Reeves Takes Pay Cut for 'Gift'
by Michael Fleming
NEW YORK (Variety) - Keanu Reeves has committed to the supporting role of a vicious, wife-beating murder suspect in "The Gift", a low-budget drama with a high-profile cast.
Giovanni Ribisi ("Saving Private Ryan") has also been set for the film, which stars Cate Blanchett, Katie Holmes and Ron Eldard. Sam Raimi ("For Love of the Game") will direct the Paramount Classics project, which is budgeted at under $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 (Paul Thomas Anderson) and play a part far from his usual heroic mode. Reeves, who usually gets a $15 million advance against 15% of the gross, will work for scale.
The drama, written by Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson ("One False Move"), 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, also known for his recurring role as Phoebe's dim brother in "Friends," will play a troubled youth with a scarred past who turns to the clairvoyant for support and proves an important ally to her.
Shooting will begin Feb. 7, giving Reeves time to make that film before stepping into "Circle of Friends" director Pat O'Connor's remake of "Sweet November" at Warner Bros.
Reeves will be paid his usual salary to star in "November," his first romance since 1995's "A Walk in the Clouds" portraying a tycoon who falls in love with a dying woman who wants no part of a long commitment.
He 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. Reeves will be paid a $30 million advance against 15% of the combined gross for the two "Matrix" films.