Paulo Coelho's bestselling novel The Alchemist is to be adapted for the screen by the Weinstein Company, it has been announced.

Laurence Fishburne, star of The Matrix, is to direct, produce and act in the project, while an Oscar-winning screenwriter is in negotiations with the Weinsteins to adapt Coelho's novel - which has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide - for the cinema.

Fishburne said the film was a "special project" and said the book's path to the screen would be "handled with the proper care it deserves".

He added: "I am looking forward to directing it, acting in it, and collaborating with Harvey Weinstein to produce a beautiful film that will do justice to Paulo's enormously successful novel."

The 1988 book tells of Santiago, a Spanish shepherd boy who travels through Africa in search of a magical treasure and has a fateful encounter with the titular alchemist.

Locations in Europe and the Middle East, such as Jordan and Abu Dhabi, are currently being scouted for the project while a casting search will begin in Spain and Latin America shortly for the boy most suited to taking the role of Santiago.

Harvey Weinstein, co-president of the Weinstein Company, said he would personally co-produce the project as bringing Coelho's "spiritual and moving" work to the screen was a long-term ambition.

And Coelho said he was "very happy" that his book would be filmed in the manner he intended.

"I hope the spirit and simplicity of my work will be preserved. I am excited my friend Laurence Fishburne and Harvey Weinstein will be working together," he added.

19/05/2008 10:58:27