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Quentin's Folly?

The director can't seem to say no

Who's been giving Quentin Tarantino career advice? You'd think that the patron saint of film geeks would be quick to follow his masterful Pulp Fiction with another ultra-cool homage to blood and sideburns. Nope. The lantern-jawed director has instead been dabbling in stranger-than-Fiction projects — mostly for his friends. In theaters now is pal Jack Baran's Destiny Turns On the Radio, a pre-Pulp performance in which Tarantino plays a shades-bedecked smoothster. (The critical consensus: Tarantino's acting prowess lags well behind his directing.) How about the February episode of ABC's All-American Girl, in which he played Margaret Cho's boyfriend? He also worked as a script doctor on Julia Sweeney's It's Pat.

Well, stay tuned for more résumé wackiness: Tarantino will appear in a vanload of movies, direct for the small screen, and possibly even start a film-importing company. What's going on?

''Quentin's going to continue to surprise people,'' says Harvey Weinstein, cochairman of Miramax, which released Pulp Fiction. ''People build you up to tear you down. Quentin's going sideways.''

And boy, what a buildup it's been. After making his auspicious directing debut with 1992's Reservoir Dogs, and penning the script for the Christian Slater-starring True Romance (1993) and providing the story for Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers (1994), Tarantino earned himself a screenwriting Oscar this year for Pulp (he cowrote the story with Roger Avary). What's more, the Angeleno is the subject of no fewer than three upcoming books, two in Britain. ''He's the first rock star director,'' says Jeff Dawson, author of an as-yet-untitled bio. ''It's like Beatlemania.''

Tarantino's acting stint, however, is going over about as well as Ringo Starr's appearance in Caveman. Why this need to mug for the cameras? ''He's tired of the image that he's a goofy, geeky kid,'' says screenwriter L.M. Kit Carson, a friend of Tarantino's. ''He'd like to project something else.''

How about Workaholic of the Year? The now press-shy wunderkind isn't commenting on his output, but here's a look at all things Tarantino.

— Airing May 11, a Tarantino-directed episode of ER. Tarantino called the show to ask for tapes of shows he'd missed. ''After a few conversations,'' says producer John Wells, ''he was silly enough to suggest directing, figuring we wouldn't take him up on it.'' They did.

— Set for a May 12 release, Crimson Tide, Hollywood Pictures' big-budget submarine adventure, features a script punched up by Tarantino. Look for his funny riff on Star Trek.

— Coming in October is Four Rooms, a four-segment movie — one directed by you know who — about a Hollywood hotel.

— Next, he'll go to Mexico to costar with George Clooney in From Dusk Till Dawn, about two con men who run smack into a nest of vampires.

— The former video-store clerk may also star in Hands Up, a romance.

— A devotee of Asian action movies, Tarantino apparently wants to start a division of Miramax to import movies from Hong Kong and Japan.

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