"Return of the 'Matrix': Keanu up for Trilogy"

by Michael Fleming, Variety / MSN Entertainment, 24 August 1999

Keanu Reeves is this close to a deal with Warner Bros. and Australia's Village Roadshow Pictures for two sequels of "The Matrix," which will inititally pay him a combined $30 million, sources said. Profit participation will make his ultimate payday equivalent to 15% of the gross.

The actor and writer-directors Larry and Andy Wachowski are scheduled to begin a 250-day production schedule encompassing two back-to-back sequels in fall 2000. Before that, Reeves will likely make yet another film for WB, with talks under way for a remake of the 1968 romance "Sweet November."

The Wachowskis recently completed a deal to continue the sci-fi series they'd always envisioned as a three-picture storyline. Word is the brothers reupped to write and direct two more for a combined figure of about $10 million as well as some profit participation.

Of its $60 million budget, the first was a 60-40 cost split between Warners and Village Roadshow Pictures. It's unclear how much budget Village Roadshow chairman Bruce Berman will put up this time, though the sequels will undoubtedly be costly; between Reeves, Wachowskis and producer Joel Silver, the gross giveaway on the sequels will likely be north of 20%. But the original has grossed nearly $350 million worldwide and is still going, making it the biggest hit WB has had in a long time.

While Reeves could likely have demanded entry into the $20 million ranks with the "Matrix" sequels, the pact he's near signing will make him financially set for several lifetimes. He could probably sandwich three films during the arduous two-picture "Matrix" schedule now being mulled, but the sequel deal is being structured as a one-picture pact.

With a $10 million salary and profit participation, it's estimated he will end up with almost $30 million from the first film, sources said. If the second installment enjoys the success of the original or surpasses it, Reeves will have worked off the $30 million advance during the gross life of the first sequel. He would therefore be entitled to 15% of all gross receipts from the third film. His whole "Matrix" involvement could bring him $100 million.

Reeves walked away from his last opportunity to cash in by continuing a blockbuster character on "Speed 2." Unlike that disastrous sequel, which tried to transplant the concept of the original from bus to boat, "The Matrix" plot begged for a sequel. And replicating the strategy employed by George Lucas with "Star Wars," he'll hang around long enough to film two installments, with Reeves getting script approval over both. The Wachowskis originally figured to film a prequel followed by a sequel, but sources said the plan now is to do two sequels instead.

Insiders consider it likely that "Matrix" co-stars Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss will be invited back to reprise their roles as revolutionaries trying to topple an oppressive artificial intelligence that encases humans in hallucinogenic pods while feeding off their energy.

The pending Reeves pact goes beyond WB landing the actor for what could develop into its most important film franchise: WB is fast establishing Reeves as a WB franchise in his own right. The outgoing WB management team created a steady stream of films with internationally bankable talent whose careers WB helped build — until those stars began to falter. Reeves doesn't have an overall WB deal, but by the time the dual "Matrix" films wrap, Reeves will have likely starred in six straight WB pics, establishing a strong bond with WB theatrical president Lorenzo di Bonaventura.

Reeves began his WB run when he bypassed Fox's "Speed 2" for WB's "Devil's Advocate" and then "Matrix." He's now starring in the Howard Deutch-directed, Dylan Sellers-produced gridiron comedy "The Replacements."

Though Reeves had the drama "The Shooter" in his crosshairs, it's now looking likely he'll instead next opt for "Sweet November." Kurt Volker (sic) has scripted the remake of the picture that starred Anthony Newley as a tycoon infatuated with a woman (Sandy Dennis) who takes a new lover every month, knowing she hasn't long to live.

The negotiations are being handled by CAA and 3 Arts and WB's di Bonaventura

©1999 Reuters News Service



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