Cannes ‘08: Laurence Fishburne to direct/star in ‘The Alchemist’


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Harvey Weinstein threw a last-minute press conference in Cannes on Sunday morning to announce that Laurence Fishburne would direct and star in a $60-million big-screen adaptation of Paul Coelho’s international bestselling novel ‘The Alchemist.’

Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of the Weinstein Co., will oversee production on ‘The Alchemist,’ expected to begin production this spring in various locations in Europe as well as the Middle East, including Jordan, Abu Dhabi and northern Africa.


The story follows an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure, and as he does, he picks up the essential wisdom of reading omens and following one’s dreams.

Not one to miss an opportunity to shine before the global press corps, already assembled in Cannes for the debut of ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ on Sunday, Weinstein invited journalists to Majestic Beach, where he played a taped announcement from Fishburne.

‘I feel like the luckiest man on the planet,’ Fishburne said. ‘It’s a dream come true for me,’ to be able to direct and star and bring Coelho’s book to the screen. Fishburne noted that ‘the great Harvey Weinstein’ and the Weinstein Co. would produce.

Weinstein touted his prior successes with literary adaptations including ‘The English Patient,’ ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’ and ‘Cold Mountain.’ Weinstein observed that with ‘pre-sold commodities,’ like the bestseller ‘The Alchemist,’ it’s more of a ‘safe bet to make that into a movie than something you conjure from pure particles.’

Weinstein vowed to surround Fishburne with Weinstein’s own production pros to ensure the success of the actor’s first outing as a director and star of a $60 million studio produced film based on an international bestseller.

‘I always find that actors make brilliant directors,’ Weinstein said, ‘so I want to surround him with my team.’

Update: This post did not previously mention ‘Once in the Life,’ an indie Fishburne directed eight years ago that briefly played in 15 U.S. theaters and took in almost $55,000.

Asked whether it would be difficult for him to abandon day-to-day management of the Weinstein Co. to serve as producer on ‘The Alchemist,’ Weinstein said that when his staff found out he planned to personally produce, they were ‘walking around with smiles all day.’

Harvey Weinstein on Hillary Clinton vs. Barack Obama

After being asked by Hollywood Elsewhere’s Jeffrey Wells about his very public support of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s campaign, Weinstein ended the press conference fondly reminiscing about Bill Clinton’s time in the White House.

Weinstein said that he loyally served as ‘chief projectionist during the Clinton administration,’ both on Pennsylvania Avenue and on Martha’s Vineyard.

Weinstein joked that Obama’s campaign had offered him an ‘executive in charge of movies’ position if he promised to switch camps.

-- Sheigh Crabtree