By Rachel F. Elson
Updated August 26, 2003 10:00 AM

Dave Matthews has contributed songs to films like this year’s “The Matrix Reloaded” and 2002’s “Mr. Deeds,” but it looks like the South African-born rocker is now ready for his closeup.

The two-time Grammy nominee has signed on to appear in the film “Because of Winn-Dixie,” with Jeff Daniels and Eva Marie Saint, notes the Hollywood Reporter.

Based on a novel of the same name, the movie tells the story of a 10-year-old girl and the stray dog she finds at the town supermarket; Daniels plays her father, while Matthews will play a drifter who becomes part of her extended family.

Matthews and his namesake band, which started out as a Virginia college bar band, were launched into pop stardom in 1994 with the release of the major-label debut “Under the Table and Dreaming,” which spawned the hit single “What Would You Say.”

While “Winn-Dixie” will mark Matthews’ big-studio debut, the 36-year-old singer-songwriter already has some acting experience under his belt: He appeared in the 2000 indie feature “Where the Red Fern Grows” — also about a small-town kid with canine friends — and reportedly acted in several plays back in Charlottesville, Va., back when he was tending bar and nursing his rock ‘n’ roll dreams.

The new film is set to begin shooting in September, with Wang, whose credits include “Maid in Manhattan” (2002) and “The Joy Luck Club” (1993).