Reeves wraps up villain in Raimi’s ‘Gift’ ensemble

Ribisi joins Par stars Blanchett, Holmes

NEW YORK — Keanu Reeves has committed to the supporting role of a vicious, wife-beating murder suspect in “The Gift,” the Sam Raimi-directed drama from Lakeshore Entertainment that’s slated for release by Paramount Classics.

Giovanni Ribisi has also been set for the film, which stars Cate Blanchett, Katie Holmes and Ron Eldard. With the addition of Reeves and Ribisi and several roles yet to be finalized, “The Gift” is shaping up as a pic with an exceptionally strong cast given its budget of less than $10 million.

Reeves’ commitment is akin to Tom Cruise joining the ensemble of New Line’s “Magnolia,” in that he took a pay cut to work with a noted director and play a part far from his usual heroic mode. Reeves jumped at the chance to work with Raimi and, without the burden of carrying the movie, play a part far different than any he’s tried before. Reeves, who usually gets $15 million against 15% of the gross, will work for scale.

The drama, scripted by Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson, concerns a clairvoyant woman from a small Southern town who becomes enmeshed in a murder investigation. Reeves will play a redneck who becomes the prime suspect in that murder and who threatens the psychic’s life after she counsels his battered wife. Ribisi, who’ll next be seen in New Line’s upcoming drama “The Boiler Room,” will play a troubled youth with a scarred past who turns to the clairvoyant for support and proves an important ally to her as well.

Alphaville’s Jim Jacks, Lakeshore’s Tom Rosenberg and Rob Tapert, Raimi’s partner in Renaissance Pictures, are producing “The Gift.” Exec producers are Gary Lucchesi and Sean Daniel. Lensing will begin Feb. 7, giving Reeves time to make that film before stepping into the Warner Bros./Bel Air remake of “Sweet November,” to be directed by Pat O’Connor (“Circle of Friends”).

Reeves will be paid his usual salary to star in “November,” his first romance since “A Walk in the Clouds,” portraying a tycoon who falls in love with a dying woman who wants no part of a long commitment.

Though he may squeeze in yet another film before, Reeves will most likely follow “Sweet November” by stepping back into action hero mode and an ambitious 250-day shoot of back-to-back “Matrix” sequels with Larry and Andy Wachowski for Warner Bros., Village Roadshow Pictures and producer Joel Silver. Reeves will be paid a combined $30 million against 15% for the two “Matrix” films. Reeves is repped by 3 Arts and CAA; Ribisi by William Morris.

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