This has been in development limbo for at least 7 years now (I remember first writing about it on the old S&A site in 2009; very little news about it since then).
I’m referring to the big-screen adaptation for bestselling Brazilian scribe Paulo Coelho’s "The Alchemist."
To get you caught up… Laurence Fisburne previously long-owned rights to adapt the bestselling novel for the screen, and, until around 2007/2008, had apparently been unable to raise the funds needed for production! Fish initially had funding for the film, with money reportedly coming from Abu Dhabi business men, and a Japanese media company called the Kadokawa Group. However, the deal went sour, thanks to disagreements over the script, which increased the film’s budget to over $100 million – at least that was the figure revealed back then! Thus, the financiers told Fish, "no thanks!"
Soon thereafter, Harvey Weinstein became interested in the project, and reportedly purchased the rights to the book from Fishburne for a tidy $3 million sum, and hired an Oscar-winning screenwriter to pen an adapted screenplay, tossing the version Fishburne had already written.
it was later announced by Weinstein during the Cannes Film Festival in 2008, that Fishburne was still attached to the project as the director, co-producer, and the star of the film, as the eponymous alchemist.
Fast-forward to 2009, when it was reported that the adaptation was expected to start filming by the end of that year. But, likely without Fishburne! Coelho was quoted as saying that various directors were being considered for "The Alchemist," which was then touted as a $60 million project. "Harvey told me the screenplay will be finished in three months and the film should start shooting a few months later," said Coelho. "He mentioned various names to me as the possible director."
Apparently, Fishburne’s joining the cast of "CSI" back then, replacing exiting William Petersen as the show’s lead, may have had something to do with it. Possibly a time commitment problem?
Who knows… but, from the looks of it, it seemed that Fish was off the project – one that he appeared to be really attached to, and wanted to do for quite a long time. And to see it fall out his hands completely, was unfortunate. However, I’m guessing the $3 million Harvey reportedly paid him and his production company, for the rights to the book, made it a little easier a pill to swallow… or maybe not!
Skip ahead several years later to earlier this year when it was reported that, not only was Fishburne still eyeing the project, but that he and Idris Elba were in talks with Weinstein to finally bring the adaptation of the novel to a movie theater near you, with Fishburne directing and Elba starring.
That was in June. Fast-forward to today, with news that comes courtesy of Deadline, that The Weinstein Company has effectively backed out of the project (they put it in turnaround), with rights to the novel apparently now back in Fishburne’s hands. No word on whether Elba is still attached however; although given how busy he’s become, it’s anyone’s guess.
Will Fishburne finally get this project into production? I’m sure he’d like to, given how long it’s taken for it to happen. But some other studio would likely have to pick it up from turnaround, because, given the proposed budget of between $60 and $100 million, it’s not a project that will be funded independently (unless some wealthy individual investors step up).
The news comes a week or so after The Weinstein company laid off some of its employees, and cut its annual film output in half, with plans to focus more on TV, which has apparently been more financially rewarding. So this decision to back away from "The Alchemist" makes sense for them.
Coelho’s masterpiece, an allegorical tale, tells the mystical story of Santiago, an young Andalusian shepherd in his journey to Egypt, after having a recurring dream of finding treasure there. His quest leads him to riches far different – and far more satisfying – than he ever imagined.
First published in 1988, originally written in Portuguese by its Brazilian-born author, it has been translated into dozens of languages. It sold more than 65 million copies in 56 different languages, becoming one of the best-selling books in history and setting the Guinness World Record for most translated book by a living author.
Given that it’s a passion project for Fishburne, I’m sure it’ll eventually get done, one way or another. No details yet on how exactly it will be adapted…