Jodie Foster is so over Russell Crowe. Back in September 2000, Foster was all set to direct the Beautiful Mind troublemaker in the trapeze romance Flora Plum, when he sustained a shoulder injury during rehearsals. Crowe was forced to drop out, leaving Foster — and the film's star, Claire Danes — breathing fire.

Now, nearly two years later, Foster appears ready to rejoin the circus, but she's looking for a new freak. "[Russell's role] will be recast," reveals the two-time Oscar winner. "He cannot put his arm up, let alone put any weight on it, for a year. So, he's definitely not in the picture.

"Times have changed," she adds. "Russell has gone on to do other things, and he's not necessarily — for whatever reason — the right person for it anymore."

That's not the case with Danes, who Foster says "is Flora Plum." Unfortunately, she's also an on-again, off-again undergrad at Yale — which could make rescheduling the shoot a bit of a high-wire act in and of itself. "I feel so bad about Claire," Foster sighs, "because we almost started Flora Plum twice and she came out of school both times. It was so heartbreaking when we shut down. She had been working on the trapeze for eight weeks."

Of course, one good thing came out of Flora's fall: It freed up Foster to assume the lead role in David Fincher's cat-and-mouse thriller Panic Room (opening today). The film finds the 39-year-old playing a divorcée who moves into a Manhattan brownstone with her young daughter (Kristen Stewart). When a trio of burglars break in, the pair take cover in a secret room and creepy madness ensues. (Here's a hint: What they want is in the room.)

How was Foster able to tap into that kind of fear? "That's the beauty of being an actor," says the former child star, who went toe-to-toe with Hannibal Lecter in 1991's The Silence of the Lambs. "You get to live out things that you're afraid of. It's kind of a way of exorcising that fear. You hope you never live through anything like this. I certainly have never lived through anything like this."