Thesp was on the mend after 'Rouge' shoot

NEW YORK — Two weeks into shooting, a knee injury has sidelined star Nicole Kidman from the Columbia drama “The Panic Room.”

The thesp’s possible exit from the starring role — pending final word from doctors — has created a bit of panic at the studio, where execs are moving quickly on potential recasting.

“The Panic Room” is a drama scripted by David Koepp and directed by David Fincher. Plot involves a woman and her child who attempt to elude intruders who break into her Gotham brownstone, looking for a cash stash; the woman seeks refuge in a “panic room” designed to insulate her from harm. Forest Whitaker and Dwight Yoakam are playing the thieves. Its tense, cat-and-mouse plotline calls for physical work.

Kidman is on the mend from a knee injury she suffered during the Australian shoot of the Baz Luhrmann-directed “Moulin Rouge,” and apparently she hasn’t fully recovered or is having trouble with the other knee. It became quickly evident that she wasn’t going to be able to get the job done.

“Panic Room” is a high-profile project for Col, which bought the Koepp script for $4 million as a spec and got Fincher to choose it over a swarm of other projects. Her exit heightens the pressure brought to bear on each studio project this year by the specter of a possible summer work stoppage due to the expiration of the writers and actors guild contracts.

It will be a challenge to replace Kidman because most actresses of her caliber are booked for their prestrike slots. There are exceptions, such as Angelina Jolie, who just became available when “Beyond Borders,” a drama she planned to star in with Ralph Fiennes for director Oliver Stone, was shelved over budget matters that couldn’t be settled in time for a prestrike start.

The studio is trying to move quickly to figure out which top actress could step into the role.

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