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PLAYING FOR KEEPS

The Story

In the heartwarming romantic comedy PLAYING FOR KEEPS, George Dryer (Gerard Butler), is an ex-soccer superstar who relocates to suburban Virginia to start over -- and establish a relationship with his son, who he barely knows. An amateur at life, George indulged himself with all the perks of stardom and lost the two things that had any real value: his wife and son.

While trying to land a job as a sportscaster for ESPN, George grudgingly agrees to coach his kid's youth soccer team. But suddenly, George is thrust right back into the spotlight when he is confronted with the suburban version of adoring female fans -- flirtatious soccer moms! But befuddled as he may be by all the distractions, including that of a pushy soccer dad determined to make him his new best bud, George does his best to keep his focus on what he really wants -- to be a good father to his son and to prove to his ex-wife that despite his penchant for having a wandering eye, she is the only woman he ever loved.

Director Gabriele Muccino, who first came to Hollywood's attention with the hit father-son drama THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS, found George's transformation from all-over-the-field playboy to reasonably reliable family man to be funny, human and relatable. He was drawn to the comic potential of a man faced with attractive women chasing him just at the point in his life when he's decided to settle down. At the same time, Muccino loved idea of an adult, who was an amateur at love, responsibility and commitment, needing to make choices that still find him in vulnerable situations and test his true self.

"PLAYING FOR KEEPS is a fun story that I think we all can relate to -- a man who has a chance to figure out what he really wants," sums up the director. "It is the journey of a man who is finally growing up." Appropriately, PLAYING FOR KEEPS began on a playing field -- a local baseball field in Encino, California. This is where assistant Little League coach Jonathan Mostow, the accomplished filmmaker who had just come off the success of directing TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES, met screenwriter Robbie Fox, who happened to be the team's head coach.

Fox had an idea to pitch to Mostow based on his own experiences handling the unsolicited attentions of several team members' moms. "The inspiration began one night at two in the morning, when I sent an email to the team's parents, all 24 or 25 of them, and wrote, 'Hey, guys, tomorrow is practice-be there or be square,'" explains Fox.

He continues, "At 2:01am, I got a 'ding' back on my computer. It was from one of the moms, and she wrote back -- and this line is now typed by Catherine Zeta-Jones's character -- 'Hi, Coach! Gee, you're up late tonight...' I didn't respond but then I got another one a couple of minutes later, and it said, 'I know you're there, Coach. You can run, but you can't hide!' That was the start of thinking about this story."

That same night, Fox began to imagine a lead character: a seemingly washed-up former sports hero who is finally trying to be a responsible, reliable father for his son by becoming his team's coach -- only to wind up in being chased all over the field and beyond by his teammates' mothers who find him irresistible. Fox was intrigued by how a guy who has never been able to say no to the opposite sex suddenly must figure out, in order to get what he truly wants, a way to do just that . . . repeatedly.

Upon hearing the premise Mostow recalls: "I loved the core central idea. Right away, I got the essence of who this character was, the comedic complications that were going to ensue, and the possibility for it to be both touching and funny at the same time. Within a day we had a deal to start developing the film."

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