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Meet ''Black Hawk Down'''s screenwriter

Novice Ken Nolan prevailed over a parade of boldface script scribes

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Josh Hartnett
Josh Hartnett: Gary Lewis/Camera Press/Retna

If you thought directing a military opus like ”Black Hawk Down” was tough, try writing the screenplay. When Ken Nolan was asked to adapt Mark Bowden’s best-selling book about the 1993 massacre in Somalia for producer Jerry Bruckheimer, ”My agent said, ‘You’re going to be rewritten. These guys are serial replacers, so don’t get married to the material,”’ remembers Nolan, whose work had never been produced. ”I wrote 10 drafts for Jerry, then [director] Ridley Scott came on, and I wrote three more…and then I was replaced.” Oscar winner Stephen Gaghan (”Traffic”) took a pass at it, as did Steven Zaillian, who won an Oscar for ”Schindler’s List.” Says Nolan, ”It was kind of sad, like, ‘Thanks, little kid. Get out of the way; here come the real people.”’

Then, last February, Nolan got a call from Bruckheimer, telling him to come to the Morocco set and provide on-site rewrites. Nolan’s work has earned him not only billing as sole screenwriter of the Josh Hartnett drama but also a killer of a pay increase: For two and a half years on ”Black Hawk,” his price was $325,000; now, he’s commanding nearly double that for a few months of doctoring. ”People are taking me seriously all of a sudden,” says Nolan. ”CNN called and said, ‘We want Nolan to be on with General so-and-so; and I said, ‘No way! I don’t know anything about politics.”’ Given how he navigated through ”Black Hawk,” we beg to differ.

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