Reeves plays ‘Hardball’

Keanu on deck for Par baseball pic

NEW YORK — Keanu Reeves has committed to star for Paramount in “Hardball,” a drama about an inner-city Little League baseball team to be directed by Brian Robbins (“Ready to Rumble”). Reeves will play a baseball coach in the film.

Pic is an adaptation of the Daniel Coyle book “Hardball: A Season in the Projects,” which has been scripted by John Gatins, who co-wrote, with Peter Iliff, the Robbins-helmed “Varsity Blues.” Robbins’ partner, Mike Tollin, will produce the film under their Tollin/Robbins banner.

In the film, Reeves will play an aimless young man who is scalping tickets, gambling and drinking while his friends are settling down and making money at good jobs. When he tries for the umpteenth time to borrow money from a friend, the pal makes the loan conditional on the guy coaching a Little League team from the Cabrini Green housing projects in Chicago, a squad that his brokerage house is sponsoring. The man is transformed by mentoring the kids and finds salvation through the experience.

It’s a project Robbins has been trying to mount since setting up “Varsity Blues,” and one that has been a hot property since Gatins turned in a recent draft.

‘Matrix’ to follow

Reeves has just begun filming a remake of the 1968 film “Sweet November” for Warner Bros., directed by Pat O’Connor. Reeves wanted to follow with another film before embarking on back-to-back “Matrix” sequels in late fall or winter. Reeves had committed to star as a furniture salesman with a secret porn-star past in the Andrew Bergman-directed comedy “Ottoman Empire,” but he exited that film when Columbia balked at making another pricey sex comedy after the flaccid grosses of the Mike Nichols-directed “What Planet Are You From?” (Daily Variety, March 7). Reeves had been courted by Paramount for “Hardball” since then, but things got serious this week, and a deal was closed Wednesday evening for that “Ottoman” slot.

Reeves, who next will be seen in August toplining the Warner Bros. football comedy “The Replacements,” just wrapped a role in the Sam Raimi-directed ensemble drama “The Gift” alongside Cate Blanchett, Giovanni Ribisi, Hilary Swank and Greg Kinnear.

Reeves is repped by CAA and 3 Arts.

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