Who almost got Jodie Foster's roles? -- Michelle Pfeiffer, Sean Penn, and Nicole Kidman were were in the running for some of her most memorable roles

By Karen Valby
Updated August 31, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

It’s blasphemous imagining anyone else in Clarice Starling’s shoes. But here’s who almost had Foster’s career…

Kelly McGillis
The Accused
McGillis, who opted to play the tough-talking lawyer instead, was the original lead. Foster, after convincing the studio that she was no longer the overweight teenager from her awkward years, stepped in and won her first Oscar.

Michelle Pfeiffer
The Silence of the Lambs
Foster was Demme’s second choice, but she won him over with an impassioned speech about the mythology of the female hero. The American Film Institute later named her Clarice the top female hero of all time.

Meg Ryan
When Ryan bowed out weeks before shooting, Foster slid into a corset and cozied up to new fast friend Mel Gibson. ”It was the perfect gig,” she says of her one foray into romantic comedy. ”I didn’t have to worry about [an audition].”

Nicole Kidman
Panic Room
Kidman, who was nursing an injury from Moulin Rouge, had to drop out three weeks into production. Foster stepped down as head of the jury at Cannes to replace her and went on to score her highest-grossing opening weekend yet.

Sean Penn
Though Penn was reportedly attached to star, Foster says the thriller ”was the only movie that I could even imagine being in” after having passed on three years’ worth of scripts. ”And I read constantly. And that was written for a man!”