Big stars like Jodie Foster and Oliver Stone are walking away from new projects... — and not for the usual reasons

It’s not the heat. It’s probably not even the humidity. But at the height of summer, a troupe of Hollywood’s hottest stars and directors have suddenly developed a case of cold feet.

With cameras set to roll this week on the Ridley Scott thriller Crisis in the Hot Zone, two-time Oscar-winner Jodie Foster pulled out of her role as a virus-hunting scientist at the 11th hour, saying ”the script submitted was not ready.” (Scott and screenwriter Paul Attanasio flooded the actress with 115 pages of rewrites only last week.) ”I know she had some problems with Ridley,” says one source. ”He’s not an actor’s director. [And the process] was looking really disorganized. She probably thought it was going to be a nice, easy 12 weeks for $6 million [her reputed paycheck], but it was starting to look like [trouble].”

Hot Zone‘s producers immediately began negotiations with Forrest Gump‘s Robin Wright, who passed, and Holly Hunter — a scramble other filmmakers may have to emulate if recent history holds true:

*Michael Keaton set the trend by hanging up his multimillion-dollar cape after director Joel Schumacher couldn’t convince him that his villainous costars — Jim Carrey as the Riddler and Tommy Lee Jones as Harvey ”Two-Face” Dent — would not upstage him in Batman Forever. Forfeiting his $15 million fee, Keaton relinquished the Batman franchise to new superhero Val Kilmer.

*Michael Douglas passed up a reported $14 million when he bailed on Renny Harlin’s pirate epic Cutthroat Island, claiming that he wouldn’t have time to prepare after filming six days a week on Disclosure. Sources on the film, however, speculate that Douglas feared Harlin would enlarge wife Geena Davis’ role at his expense. ”He wasn’t reduced to second banana, but there was a bit of a tug-of-war,” says one participant. Keanu Reeves turned down the unexpectedly vacant role and Liam Neeson has been mentioned as a possible replacement. Without a major male costar, Island‘s future looks grim.

*Even director Oliver Stone — who earlier abandoned the Al Pacino-starrer Noriega — caught a fresh dose of bow-out fever and ditched the musical Evita, reportedly starring Michelle Pfeiffer. Argentine authorities rejected Stone’s request to film in the Perons’ Buenos Aires stomping grounds, and re-creating the capital in Mexico City threatened to bump the project’s $50 million budget closer to $60 million. ”I know Disney was getting on his case about the numbers, and the more he lived with [”Evita”], the more he cooled on it,” says one producer.

For a change, however, money doesn’t seem to be the motivator driving this latest slew of cancellations. Despite the success of Tom Hanks’ Gump and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s True Lies, the summer of 1994 hasn’t been kind to established stars. Disappointments visited upon usually reliable moneymakers like Kevin Costner (Wyatt Earp), Eddie Murphy (Beverly Hills Cop III), Julia Roberts (I Love Trouble), and Billy Crystal (City Slickers II) have made other heavyweights wary of potentially weak scripts. Besides, as one Hollywood player dryly points out, this particular group of A-list flip-floppers can afford to chill right now: ”None of these people,” he says, ”need the money.”