Chris Pizzello/Associated Press
Daniel Fierman
January 05, 2000 AT 05:00 AM EST

The hemorrhage caused by Jodie Foster’s Dec. 28 decision not to reprise her Oscar-winning role as FBI agent Clarice Starling in ”Hannibal,” the sequel to ”The Silence of the Lambs,” has turned the blockbuster into a bloody mess. EW has learned that a frustrated Universal — the movie’s studio — is now considering a number of options, including scrapping the much-anticipated thriller instead of trying to recast Foster’s part. ”In the next two to three weeks we have to make a decision,” Universal Pictures chairman Stacey Snider tells EW.

While Universal execs are eager to lure Foster back to the project (they could offer her more money, a new script, or a different start date), she has her heart set on directing Claire Danes in ”Flora Plum,” which would make her unavailable for a full year. And the prospect of recasting the role — Helen Hunt, Angelina Jolie, Cate Blanchett, Calista Flockhart, and Gillian Anderson are favorites of casting directors and Internet speculation — is a gamble. ”Jodie is synonymous with the part,” says the head of a rival major studio. ”I don’t think I would do it [now]. It’s too much risk on a costly investment.” Foster’s costar Anthony Hopkins, meanwhile, likes the script and is willing to join on if a suitable deal can be made. But you can expect that any such signing will cost Universal more than some fava beans and a nice chianti.

Read the complete story in the Jan. 14 issue of Entertainment Weekly.

(Additional reporting by Judith I. Brennan, Jeff Jensen, and Tricia Johnson)

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