ROLE CALL: Keanu Reeves’ Post-Holiday ‘Gift’

ROLE CALL: Keanu Reeves’ Post-Holiday ‘Gift’

He’s played idiots and superheroes. Up next for Keanu Reeves is an against type role as a brutal, spouse-beating murder suspect in the low-budget drama “The Gift.”

As with Tom Cruise‘s supporting turn in the critical hit “Magnolia,” Reeves reportedly will take a back seat (and a serious pay cut) to co-star alongside Giovanni Ribisi, Cate Blanchett and Katie Holmes (“Dawson’s Creek”). Today’s Daily Variety says Sam Raimi (“A Simple Plan“) will helm the under-$10 million film for Paramount’s art-house division, Paramount Classics.

For the chance to do evil things on celluloid, Reeves will pare down his usual per-picture asking price of $15 million to union scale, the trade paper says.

Written by “One False Move” screenwriters Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson, “The Gift” concerns a small-town Southern psychic who becomes involved in a murder investigation. Reeves plays a redneck who becomes the prime suspect when he threatens the clairvoyant after she helps his battered wife.

Ribisi (“Saving Private Ryan“) is the headliner, starring as a troubled youth who becomes the clairvoyant’s closest ally.

Shooting is set to begin Feb. 7. After “The Gift,” Reeves will pick up his normal (hefty) paycheck for starring in “Sweet November” for Warner Bros. That project, starring Reeves as a businessman who falls in love with a dying woman, will be directed by Pat O’Connor (“Circle of Friends“). It’s a remake of the 1968 Sandy Dennis-Anthony Newley drama of the same name.

After “Sweet November,” Reeves is set to get back in action on the proposed 250-day shoot for the back-to-back “Matrix” sequels for filmmakers Larry and Andy Wachowski. His typically explosive payday for that two-fer project is a $30 million advance against 15% of the two films’ combined grosses.

Ka-ching, indeed.

DIRECTOR HELD FOR ‘RANSOM’: “Wild Things” director John McNaughton sets his voyeur’s eyes next on “The Ransom,” today’s Hollywood Reporter says. The Bel Air Entertainment flick is based on the 1991 Brian Tobin crime-caper novel. The story involves an ex-con, a thief and a pickpocket who plot to kidnap New York’s biggest, baddest drug dealer. The project, whose title may be kidnapped before it’s released to theaters, does not yet have a start date.

FINE “FEATHERS”: Feeling good from their successful union on “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” Miramax Films and Paramount Pictures will give their relationship another shot with a remake of the 1939 British action-adventure film “The Four Feathers,” Daily Variety says. Screenwriter Hossein Amini (“The Wings of the Dove“) is set to adapt the story, which involves a disgraced British officer’s attempt to redeem himself by infiltrating enemy territory and freeing his captured friends.