Gerard Butler begins playing the field
There hasn't been a good soccer-based movie in a long time -- you have to go back to "Bend It Like Beckham" in 2003, if not before. Gerard Butler will try to change that.
The Scottish actor (and Celtic fan) this week began shooting "Playing the Field," a story about soccer, the suburbs and sexual attraction. The sport will serve as a backdrop for what is a kind of "Shampoo" set amid American manicured lawns.
According to a person familiar with the production who was not authorized to speak about it publicly, Stuart Blumberg -- the "Kids Are All Right" co-writer who garnered an Oscar nomination for penning the family dramedy -- recently came on to write a new draft of Rob Fox's script.
Despite the American setting, the project has a transatlantic feel. Italian director Gabriele Muccino ("The Pursuit of Happyness," the original Italian-language "Last Kiss") is behind the camera.
Butler and Jessica Biel play an estranged couple, with the cast also including Judy Greer and Catherine Zeta-Jones, who 24 Frames has learned have recently signed on, joining Dennis Quaid and Uma Thurman. In addition to Butler, Heidi Jo Markel, Kevin Misher, Jonathan Mostow and Alan Siegel are producing, with Millennium Films the producing and financing entity.
Originally conceived as a Little League story (title: "Confessions of a Little League Coach") the project has morphed into a tale about footy. Basically, it involves an accomplished Beckham-like pro (Butler) who after living a playboy life throughout Europe returns to his estranged American wife and child to try to reconcile with them. He begins coaching youth soccer to show his commitment.
But things get sticky when a number of the local women take a shine to him, including characters played by Thurman (Quaid's wife), Zeta Jones (a vixen newscaster) and Greer (a hot-and-bothered housewife). The comedy has distribution around the world and will be seeking a U.S. home.
With the MLS season underway and Champions League play hitting the quarterfinals, thoughts (for some) turn to soccer. And, perhaps, to soccer movies.
Photo: Gerard Butler. Credit: Hannibal Hanschke/EPA