EXCLUSIVE: The Weinstein Company is in talks with Laurence Fishburne and Idris Elba to direct and star, respectively, in their long-gestating adaptation of Paulo Coelho’s bestselling novel The Alchemist. No deals have closed yet, but this is a passion project for both Harvey Weinstein and Fishburne. TWC is hoping to get this in front of cameras in 2016.
Coelho’s book is something of a publishing sensation, having sold more than 65 million copies in 56 different languages. It reputedly holds the Guinness world record for most translated work by a living author. The story centers on a young Spaniard who embarks on a quest to find a hidden treasure within the Egyptian pyramids.
The Brazilian author first sold rights in 1994 to Warner Bros for $250,000. As the project languished, Coelho unsuccessfully tried to buy back the rights, at one point event having a $2 million offer rebuffed. Fishburne eventually acquired the feature rights with indie banner A-Mark Entertainment from Warner Bros. In 2008, at the Cannes Film Festival, Weinstein announced he would be personally producing the the project. It was believed, but not confirmed, that TWC had acquired film rights from Fishburne and A-Mark for just under $3 million in a deal brokered by Paradigm, who also reps Fishburne.
One of the issues behind the lengthy development of the project has always been just how much action should be included in the adaptation of Coelho’s largely spiritual, if epic, tale. Budgets on the project have varied over the years from $60 million to $100 million.
The project’s story and setting would seemingly be a natural fit for a Middle Eastern-based investor. Fishburne was believed to have held talks with members of Abu Dhabi’s royal family as well as the Japanese conglom the Kadokawa Group. At the time of the Cannes announcement, Weinstein also appeared to be courting money from the region. “The film will be a bridge to the Middle East. The book has been an overwhelming success there. It’s a part of the world we need to know more about and extend bridges to it.”
Certainly the filmmaking infrastructure today is infinitely superior to what it was back in 2008. Tom Cruise shot parts of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol in Dubai while Abu Dhabi execs scored two major coups by attracting both Furious 7 and Star Wars: The Force Awakens to shoot in the desert-set metropolis, aided in part by the 30% cash rebate on production spend.
The Weinstein Co. declined to comment when contacted by Deadline.
Elba is keeping himself busy in front of and behind the camera. The actor-singer-producer has Justin Lin’s Star Trek 3 in the pipelines. Mandela, My Dad & Me, a one-hour docu produced by Elba and his production banner Green Door Pictures, was recently acquired by A+E Networks. The film, directed by Daniel Vernon, chronicles the story behind the creation of Mi Mandela, an album of South African music recorded by Elba in tribute to Mandela and to his own late father. The actor-singer was inspired after having spent months working on Mandela biopic Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom. The documentary will air on History in Africa in 2015.
Elba is repped by The Artists Partnership and WME.