Less than two weeks before cameras are to roll, Jodie Foster has backed out as the female lead in 20th Century Fox's upcoming virus drama "Crisis in the Hot Zone."
The latest crisis on "Hot Zone," which has had a troubled road to the big screen, comes at a particularly crucial time since a rival project is gearing up for production by producer Arnold Kopelson at Warner Bros. Kopelson's "Outbreak," which stars Dustin Hoffman, Morgan Freeman and Rene Russo, is being directed by Wolfgang Petersen ("In the Line of Fire").
Both films, each budgeted at around $40 million, are about the spread of fatal viruses. "Crisis" is scheduled to start production July 25, "Outbreak" on July 24.
Foster's publicist, Pat Kingsley, said that the actress "felt the script submitted was not ready for approval and she wanted to give them (the studio and director Ridley Scott) enough time to find another actor."
Kingsley confirmed that Foster informed Fox and Scott of her decision Wednesday afternoon.
A Fox official said "the part is being re-cast and we're moving ahead." At press time no replacement for Foster had been secured.
Sources at the studio told The Times that both Foster and co-star Robert Redford have had problems with the script since the beginning. Rumors are that Redford, whose representatives could not be reached, may also be waffling.
A Fox insider said that the problem wasn't the story, scripted by Jim Hart and Paul Attanasio, but the character development. In the words of one production source, "the characters were just too average. There have been several drafts and they weren't even close to a final one yet." Rumors also swirled Wednesday that Scott himself was patching together parts from separate revisions done by each writer.