The Weinstein Company has been attempting to adapt Paolo Coelho’s bestselling The Alchemist for the big screen for years, and the studio finally appears to be making some progress, with Idris Elba (pictured) and Laurence Fishburne in talks to star and direct, respectively, in the pic.
Coelho’s book has sold more than 65 million copies in 56 different languages, holding the world record for the most translated book by a living author. It focuses on a young Andalusian shepherd boy who dreams of finding a lavish treasure in the Egyptian pyramids and embarks on a journey to literally follow his dreams.
Warner Bros. had the first crack at adapting the book back in 1994, but it languished in development hell for years, until Fishburne acquired the rights through A-Mark Entertainment a few years back. In 2008, Harvey Weinstein said he would be producing the project personally, at which point it was suspected that TWC had acquired the rights.
Given that The Alchemist is a bestselling novel, it seems odd that Hollywood hasn’t yet gotten its claws into the material, but one of the main problems that adaptations have faced has always been the budget. Some have ballparked around $60 million on the project, which has an epic scale, while others have pushed for upwards of $100 million, making it a blockbuster venture on the level of Ang Lee’s similarly spiritual Life of Pi.
It’s expected that the project will clock in higher rather than lower, because TWC seems to have a great deal of faith in the project’s potential to connect with audiences all around the world, in a film market that’s increasingly placing emphasis on pics with global appeal.
What seems odd about Fishburne’s involvement as a director is that he’s only helmed one project in his lengthy career – 2000’s largely unremarkable Once in the Life. The acclaimed actor’s demonstrated love of The Alchemist is clearly what’s driving TWC to hand over the reins here. Still, although Fishburne isn’t as much of a proven talent behind the camera as he is in front of it, teaming the Oscar winner with Elba, a stunningly talented actor just now coming into the mainstream, is an undeniably thrilling prospect.
Here’s the official synopsis for Coelho’s novel:
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho continues to change the lives of its readers forever. With more than two million copies sold around the world, The Alchemist has established itself as a modern classic, universally admired.
Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece tells the magical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as any ever found.
The story of the treasures Santiago finds along the way teaches us, as only a few stories can, about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, above all, following our dreams.