BUZZ/SAW: The Return of Tarantino

NEW YORK, Feb. 8, 2000 — It used to be impossible to step out to the movies and not bump into Quentin Tarantino, not in the popcorn line, of course, but up on the screen. As director, screenwriter, producer and even actor, the wünderkind had a career that took off like a bat out of hell in the early ’90s with such hits as “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction.”

Alas, Tarantino‘s acting turns in films like “Destiny Turns on the Radio” and “From Dusk Till Dawn” were, um, not terribly memorable, but who cared? Tarantino was so hot he was even cool in lukewarm roles.

But Tarantino got cold. Just like that, one of the busiest, most visible filmmakers of the ’90s seemed to disappear.

Now comes word that Tarantino is back as an actor, and we have director Steven Brill, New Line Cinema and Adam Sandler to thank. The prematurely retired filmmaker has a “significant” role in New Line’s upcoming “Little Nicky,” which boasts Harvey Keitel starring as the devil and Sandler as his son, who takes off for New York City in search of his little brother.

Tarantino plays a blind preacher, who may or may not project a “devil may care” attitude. Frank Coraci, who directed Sandler in “The Wedding Singer” and “The Waterboy,” plays a hot-dog vendor. Rodney Dangerfield also has a cameo. Patricia Arquette, Reese Witherspoon and Jon Lovitz also join Tarantino in what amounts to one “hell” of a cast.

GOOD MEDICINE: “Scream 3” scared up an estimated $35.2 million for Miramax Films over the weekend, the company’s biggest-ever weekend debut.

The stunning box-office performance was a much-needed coup for Miramax, which has failed of late to get filmgoers to line up the way it used to. Yes, Miramax has the Matt Damon-starrer “The Talented Mr. Ripley” for overseas, but stateside, Paramount is basking in “Ripley‘s” glory.

In addition to breaking records, the smashing weekend bow of “Scream 3” proved to be a terrific get-well card for Miramax’s co-chairman Harvey Weinstein, also the film’s executive producer, who got out of the hospital last week.

Weinstein, whose ailment and hospital digs remain mysteries even to Miramax execs, missed such important industry events as the Golden Globe Awards and Sundance. But because he is such a forceful figure, his absence made lots of news and won him plenty of plugs. Gwyneth Paltrow, of course, addressed Weinstein the moment she hit the stage at the Globes. And it was almost impossible to read a dispatch from Sundance that didn’t refer to the New York-based mogul.

Happily, Weinstein came home just in time to celebrate his company’s record-breaking “Scream 3” weekend. The film’s stars and director Wes Craven couldn’t have given a nicer present. Maybe Weinstein will return the favor and greenlight what is thought to be impossible — “Scream 4.”

LET ‘ER RIP! We haven’t had a film from prolific Oscar-winning producer Arnold Kopelson (“Platoon”) since the Gwyneth Paltrow/Michael Douglas flick “A Perfect Murder” but Kopelson, say Those Who Should Know, will soon have “Riptide” in production.

Based on the novel about a surgeon who joins a professional treasure hunter on his family’s island off the coast of Maine, “Riptide” is now quietly being cast. No actors are yet signed but what has been selected is the film’s location — not good news for U.S. crews. You guessed it — “Riptide” looks to be headin’ north to Vancouver, Canada, where a nickel almost gets you (and those economy-minded Hollywood studios) a tinny Canadian dime.

Kopelson, also known for such hits as “Falling Down,” “Murder at 1600” and “Seven,” spent years producing on the Warner Bros. lot. “Riptide” marks his debut feature for Kopelson Entertainment at its new berth at Fox, where he produces with his wife, Anne Kopelson. Let er “rip!”

BUZZ CUT: Which newly minted entertainment mogul is being followed around by CNN cameras and loving every minute of it?