FishbowlLA Exclusive: Thanks to a hand Sheik deal, “Alchemist” brewing with Laurence Fishburne

200410Taylor-Wood-LF.jpgFishbowlLA has learned that a financing package is fast coming together for Laurence Fishburne’sThe Alchemist,” thanks to Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates.

The film is based on Paulo Coelho‘s twenty-million copy bestseller of the same name, which Fishburne adapted for the screen, and will co-star in. Story follows a young Spanish shepherd boy seeking his destiny in the Middle East.

“Lord of the Rings” producer Barrie Osborne is producing the picture, which will cost roughly $95 to $100 million – a staggering figure for an independent film.

The project had been set up at Warner Bros. Pictures, last March, but with the price tag so hefty, the studio gave the project back to Osborne and Fishburne – who’d worked together on the “Matrix” movies – to see if they could raise the money themselves. amcl122.jpg

Fishbowl is first to report that, amazingly enough, they’ve been successful in raising so large a sum: A first round of foreign territory pre-sales at the American Film Market raised $70 million. Stars like Sean Connery, Jeremy Irons and Jean Reno began to express interest in starring, but the budget was still thirty million short, so Fishburne trekked around the globe, most recently stopping in Dubai two weeks ago to pay a visit to Sheikh Tahnoon bin Muhammad Al Nahyan. There, the Sheikh made a multi-million financial commitment to the movie.

Japan’s Kadakawa is also negotiating to contribute an eight-figure sum to the budget, according to an insider, and would release the film in Asia.

With the novel already translated into 56 languages, “The Alchemist” will start shooting this fall, for a Thanksgiving ’07 worldwide release.