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Forest Whitaker: Don't Panic!

Forest Whitaker knew Panic Room would be a great movie, but only as long as David Fincher (Fight Club) directed the suspenser. "In his hands, I thought it would be really amazing," he tells TV Guide Online. "In somebody else's hands, it would feel more like a play because it all happens in a house." The 40-year-old actor/director says he jumped at the chance to play Burnham, a conflicted security pro who breaks into Jodie Foster's home for cash. The duo then engage in a psychological face-off when she seals herself inside the very room where the stash is hidden! Whitaker explains that Fincher's involvement elevated

Allie Cahill

Forest Whitaker knew Panic Room would be a great movie, but only as long as David Fincher (Fight Club) directed the suspenser. "In his hands, I thought it would be really amazing," he tells TV Guide Online. "In somebody else's hands, it would feel more like a play because it all happens in a house."

The 40-year-old actor/director says he jumped at the chance to play Burnham, a conflicted security pro who breaks into Jodie Foster's home for cash. The duo then engage in a psychological face-off when she seals herself inside the very room where the stash is hidden!

Whitaker explains that Fincher's involvement elevated Panic Room from a conventional melodrama to a visually-arresting thriller "because he knows so much about the technical making of films. He's one of the most technically savvy filmmakers I've ever encountered in 20-something years."

Whitaker's next project is quite a switch from this one: A live-action version of Fat Albert! "I met with [creator] Bill [Cosby] years ago," he recalls. "We talked and I told him how much I liked the show. I got a call from him in L.A. and he said, 'I hear they really like your directing at Fox. I'd really like you to direct my film.'"

Finding Fat Albert — the '70s cartoon character who coined the phrase "Hey, hey, hey" — proved to be more of a challenge than expected. "I was open to everybody," Whitaker says, "so we saw people thin and large. But the guy I found is Fat Albert. He's perfect. [Omar Benson Miller] has so much warmth and he is also so secure. That was one of the qualities that Fat Albert had — he was very confident in who he was."