So how many scripts tempted Jodie Foster to return to work between her last major role, 2002’s Panic Room, and Flightplan? ”Absolutely nothing came close. Not at all,” Foster says. ”I’m ready when I’m ready. I don’t want to ever feel I’m making movies because it’s this terrible job and I have to punch the clock.” What finally lured her back was the script for Flightplan, a twisty thriller that has Foster playing the recently widowed Kyle Pratt whose daughter, Julia (Marlene Lawston), vanishes at 40,000 feet on a transatlantic flight. The crew quickly begin to suspect that Julia was never on the plane — and may not even exist.
The script came to Foster after several revisions: The original story was about terrorists on a flight to New York City, but after 9/11, director Robert Schwentke thought it would be too intense for audiences. ”So we took the kernel of an idea that played out for maybe 10 pages: A male protagonist cracks under the stress of the death of his spouse, but you’re not sure how much he’s cracked,” Schwentke says. Male protagonist was turned female for Foster — she believes the script works better with a female lead anyway. ”There’s a moment in the movie when Kyle doubts her sanity,” she says. ”It’s the kind of doubt I don’t think any man would ever have. Women’s relationship with their children is this strange symbiotic bond…they are their children.”
Shooting in Los Angeles and Berlin, the cast — including Peter Sarsgaard as an air marshal and Sean Bean as the captain — found themselves trapped in a tube for weeks on end. This provided some spooks for Sarsgaard, a lifelong aerophobe. ”It’s interesting that I did a psychological thriller on an airplane because I’m involved in a psychological thriller on an airplane every time I fly,” he says. Ultimately, however, it was two-time Oscar winner Foster who provided the most intrigue. ”She’s very moving to watch, quite mesmerizing,” Bean says. ”You’re doing a scene and get caught up watching her.”