Now that Marvel Studios has given us official confirmation of Guardian Of The Galaxy as their second film for 2014, there seems to be a some head-scratching as to who the film’s writer Nicole Perlman is. Previously, Marvel has employed established writers and directors for their films, everyone having several produced credits on their resume. If the likes of Jon Favreau, Kenneth Branagh, Joss Whedon, Mark Fergus, Ashley Miller and others don’t all share the same name recognition factor among fans, they at least have a verifiable track record that could be looked up on IMDb.
But Perlman is different. She is a virtual unknown with no produced screenplays to her credit. So how did she land the plum assignment of the film that could possibly help set up the sequel to Marvel’s biggest hit, The Avengers?
Although she has not had any of her screenplays make it in front of cameras, Perlman made a splash with her first script Challenger. She wrote the story of eminent physicist Richard Feynman’s involvement with the investigation into the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster while while still attending NYU for film and dramatic writing. The screenplay landed on the inaugural Black List in 2005 and was picked up by Media 8 the following spring. The production company had set Philip Kaufman to direct and David Strathairn to star as Fenyman, but the project never got off the ground. A few months later, Variety placed her on a list of up-and-coming screenwriters to look out for. I recently had a chance to read the script and liked it very much, finding it in a similar vein to All The President’s Men.
Although it remained unmade, Challenger did get her an assignment with Andrew Lauren Productions working on CaptureThe Flag, reportedly about privately-funded space travel. She also landed work on adapting Marina Palmer’s memoirs Kiss And Tango for producer Denise Di Novi as a possible vehicle for Sandra Bullock. Neither projects have come to fruition, though Kiss And Tango is reportedly still being developed with another writer attached.
More recently, she was a part of Disney’s screenwriting program, which is where presumably she was able to pitch a take on Guardians that the Marvel brass liked. (Other graduates from the two decades long program include Maria Jacquemetton (Mad Men), Jane Espenson (Buffy, Battlestar Galactica), Saladin K. Patterson (Psych), George Mastras (Breaking Bad) and Veena Sud (The Killing).
Now it is not unusual for a screenwriter to work on a number of projects that don’t get a greenlight. Studios always commission far more scripts than they would ever be able to make and the ones that get stalled out in development do so for a variety of reasons that do not always include their overall quality. It does seem odd that Perlman seemed to drop off the radar for a few years before popping back up in relation to the Guardians Of The Galaxy film, but she could have been working on a few other things that didn’t get the same press that her initial handful of jobs did.
I think that it is interesting that of the small number of films that we know she worked on, two of them are concerned with the space program. Was the research she did for them be something that helped inform her work on Guardians? I can’t wait to find out.