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Weinstein to produce ‘Alchemist’

Fishburne still attached to direct, star, produce

Harvey Weinstein is working his magic to bring “The Alchemist” to the bigscreen more than a decade after author Paolo Coelho sold the film rights to his bestselling novel.

Production on the $60 million project is set to start late spring with Weinstein personally producing for the Weinstein Co., which will also handle worldwide sales.

Project had initially been set at Warner Bros. after Coelho sold the rights 14 years ago for $250,000. As the project languished, Coelho unsuccessfully tried to buy back the rights, at one point event having a $2 million offer rebuffed.

Laurence Fishburne eventually acquired the feature rights with indie banner A-Mark Entertainment from Warner Bros.

Fishburne is still attached to direct, star and produce although Weinstein will be bringing in a new writer, reportedly an Oscar-winning scribe, to deliver a fresh draft of the script.

“The Lord of the Rings” producer Barrie Osborne has, however, ankled the project. He had been due to co-produce with Fishburne and Helen Sugland while the project had been set at A-Mark.

Weinstein is believed to have acquired the film rights from Fishburne and A-Mark for just under $3 million. Weinstein Co. refused to comment on the size of the deal, which was brokered by Paradigm Motion Picture Finance Group, who also rep Fishburne.

Move is something of a coup for Weinstein, who was in an ebullient mood at the Cannes confab announcing the deal.

“This is a great turnaround situation,” Weinstein said. “The film will be a bridge to the Middle East. The book has been an overwhelming success there. It’s a part of the world we need to know more about and extend bridges to it.”

Story centers on a young Spaniard who embarks on a quest to find a hidden treasure within the Egyptian pyramids. Since its debut in 1988, the novel has sold more than 40 million copies in over 150 countries.

“I hope this is finally going to be made now after 14 years of waiting,” Coelho told Variety. “We finally have something that is very concrete. All I want is to see a good movie.”

Project will lense in multiple countries with the Weinstein Co. looking at potential locations in Spain, Jordan, Morocco, Egypt and Abu Dhabi.

Fishburne had initially set up the project with coin from Abu Dhabi execs and Japanese conglom the Kadokawa Group.

The sticking point at the time appears to have been disagreements over the script, which had upped the action ante with battle scenes in addition to the spiritual meditations of the original book. Budget at the time had been $100 million.

“While staying true to the spirit, we were making a mainstream film and thought we had an innovative, cool approach,” Osborne told Variety.

Pic will now be 100% financed by the Weinstein Co.

Abu Dhabi sources told Variety they would still be open to having the project shoot in the emirate although no specific negotiations had been set between the two parties.