EXCLUSIVE: In a deal as remarkable as the $5 million that upstart Imperative Entertainment paid for the David Grann novel Killers Of The Flower Moon last March, PalmStar Media’s Kevin Frakes and Buddy Patrick have acquired rights to the Paulo Coelho classic novel The Alchemist from The Weinstein Company. The upfront payment for book rights and developed scripts is $5 million, plus there is another $1.5 million against potential back end for TWC. PalmStar confirmed the company fully controls all rights for that money, and is aiming for a mid-2017 start date on production with a 2018 release. It becomes another example of a producer-financier taking the kind of big swing that was once the domain of studios.
Now, Imperative’s Dan Friedkin and Bradley Thomas got a hot new Grann book in that auction back in March, and then hired Eric Roth adapt it. PalmStar has something different, becoming the owner of a dormant adaptation of a beloved novel that, Deadline reported, TWC put in turnaround last November after years trying to mount the movie. The most recent script is by John Fusco, and there has been a lingering attachment for Laurence Fishburne to direct (he is still attached in that capacity); Idris Elba at one time was attached to star. Creative and distribution details will unfold down the line. Producers and executive producers on the picture will include Kevin Frakes, Harvey Weinstein, Fishburne (through his Cinema Gypsy banner), Dylan Sellers, Buddy Patrick, David Glasser, Bob Weinstein and Helen Seglund.
Coelho’s book has sold around 65 million copies in 56 languages. It reputedly holds the Guinness world record for most translated work by a living author, which portends a potential global audience. 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 and then Fishburne acquired the rights and TWC came into the mix later.
This is a major step forward for PalmStar’s Frakes and Patrick, who have shown a willingness to commit financing for splashy properties. PalmStar paid $2 million for the Alan Loeb spec Collateral Beauty, which became the David Frankel-directed drama that stars Will Smith, Keira Knightley, Kate Winslet and Edward Norton, and will be released by New Line/Warner Bros on December 16. PalmStar was also a bridesmaid on the auctions for Killers Of The Flower Moon, as well as the two whopping Max Landis spec packages: the David Ayer-directed Bright with Will Smith and Joel Edgerton that Netflix committed $90 million to make, and Deeper, which MGM acquired for Bradley Cooper to star for White God helmer Kornel Mundruczo will direct.
Between The Alchemist and Collateral Beauty deals, PalmStar establishes itself as a disruptive player, especially if it finally gets the Coelho book in production. TWC, meanwhile, has created capital on a project that wasn’t moving, at a time when the company is readying for a killer holiday season. The Toronto fest premiere pic Lion — directed by Garth Davis and starring Dev Patel, Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman — emerged as a serious Oscar contender here, bowing Thanksgiving; the Stephen Gaghan-directed Matthew McConaughey-starrer Gold opens Christmas Day; and the John Lee Hancock-directed Michael Keaton-starrer The Founder is set for a January 20 release date after an Oscar-qualifying platform bow.
The deal was negotiated between Frakes and Glasser, with Jeanine Tang from TWC and Craig Emanuel from Loeb &Loeb. PalmStar is repped by both Emanuel from Loeb & Loeb as well as Jonathan Gardner from Cohen Gardner LLP. Paradigm reps Fishburne on the transaction.