Weinstein to produce "Alchemist" film adaptation

CANNES, France (Reuters) - The Weinstein Company will produce Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist” in a big-budget adaptation directed by Hollywood star Laurence Fishburne, Harvey Weinstein announced in Cannes on Sunday.

He said the movie would cost “60 million dollars-plus” to make and would start shooting in late spring or early summer.

The movie mogul will be hoping to build on his success with other literary adaptations including “The English Patient” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley”.

“It’s a book that I’ve been truly inspired by,” Weinstein told reporters at the Cannes film festival.

“I will be personally producing. I rarely produce movies, as you know. We cause movies to be produced.”

He said that “The Alchemist”, first published 20 years ago, combined elements that should make it appeal to a broad audience -- spirituality, a journey, youth, love and action.

Coelho’s novel, which has sold an estimated 30 million copies worldwide, tells the story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who travels to Africa in search of his dream and meets the alchemist along the way.

Fishburne, who in a video message said he felt like “the luckiest man on the planet”, will play the alchemist as well as direct and help develop the script.

Weinstein said he had read earlier screenplays based on the novel over the years, and “hated every one of them”.

There was no news on the rest of the cast, although Weinstein indicated he wanted to give a part to Spanish star Penelope Cruz, who has been in Cannes starring in Woody Allen’s popular “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”.

The producer believed the project could act as “a bridge to the Middle East”, and said he was determined the film would be true to the original story.

“My loyalty is not to Laurence, my loyalty is not to me, my loyalty is not to anyone other than Paulo Coelho,” he said.

Coelho added in a statement issued by The Weinstein Company: “I am very happy that my book will be filmed in the way I intended it to be and I hope the spirit and simplicity of my work will be preserved.”

The Weinstein Company holds global motion picture and television rights to the film, and Weinstein said he would use his time in Cannes to talk to international distributors.

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