Jodie Foster Declines “Hannibal’s” Invite

Looks like Hannibal Lecter will have to play quid pro quo with some other actress besides Jodie Foster.

Today’s Daily Variety reports that the Oscar-winning star has formally passed on the offer to reprise her role as FBI Agent Clarice Starling in “Hannibal,” the much-delayed and much-awaited sequel to “Silence of the Lambs.”

News of Foster‘s decision comes at a time when the “Hannibal” project (reputedly long-plagued by script woes) was beginning to look promising. Anthony Hopkins last week finally agreed to return as man-eating lead villain Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Hopkins‘ decision to join the film had many thinking Foster would sign up, too.

In November, Foster, apparently displeased with the portrayal of her character in the Thomas Harris eponymous follow-up novel, told W magazine that she would not play Starling “with negative attributed she’s never have.” The actress later denied that she meant she’d turned down “Hannibal,” adding that she hadn’t read the script.

Producers, meanwhile, went ahead with their full-court press to land Foster, bringing in Oscar-winner Steve Zaillian (“Schindler’s List“) to do a rewrite. While the script got thumbs up from Anthony Hopkins, director Ridley Scott (a sub for original “Lambs” director Jonathan Demme) and producer Dino De Laurentiis, it didn’t seal the deal with Foster.

The revised script apparently had less appeal than Claire Danes. Instead of “Hannibal,” Foster is planning to direct Danes in the drama “Flora Plum,” Variety says. Danes will take a year off from her studies at Yale (Foster‘s alma mater) to be in the picture. Both “Hannibal” and “Flora Plum” are tentatively scheduled to begin production in early spring.

Foster, Hopkins and Demme each won Oscars for 1991’s “Lambs.”

Meanwhile, there’s more trouble for Foster‘s latest film, “Anna and the King.” Thai film censors today banned the box-office dud from the country for its reputed inaccurate and insulting representation of the 19th century monarch played in the film by Chow Yun-Fat.