EXCLUSIVE: Sony-based TriStar has stepped up to make a worldwide rights deal to turn the Paulo Coelho novel The Alchemist into a feature film. The book has been guided creatively for years by Cinema Gypsy’s Laurence Fishburne, who will take it the rest of the way in partnership with fellow producer, PalmStar Media’s Kevin Frakes, and TriStar president Hannah Minghella. “I’m thrilled to be moving this project forward after all these years,” Fishburne said.
All this happened right on the heels of Frakes and Buddy Patrick spending $6.5 million during the Toronto Film Festival to acquire the novel from The Weinstein Company, which meant paying back TWC the $5 million it invested in book rights and script drafts before TWC put the book in turnaround last fall, and another $1.5 million in producing fees against potential back end for Bob and Harvey Weinstein, who remain in producing capacities. For a commitment by an independent producer/financier, The Alchemist deal rivaled the $5 million that upstart Imperative Entertainment paid for the David Grann novel Killers Of The Flower Moon last March, which now has Eric Roth adapting.
PalmStar expected at that time that it would make a WW rights deal with a major studio, aiming for a mid-2017 start date on production with a 2018 release. That will be done through TriStar, where Minghella will steer it with Nicole Brown. PalmStar will be a co-financier. “Like most fans of the book, I remember where I was when I first read The Alchemist,” Minghella said. “It is a story I have returned to over the years and it has long been a dream to bring this insightful, magical and cinematic adventure to the screen. It’s easy to see why the book has connected with more than 65 million people around the world, and we’re committed to making a film that authentically captures its power and expands its reach.”
PalmStar has in a short term emerged as a serious player for pricey material. This follows its $2 million deal to acquire the Allan Loeb script Collateral Beauty, which turned into the awards season film that stars Will Smith, with New Line releasing December 16. Turns out that some of that risk-taking spirit was gleaned from Coelho’s book.
“The Alchemist changed my life when I first read it almost 20 years ago,” Frakes said. “It helped give me the courage to take chances and the confidence to chase my dream. In my first conversation with Hanna about The Alchemist, I realized she understood the impact this novel has and I knew I wanted to make this film with TriStar. I could not be more excited that we are starting the journey together.”
As Sony continues to emphasize product that will play globally, Coelho’s book is a prestige project that could fall right in that wheelhouse. It has sold around 65 million copies in 56 languages, and 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 most recent script is by John Fusco, and Idris Elba at one time was attached to star. Dylan Sellers, Buddy Patrick, David Glasser, Bob Weinstein and Helen Sugland are exec producers.
TriStar soon opens the Ang Lee-directed Billy Lynn, which closes the New York Film Festival, as well as such projects as the Edgar Wright-directed Baby Driver and the Trainspotting sequel that Danny Boyle is making with the original cast. Brian Burkin negotiated for TriStar and Craig Emanuel did the deal for PalmStar. Fishburne is repped by Paradigm and Del Shaw Moonves.