By Daniel Fierman
Updated November 19, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST

Faster than you can say phft phft phft, reports circulated last week that Jodie Foster had officially nixed returning as Clarice Starling in the Silence of the Lambs follow-up, Hannibal. In an interview with W, Foster said she disliked the gruesome direction Starling takes in the sequel: ”I won’t play her with negative attributes she’d never have.” So is a Lambs reunion kaput? Not necessarily. ”Her comments were in regard to the book,” says Foster’s rep Jennifer Allen. ”Until Jodie sees a script, she’s not going to decide.” That might take a while. David Mamet, who did the first draft, left in October to shoot his comedy State and Main. Now Steve Zaillian (Schindler’s List) is taking his whacks, meaning ”the script won’t be ready until the end of the year,” says producer Dino De Laurentiis. At that point, Anthony Hopkins and Foster will decide. But if she spits that script back? Distributor Universal won’t comment. Still, one casting director already has thoughts: ”Helen Hunt, Cate Blanchett, and Gwyneth Paltrow. They’d all be great.” Perhaps, but why do we think Hopkins would eat them alive on screen?

— Daniel Fierman, with additional reporting by Tricia Johnson