By Gary Susman
Entertainment Weekly

Wednesday, September 28, 2005 Posted: 1440 GMT (2240 HKT)

*(Entertainment Weekly) -- Victim or victor? In Jodie Foster's roles,

there's often a little of both.*

The "Panic Room" star's latest protective-mom-fighting-back role,

in "Flightplan," sees her playing Kyle Pratt, a woman whose little

girl vanishes during a commercial flight, but who can't convince

the crew that her daughter was ever on board or even exists.

On the plus side, Kyle is not only fierce and determined, she's

also an aircraft engineer who knows how to navigate the plane's

innards during her desperate quest.

The two-time best actress Oscar winner has a long history of roles

that allow her to play both imperiled and empowered, as the

following gallery shows.

Even during her child actress years, Foster often played bossy

girls getting into trouble -- Becky Thatcher in "Tom Sawyer" (1973),

the worldly-wise pre-teens she played for Martin Scorsese in

"Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" (1974) and "Taxi Driver" (1976),

the mini-moll in kiddie gangster musical "Bugsy Malone" (1976),

and the mother-hen to a group of self-destructive high-school girls

in "Foxes" (1980).

As an adult, she has played such flawed heroines as the rape victim

who confronts her assailants in 1988's "The Accused" (earning her

first Oscar), the green but steel-willed FBI trainee Clarice Starling

in 1991's "The Silence of the Lambs" (her second Oscar-winning role),

the waitress raising a prodigy in "Little Man Tate" (1991), the

doubt-riddled cosmic explorer of "Contact" (1997), and the mom

protecting her daughter from violent burglars in "Panic Room" (2002).

No wonder Foster was Flightplan producer Brian Grazer's choice to play

Kyle. ''Who does the audience want to get their child back? Jodie,

'' Grazer tells Entertainment Weekly. ''But she has this other

dimension, which is power. You're allowed to let her be vulnerable

or weak, because you know Jodie can recover from that and kick ass.''

Foster chalks up her own interest in heroic maternal roles to her age

and motherhood (she has two sons, Charlie, 7, and Kit, almost 4).

At 42, she tells EW, ''You don't have to worry about being the

ingenue or being cast as Tom Cruise's girlfriend ever again.''

And that protective streak exists in real life, she says.

''If you woke me up in the middle of the night, I'd go: Charlie,

what's up?'' Thinking of her sons, she says, ''I don't actually

sleep -- they're still in my head.''

On Foster's plate is "Sugarland," a docudrama she'd direct and

possibly star in, about a heroic lawyer who takes on a powerful

sugar baron. She's also spent several years developing a biopic

of Leni Riefenstahl, the German actress/director ("Triumph of the

Will") who was one of cinema's pioneering visionaries and most

notorious propagandists, a woman who was either a Nazi dupe or

a collaborator.

Imperiled or empowered? In Foster's hands, probably both.

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