Playing for Keeps had its start on a playing field — a local baseball field in Encino, Calif., where assistant Little League coach Jonathan Mostow 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.” His premise evolved, developing into the the story of a washed-up former sports hero trying to be a good dad by coaching his son’s soccer team while evading a horde of his players’ mothers, all of who find him irresistible.
Of the premise of the story Mostow said, “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.”
Bringing Gerard Butler on board proved to be crucial in assembling a cast that includes includes Jessica Biel, Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Judy Greer and Dennis Quaid. Says producer Kevin Misher: “Gerard Butler is Playing For Keeps. It was his passion and his commitment to the movie that elevated it and brought everyone else into it. A lot of the cast was drawn to working with our director, Gabriele Muccino, but Gerard was the glue that made everybody stick to this movie.”
Luckily, Butler was instantly enthusiastic about the script. “I knew straight away this was something I wanted to get involved with,” says the actor. “I thought: ‘We can move people with these characters and we can definitely make them laugh.’ I felt a lot of emotional attachment to it and I could really identify with George and the journey he takes — unraveling and then putting his life back together.”
The end result is a film that, in Butler’s words, is “a funny, emotional story that makes you reflect on real life.”
Playing For Keeps is available starting March 5 on Video On Demand. Check your cable system for availability.
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