Controversy Magazine (US), October 2001
(Previously published in September 2001 as a longer version under the title 'Keanu Goes to Bat'. I say that this version was totally plagiarised, going by the shoddy, lazy editing and very obvious attempts at alternate sentence phrasing. A friend suggests that it could be the same writer using a different name, but that's no fun, and if that was the case, why'd they bother with the painstaking rephrasing?)
Chicago's infamous Cabrini Green housing project is hardly considered one of the Windy City's recommended top tourist attractions. The alleged gang-infested sections of Chi-Town is rumored to be so dangerous that even the city's police force is said to avoid it once night falls. But since Keanu Reeves' new film, Hardball, was filmed in and around Cabrini Green, the actor discoverd for himself - quite by accident - the truth behind the inner-city hood's menacing reputation.
During a break in filming, Reeves decided to leave the relative safety of its film set to take a stress relieving walk. It would end-up becoming an eye-opening stroll which lead him smack-dab in the middle of the notorious housing project.
"I really wasn't paying attention to where I was going, and all of a sudden, I found myself in front of Cabrini Green," Reeves recalls. "I had heard all the stories about how crime-ridden it was and that I would be taking my life in my hands by going there. A lot of that, though, had come from the movies I had seen about the area. But, I was completely taken by surprise by what I saw and experienced,. Sure, it's not the nicest part of town, but everyone was completely friendly. They were cool. I even got "Yo, Bill and Ted" quite a bit. So, it made me realize you can't believe everything you hear or what people tell you. Hopefully, Hardball will change people's perception of America's inner cities and the people that live there. That walk sure changed my way of thinking."
Based on the Daniel Coyle book, Hardball: A Season In The Projects, the true story about a league of Cabrini Green baseball teams formed in the early-'90s, Hardball (directed by Brain Robbins) is a tale of an aimless young man who changes the lives of the needy, inner city youths and alters the course of his own life in the process. In it, Reeves portrays Conor, a hard-drinking gambler who finds himself in the need of quick cash when all his bets go belly up. His good friend agrees to loan him the money to pay off the gambling debts on the condition that he coach a Little League baseball team from the Cabrini Green projects. Although Conor resists the proposition at first, when he realizes there's no other way to secure the much-needed cash, he concedes. Through the help of a caring teacher and the actions of a rival coach, Conor slowly begins to instill faith in his young players and, most importantly, regains belief in himself.
"I really wanted to do the movie because of the great message it sends," he says. "It's about getting another chance in life. Coaching that team is exactly what he needs to help put his life together. Although he doesn't know it, it's his second chance."
Surprisingly, even Reeves, the star of such mega-hits as The Matrix and The Devil's Advocate, confess he's a man who is constantly in need of the proverbial "second chance."
"I've needed them both in work and in life," the 37-year-old candidly admits. "There have been times where I have needed to reassess my existence and decide on a new path. I tend to do that, a lot. I retreat just to try to either cope of figure out where my life is at and where I want to go. And I've been lucky in the fact that most of my choices have been good ones. I'm at a great place right now, so I can't complain. I've had a good life."
At the moment, Reeves is preparing to spend the next 18 months in Australia filming parts 2 + 3 of The Matrix. While most actors harbor mixed feelings about appearing in sequels, Reeves ecstatic to be re-visiting the role that put him on the superstar map.
"I've read the two scripts and my part is even more exciting than the first go around," he says of the The Wachowski Brothers' screenplay. "I feel this way about the sequels, and I've even said this to my fellow Matrix actors, 'Even though we've had this experience before, we haven't had the particular one we are about to have. You have to come in with a new mind, the two new ones are going to be even better. We've got a chance to make them great."
Although Reeves would be the first to admit he hasn't always made the wisest choices in his personal life or his career, much like his Hardball character, he's always been allowed the chance to choose a different path.
"We are all human, and we all make mistakes," Reeves admits. "But, if you can see where you might have taken a wrong turn and correct it, then you'll be fine. But, it was a long road getting here, one filled with a couple of detours, though, we'd never learn how to grow. And I'm constantly growing--every minute of every day. If you can't grow, then there is no point to what you are going. That's why you'll never hear me say I'm where I'm supposed to be, because I could be somewhere else tomorrow."