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Reeves, helmers near pricey ‘Matrix’ sequels

Keanu Reeves is this close to a deal with Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures for two sequels of “The Matrix,” which will pay him a combined $30 million against 15% of the gross, sources said.

The actor and writer-directors Larry and Andy Wachowski are skedded to begin a 250-day production schedule in fall 2000 that will encompass two back-to-back sequels. Before that, Reeves will likely make yet another film for WB, with talks under way for a remake of the 1968 romance “Sweet November.”

The Wachowskis recently completed a deal to continue the sci-fi series they’d always envisioned as a three-pic storyline. Word is the brothers reupped to write and direct two more for a combined figure of about $10 million against some gross.

Of its $60 mil budget, the first was a 50-50 cost split between Warners and Village Roadshow Pics. Village Roadshow Pictures chairman Bruce Berman will again put up 50% of the sequel budget, which will undoubtedly be costly; between Reeves, Wachowskis and producer Joel Silver, the gross giveaway on the sequels will likely be north of 20%. But the original has grossed nearly $350 million worldwide and is still going, making it the biggest hit WB has had in a long time.

While Reeves could likely have demanded entry into the $20 million ranks with the “Matrix” sequels, the pact he’s near signing will make him financially set for several lifetimes. He could probably sandwich three films during the arduous two-pic “Matrix” sked now being mulled, but the sequel deal is being structured as a one-picture pact.

Reeves got paid $10 million against 10% of gross on the original and it’s estimated he will make almost $30 million through salary and backend, sources said. If the second installment enjoys the success of the original or surpasses it, Reeves will have worked off the $30 million advance during the gross life of the first sequel. He would therefore be entitled to 15% of all gross receipts from the third film. His whole “Matrix” involvement could bring him $100 million.

Reeves walked away from his last opportunity to cash in by continuing a blockbuster character on “Speed 2.” Unlike that disastrous sequel, which tried to transplant the concept of the original from bus to boat, “The Matrix” plot begged for a sequel. And replicating the strategy employed by George Lucas with “Star Wars,” he’ll hang around long enough to film two installments, with Reeves getting script approval over both. The Wachowskis originally figured to film a prequel followed by a sequel, but sources said the plan now is to do two sequels instead.

Insiders consider it likely that “Matrix” co-stars Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss will be invited back to reprise their roles as revolutionaries trying to topple an oppressive artificial intelligence that encases humans in hallucinogenic pods while feeding off their energy.

The pending Reeves pact goes beyond WB landing the actor for what could develop into its most important film franchise: WB is fast establishing Reeves as a WB franchise in his own right. The outgoing WB management team created a steady stream of films with internationally bankable talent whose careers WB helped build — until those stars began to falter. Reeves doesn’t have an overall WB deal, but by the time the dual “Matrix” films wrap, Reeves will have likely starred in six straight WB pics, establishing a strong bond with WB Theatrical president Lorenzo di Bonaventura.

Reeves began his WB run when he bypassed Fox’s “Speed 2” for WB’s “Devil’s Advocate” and then “Matrix.” He’s now starring in the Howard Deutch-directed, Dylan Sellers-produced gridiron comedy “The Replacements.”

Though Reeves had the drama “The Shooter” in his crosshairs, it’s now looking likely he’ll instead next opt for “Sweet November.” Kurt Volker has scripted the remake of the pic that starred Anthony Newley as a tycoon infatuated with a woman (Sandy Dennis) who takes a new lover every month, knowing she hasn’t long to live.

The negotiations are being handled by CAA and 3 Arts and WB’s di Bonaventura.

FROM ‘SEVEN’ SEG TO ‘SOUTH’: It’s hard to gain recognition as a director when you’re limited to the title sequences that open feature films — unless you’re Kyle Cooper, and you’ve done one of the most memorable in the gritty, stylized opener of “Seven.” Cooper’s getting the shot at his full-feature helming debut on “New Port South,” a film coming together under Touchstone co-prexies Nina Jacobson and Todd Garner.

The pic will be produced by John Hughes, with the former king of teenage angst getting the script from his son James.

Cooper also did a bunch of title segs for Hughes films, plus other films including “Braveheart,” “True Lies,” “Men in Black” and “Mission: Impossible.” He has also directed blurbs and is a founder of the title seg company Imaginary Forces, where he is managing partner/creative director.

The Hughes duo is repped by CAA and attorney Jake Bloom, with Cooper repped by Bruce Kaufman of Broder Kurland Webb Uffner and attorney Steve Warren.

HAVING A HEART: Though he played a doctor on television, former “Medical Center” star Chad Everett is now helping to save real lives. Everett has been a longtime volunteer for the Gift of Life Program, which imports kids from foreign countries with congenital heart defects long enough to heal them.

About 1,700 kids have been spared, and Everett’s obsessed with upping that number.

Everett said the cost per kid is just $5,000. To build awareness, Everett’s next starring role will be in an annual 1,000-mile walk from Georgia to N.Y. From Sept. 21 to Oct. 10, he’ll lead the walk, in hopes of raising money, and enlisting volunteer hospitals, surgeons and translators.

If some of the high-salaried TV surgeons who succeeded Everett step up, they might be able to wipe out the problem. “You hope it will turn into a ‘Forrest Gump’ kind of thing, with many people joining in, but if we could just pick up eight more hospitals along the way, that would be something,” said Everett, who might also want to pick up a few extra pair of walking shoes.

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