Foster exits as jury prez

Jodie Foster said Sunday she had a “heavy heart” over ankling the presidency of the Cannes Intl. Film Fest jury. On the other hand, her pocketbook will be about $12 million heavier, too.

The actress has stepped in to replace Nicole Kidman in Columbia’s “The Panic Room,” helmed by David Fincher. Kidman withdrew two weeks into shooting because of a knee injury. Columbia had sought Angelina Jolie to step in for Kidman, but now that actress has opted instead to topline New Regency’s “Life, or Something Like It.”

The weekend’s casting merry-go-round is the latest example of whirlwind deal-making for A-list talent caused by pre-strike production frenzy. Jolie and her Industry Entertainment manager Geyer Kosinski have been considering offers for the past two weeks, she became available after Oliver Stone decided not to race the potential strike to do the Mandalay pic “Beyond Borders,” a logistically complicated multi-country shoot that was to star Jolie and Ralph Fiennes.

Foster’s exit presents a major headache for Cannes president Gilles Jacob and his team, who are putting together the 12-member jury for the May 9-20 fest.

Officially, organizers were gracious about her quitting. In a statement Sunday, Jacob said: “The embarrassment and regret she expressed are equaled by our disappointment, but anyone can understand that for an actress, her profession comes first.”

As for Foster, she said “I hope with all my heart that it is only a postponement and that, if the Festival honors me with another request, I will one day become president of a Festival to which I owe so much, and this time for good.”

Foster’s selection as jury president on Jan. 16 had been hailed as something of an olive branch offered to Hollywood, which had been perceived as on the outs of late in the festival’s long-playing love-hate relationship with the U.S. Foster first came to Cannes in 1976 representing the Palme d’Or winning “Taxi Driver.”

Foster’s withdrawal comes at a difficult time for fest organizers. “They were well ahead in the jury selection process,” a festival source said, “but now, of course, they’ll be set back quite a bit. Jodie Foster was easygoing about who the other jurors were, but that might not be the case for the next president. Then they have to find a balance between men and women, actors and directors, French, Americans and so on. It’s a real pain.”

Meanwhile, with Jolie in the fold for “Life, or Something Like It,” several A-list directors are circling, and a helmer should be in place this week for a shoot that will begin in early April. John Davis is producing under his Davis Ent. banner.

The actress, who won the supporting actress Oscar for last year’s “Girl, Interrupted,” will next be seen alongside Antonio Banderas in the MGM drama “Original Sin,” a film skedded for Feb. 23, and, in what is expected to be one of the summer’s major offerings, she brings to life the video heroine Lara Croft in “Tomb Raider,” which was made by Paramount and directed by Simon West.

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