Bridget Fonda in ''La Femme Nikita'' -- The actress turned down the role twice before accepting

It was a bit of a surprise when up-and-comer Bridget Fonda (Doc Hollywood) landed the lead role in the Warner Bros. remake of France’s ’90 hit, La Femme Nikita (retitled Girl Number Five), beating out a list of bad-girl wannabes said to include Winona Ryder, Madonna, Demi Moore, Juliette Lewis, and Robin Wright. (Gabriel Byrne has just been announced as the male lead.) Warner executives decline comment on the competition. But Nikita producer Art Linson will say that for the street-tough-turned-secret agent role, ”The idea was to get somebody fresh and original. We didn’t want to Hollywoodize it with a big star who brings a lot of baggage with her.” So why then does Julia Roberts’ agent say the actress was offered the role-twice — ”and she turned it down twice”?

Ironically, that was also Fonda’s reaction. ”At first,” says her agent, Ilene Feldman, ”Bridget didn’t quite understand the concept of doing a remake of such a recent film” — even though the original had domestic ticket sales of less than $5 million. Feldman says it took Girl director John Badham (The Hard Way) and Barbet Schroeder, Fonda’s director in the upcoming Single White Female, to convince Fonda. She is now training for the role, learning to use guns and deliver martial-arts moves.