The $100 million adaptation ofPaolo Coehlo's TheAlchemist is set for a 2006 shoot across the Middle East -possibly in a mooted new Dubai studio - according to producer Barrie Osborne.

A long-cherished project forLaurence Fishburne, who will adapt, direct and starin The Alchemist, Osborne is lookingto finalise financial commitments by the end of 2005 with the budget lockeddown by the end of the first quarter of 2006. Warner Brothers has theunderlying rights and will distribute in North America.

Pre-production will commenceimmediately, according to Osborne, currently in Dubai with Fishburne to scoutpotential locations.

Osborne, who helped place New Zealand on the film-making map with The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, said thefilm would be a faithful adaptation of the book. "The money will be on thescreen," he added. It is possible TheAlchemist will shoot in Dubai, amongstother potential locations including Jordan, even though the infrastructure for such a large shootdoes not currently exist in the region outside Morocco and Tunisia's studios.

"I'm not daunted by the fact it'snot there yet," said the producer, an old friend of Fishburne'ssince they worked together on ApocalypseNow, The Cotton Club and The Matrix and who came on board at thestar's request. "If there's a willingness to build and a co-operative,supportive government, financial interests willing to invest in [a suitablestudio], then it could be possible. There was nothing there yet when we wentinto The Lord Of TheRings in New Zealand."

Osborne said he would need a firmundertaking on the studio by the beginning of 2006.

The producer added: "I love thebook and I have faith in this project. It portrays a journey of discovery andit's a love story as well. It shows Arab culture in a favourablelight which is very important right now."

Fishburne will play the part of Santiago, an Andalucian shepherd. Apublishing sensation, The Alchemisthas sold over 30 million copies worldwide in 61 languages. The rights werebought by Warner Brothers in 1996.