New York Daily News (US), August 2000
Keanu Reeves may get beamed by a lawsuit now that a Chicago Little League coach is accusing Paramount Pictures of stealing his life story. Robert Muzikowski, 37, is threatening legal action against the studio over what he claims is an invasion of privacy by Paramount and its upcoming movie, "Hardball".
In the drama which just started shooting in Chicago, Reeves stars as a boozy slacker who lives by gambling and scalping tickets. His life turns around when a buddy gives him a loan on condition that he coach a ghetto team.
The script is based on Daniel Coyle's nonfiction book: Hardball: A Season in the Projects" which describes Muzikowski's transformation through the power of Little League. It also details his friendship with Chicago youth organizer, Al Carter.
Muzikowski and Carter, who say they never released the rights to their stories, met last week with Mayor Richard Daley to argue that the script for "Hardball" offers a racist caricature of African-Americans.
"The kids are being portrayed as juvenile delinquents who constantly curse" says the pair's lawyer, Thomas Harvey. "They're actually decent kids who behave themselves."
Harvey, whose clients include Robert DeNiro and Harvey Keitel, has put Paramount on notice that there are more than a dozen parallels between the "Hardball" script and his client's lives. "In one scene" says Harvey, "the screeplay even refers to the Carter-based character as 'Al' ".
Paramount said yesterday that "Hardball" is a "dramatic work of fiction...inspired by real events." Studio lawyers have warned Muzikowski to stray away "from visiting any location on which the picture is being filmed."
Harvey is startled by "the impudence of suggesting that Mr. Muzikowski should refrain from coaching his Little League team in a public park.