'Witch,' 'Alchemist' taking shape

Bestselling Brazilian scribe Paulo Coelho is brewing pics with a witch and an alchemist on the Croisette.

Coelho came to Cannes to promote Web-generated pic “The Experimental Witch” and to talk with Harvey Weinstein about the long-gestating adaptation of his tome “The Alchemist,” which is now expected to start shooting by year’s end.

Coelho said various helmers are being considered for the “Alchemist,” which has been in development at the Weinstein Co. since Cannes 2008, 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.”

Last year in Cannes, Weinstein announced that Laurence Fishburne would be helming “The Alchemist.” But Fishburne has since joined the cast of “CSI,” replacing William Petersen as the show’s lead.

“If there is one person in the world who can make a movie out of the ‘Alchemist’ it’s Harvey Weinstein,” Coelho gushed. “We had a very long conversation about how it should be, how it should not be. At the end of the day it’s his movie. It’s my book, but it’s his movie.”

Coelho is certainly putting his personal stamp on how his latest novel, “The Witch of Portobello,” gets cinematic treatment in his “The Experimental Witch” project which he claims reps a unique cinematic feat.

In “Witch,” the titular contempo witch, who is named Athena and has prophetic powers, is described by 15 narrators.

Last June, Coelho invited filmmakers from around the world to submit their interpretations of each of the book’s narratives to his MySpace page.

Out of some 6,000 entries, 15 have been selected and the final pic whittled down from more than five hours to less than two.

“Now I’d love to see a worldwide release in a major platform like YouTube, or MySpace, or Facebook after it world premieres at the Rome Film Festival in October,” he said.

“The industry is complaining a lot about new models, but they are thinking within a box. I’m going to try a new economical model,” he said.

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