‘The Alchemist’ Is Finally Becoming a Film, But Here’s Why We Shouldn’t Forget About the Book


I highly recommend that everyone reads The Alchemist more than once. The 1988 novel by Paulo Coelho is not only one of the world’s best-selling books, but explores the themes of fulfilment and belonging that inevitably spring up (several times) over the course of one’s life.

The story, as you likely already know, follows a young shepherd boy named Santiago as he embarks on a journey in order to find treasure he believes to be buried at the Egyptian pyramids. Along the way, he encounters people who both help and hinder him while discovering that the treasure he sought was where he began his journey all along.

The last time I read The Alchemist was at the beginning of 2020 — before we knew just how odd and trying the proceeding 12 months would be. I had been living in New York for over a decade, but was visiting Sydney for the Christmas break and found myself feeling inextricably drawn back to the city I was born in. It was a strange sensation, given I was always sure I would grow old and die in Brooklyn, but I suppose not completely surprising given that my mum still lives here and (as much as she will scold me for saying it) is not getting any younger.

I am not saying that re-reading The Alchemist helped me make my mind up about where I wanted to live, but it certainly made me feel more confident that I could make the difficult and huge decisions before me with a little more confidence. As I finished the book for the seventh time, whilst lying on the sand of my favourite Sydney beach, I felt a weird sense of calm that everything was going to pan out exactly as it should — and that is coming from the least spiritual person on this planet.

It seems almost bizarre that this gorgeous, and life-affirming, book is only just now being adapted into a film. Especially considering that The Matrix‘s Laurence Fishburne has wanted to do just that since acquiring the rights to the novel 16 years ago from Warner Bros.

However, production on the film is due to begin in Morrocco in September with Sebastian de Souza as Santiago. The British actor has previously appeared in The Borgias, Medici: Masters of Florence and The Great. 

De Souza will be joined by Tom Hollander and Shohreh Aghdashloo, as well as Jordi Molla, Youssef Kerkour and Ashraf Barhom.

Will Smith is producing the film with Jon Mone for Westbrook Studios; with the film’s cast and aiming to be authentic to the story’s setting in Spain and North Africa, as well as the diversity of global and diverse production.

While I am, of course, delighted that The Alchemist is being brought to the big screen and excited by the prospect of new audiences finding comfort or inspiration in the simple, yet powerful story, I truly hope that the existence of a film version will not deter people from still reading the book.

Yes, it is absolutely wonderful to think of another film representing a diverse cross-section of actors and bringing a beloved story to the masses, but there is also something deeply satisfying to think of people from every walk of life, and at any stage of it, flipping through the pages of Coehlo’s masterpiece — perhaps on a stunning Sydney beach — and suddenly knowing exactly where they are meant to be.

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