Chicago Sun-Times (US), September 17, 2001

Smile trumps technique in film audition

by Cindy Pearlman

The other kids arrived with attitude. They brought stage mothers, salary demands and acting that was so obviously fake it must have been learned in some class called "How to Make Your Child a Movie Star."

When fifth-grader DeWayne Warren auditioned for the Keanu Reeves baseball movie "Hardball," he came equipped with only one thing: his smile.

Director Brian Robbins recalls, "Oh man that kid can smile. He's got a grin that could light up the nation. And it wasn't easy to make him smile because he's a really shy boy."

That's true when you meet 10-year-old Warren and 15-year-old Michael Perkins in their suite at the Four Seasons in Toronto amid the shuffle of the acclaimed Film Festival. Anthony Hopkins is lurking down the hall. So is Denzel Washington, Sissy Spacek, Ethan Hawke and Keanu himself.

So what are two Chicago kids doing in the middle of this mayhem?

"We don't know," says Warren, who first looks down at his new sneakers and finally gives the journalist one of those sparkling grins when he finds out that she's from his home turf.

Now that we're buds, he has a request. "Do you think we could get a free T-shirt from the movie?" he asks.

That could probably be arranged, given that the two young actors are in Paramount's big fall film. Perkins plays tough kid with a tender heart Kofi who joins a projects baseball team. Warren plays the youngest kid on the roster, the team's mascot named Jarius "G-Baby" Evans.

In the film, they have to struggle with the violence of their surroundings amid the hope offered when a down on his luck gambler (Reeves) decides to coach their baseball team.

"There were better actors than both of these boys," says Robbins. "I just had to cast them both because they showed me so much heart."

Perkins didn't have much of a resume to show when he auditioned for "Hardball." He starred in a few church plays and went "pro" when his real-life baseball coach told him that he should audition for this new movie coming to town.

Warren's only acting experience prior to "Hardball" was a school play. He also took a hip-hop dance class. The cutie says, "I'm only an actor because this man came to my school and said, 'Do you maybe want to be in a movie?' I went to this tryout and they wanted me to say one sentence.

It was pretty easy."

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