The Alchemist is one of those movie projects that I’ve been writing about for more than a decade and has never happened.
Paulo Coelho‘s bestselling book has passed through so many hands over the years that it’s hard to keep track of all the various iterations, all of which have one thing in common — they never came to fruition.
However, a new dawn brings a new day, as Legendary Entertainment has acquired the film, TV, and ancillary rights to The Alchemist, and a feature film is in the works from writer Jack Thorne.
Legendary will lead development and produce the film alongside Kevin Frakes‘ PalmStar and Sony’s TriStar Pictures, the latter of which will release the film under its distribution agreement with Legendary.
Originally published in Portuguese in 1988, The Alchemist has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide and is currently the world’s most translated work by a living author. The acclaimed story takes place during the Spanish Inquisition and follows a young shepherd named Santiago who embarks on a quest to find an extravagant treasure in the great pyramids of Egypt after having a recurring dream about it. Along his journey, he falls in love and learns to listen to his heart, trust his own instincts, strive for self-improvement, and follow his dreams while discovering man’s place in the world.
Thorne is an interesting choice for this high-minded material, as he has tackled weighty literary material before, having adapted Philip Pullman‘s His Dark Materials for HBO. His hiring bodes well for the project, as he’s the kind of writer whose projects actually get made. Perhaps Legendary has this in mind as its next Dune. We’ll see.
Just to recap the chain of custody on this one, Warner Bros. acquired the rights to Coelho’s book in 2003 — so this marks 20 years of development — with the idea of developing it as a star vehicle for Laurence Fishburne at the height of the Matrix craze. Though the studio cooled on the project, Fishburne stuck with it and acquired the film rights himself before partnering with the Weinstein Co. in 2008.
Fishburne planned to direct the film and had his eye on Idris Elba to star at one point, but TWC eventually put the project into turnaround and it was acquired in 2016 by PalmStar in partnership with TriStar. The film rights and all of the work that had been put into developing all the various screenplays over the years cost $5 million.
Fishburne was still attached to direct at that point, though, by July 2021, he was ready to concede the director’s chair to someone else. That someone wound up being Frakes himself, as the longtime producer co-wrote the script and planned to make his feature directorial debut with the project, which would produced by Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith‘s Westbrook Studios as well as Gil Netter. That iteration of the project ultimately fell apart, which brings us to today’s news.
Though Thorne may be best known for penning the stage show Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the award-winning writer also scripted the popular Enola Holmes films for Netflix as well as The Aeronauts for Amazon Studios. Additionally, Thorne co-wrote Sally El Hosaini‘s Netflix movie The Swimmers with the director. He’s represented by UTA and Casarotto Ramsay & Associates.