I Like Trouble

Julia Roberts' next film will be shot, and set, in San Francisco

I Like Trouble The latest project to pop up on Philip Kaufman's North Beach radar screen is a thriller starring Julia Roberts as an investigative reporter tracking a killer through the Internet. Given the actress' status as queen of the Hollywood hill (anthill? molehill?) and Sony's hankering to have a Roberts vehicle in theaters next Christmas, Perfect Stranger is a solid bet to go before the cameras this year. Sopranos ace Frank Renzulli is speedily rewriting the screenplay; the film will be shot -- and set -- in San Francisco. "We want to stay close to here, with all the [post-9/11] stuff going on," reports Peter Kaufman, the director's son and longtime producer. Somebody oughta tip off Cole Valley homeowner Benjamin Bratt.

Meanwhile, another big-name actor (still under wraps) is about to ink a deal to star in Kaufman's adaptation of You Got Nothing Coming: Notes of a Prison Fish, the forthcoming book by Jerry Stahl (whose drug-crazed Permanent Midnight gave Ben Stiller the best role of his career). This one's set in a prison in the Nevada desert and would also shoot in 2002 -- if Kaufman can figure out a way to juggle both movie stars' schedules and his proposed remake of Suspicion, scripted by John Guare (Six Degrees of Separation). "That's a good problem to have," Peter Kaufman says dryly.

The Phantom of the OperaPiano and organ whiz Bob Vaughn, who died Jan. 4, accompanied his first silent film at the Brayton Theater in Long Beach in 1926. His career faded when the talkies came in, and he moved to San Francisco in the late '30s to work for the INS. But Vaughn returned to his first love in 1966, taking a gig at the now defunct Avenue Theater on San Bruno. For the next three decades he entertained audiences at the UC, Stanford, Castro, et al., performing vintage scores (often from his collection) or deftly improvising to the flickering figures on screen.

To this day, there are members of the Bay Area film community who cite Vaughn's accompaniment of Abel Gance's epic Napoleon at the Avenue as one of the highlights of their filmgoing lives. Vaughn -- who routinely arrived at a show on his motorcycle, wearing a tuxedo under his leathers -- played his last Castro gig on May 18, 1998 (Pandora's Box), and carried on at the Towne in San Jose through the following summer. The maestro then retired to a nursing home in Bakersfield, near his children, where he passed away at age 90, a passionate caretaker of our cultural legacy and a born entertainer.

The Party Crashers Straight Outta Hunters Point wasn't accepted into the Sundance Film Festival, but local filmmaker Kevin Epps isn't letting a little detail like that cloud his oatmeal. Epps hitched a ride to Park City with Paul Barnett, one of the producers of Lynn Hershman Leeson's Teknolust (which is screening in the fest). The hustling Barnett's also working the crowd of snowbound industry heavies with a 15-minute trailer of a Burning Man documentary he shot last year -- with which Epps was also involved.

For his part, Epps lined up a screening of his kinetic, rap-heavy documentary this Friday, Jan. 18, at Park City. "I got some fliers and postcards and a couple posters," he reports, hoping to parlay his bare-bones promotion materials into some fertile networking opportunities. Whatever happens, he's eager to make the scene. "It's like the lottery," Epps says. "You gotta be in it to win it." No doubt he'll have some Sundance stories to tell when Straight Outta Hunters Point screens at the Red Vic Movie House Feb. 6 and 7 to raise funds for the Helping Hands after-school program, administered by the Hunters Point Community Youth Park Foundation. Epps' Web site, www.mastamind.com, has the lowdown on the film.

 
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