the market for scripts is based on what other scripts are out there, not what’s in the theaters,” Nolfi says. “When you’re looking at movies that are coming out, you’re three or four years behind the curve.”

Not that Nolfi’s writing smacks of trend-heavy derivation. Don Granger, the executive at Paramount in charge of Nolfi’s calling card, an original spy thriller titled “The Pathfinder,” describes the script as “one of the best specs that has been on the open market in the past five years. The reason is that George recognized very early on that the future of the action genre is not in set pieces but in the characters themselves.” Granger calls Nolfi’s protagonist “a unique human hero and not a one-dimensional action figure.”

Nolfi describes a pathfinder as “a CIA paramilitary officer whose job it is to sneak into countries where we don’t have embassies and collect intelligence to target high-priority tar-gets for air strikes.” The scribe, who once pondered a career “in the military or intelligence arena,” says such people do exist in real life.

But beyond the intimations of Tom Clancy, one surmises it was Nolfi’s limning of the hero’s nuances that has attracted attention from the likes of Mel Gibson and Nicolas Cage. “I start from character, always,” says the Boston-born 31-year-old, who netted a cool $550,000 against $750,000 for his first feature effort.

“Pathfinder,” to which Jan de Bont was at one time attached before scheduling conflicts caused his departure, is being produced by Mace Neufeld (“The Hunt for Red October,” “Patriot Games”) and is due to go before the cameras early next year. In the meantime, Nolfi has his sci-fi script “Micronauts” set up at Disney for Jerry Bruckheimer, and also wrote “Pitbulls” for Larry Gordon. He is repped at ICM by David Wirtschafter, Ben Smith and Kristin Jones.

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