In a suite in the Denver Marriott Hotel, Jodie Foster is spruced up for the TV interviews, with perfect makeup and perfect hair, looking quite nice for the cameras.

After a break for lunch the print interviews begin, and she still looks quite nice, but rather more relaxed, right down to the odd, dowdy glasses perched on her nose.Down the hall in another suite Kelly McGillis is similarly ready for TV cameras, then miniature tape recorders, though her look doesn't change after lunch. But her look is still rather unexpected: Short blond hair, a short black mini-skirt, and she's not very relaxed for either set of interviews. She just smokes more when the cameras are gone.

Both, however, give interesting interviews as they spend the day in Denver discussing the new film in which they co-star, "The Accused," which opened in Salt Lake theaters Friday.

- JODIE FOSTER, articulate and witty, seems a far cry from the victim she plays in "The Accused," a naive, uneducated, flirtatious woman who is gang-raped in a bar and then treated like a criminal by the legal system. It's a bravura performance, one that may well be remembered come Oscar time.

As a former child actress who has often seemed more grown-up than her adult co-stars, Foster is in fact far from naive, and she's very well-educated - fluent in several languages and graduated a couple of years ago from Yale.

And she's done something few child actors manage to achieve - she's kept her movie career intact during the transition from precocious kid to serious-minded adult.

Actually, that understates the situation. "The Accused" is Foster's 26th film and her fourth to hit movie screens in 1988, after "Siesta," "Five Corners" and "Stealing Home." In February or March she'll also be seen in Dennis Hopper's "Backtrack."

TV and newspaper reporters from several Western states flew into Denver to interview Foster, McGillis and producer Sherry Lansing a week ago, and they found the celebrities ready to discuss any and all subjects _ except one.

Reporters were told prior to the interviews _ told several times in fact _ not to bring up John Hinckley Jr. or his attempted assassination of President Reagan in 1981, designed to get the attention of Foster, who was, and apparently still is, his obsession.

Most of the entertainment reporters were comfortable with that. After all, the only reason Foster did the interviews was to hype "The Accused." No problem. Besides, none of us works for the National Enquirer.

But publicists keep re-emphasizing the point, even making it a threat. "If anyone even mentions Hinckley the interviews are over." Not just interviews with Foster, the publicist implies _ all interviews.

It is driven home so redundantly that it isn't long before it naturally becomes a joke. We're sure one of us is going to be thinking so hard about not bringing up the subject that he/she will ultimately say something like, "How do you do, Miss Hinckley . . . er, Foster. . . ."

But no one slips. The interviews go on.

Foster is 25 now, and is animated as she admits to being proud of "The Accused," though she seems somewhat shy about discussing her own performance. "It's an incredible role, the most challenging role I've ever had."

And that's no small claim when you remember "Taxi Driver," "The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane," "Carny" and others. She adds that "The Accused" deals with "a subject matter I've always cared about."

There have been three "pivotal" films in her career, she says, three "when I wasn't just being myself": "Taxi Driver," "The Hotel New Hampshire" and now "The Accused."

And though those moments are the most fulfilling, Foster confesses that during her five years at Yale, though she still made a film a year, she considered leaving show business.

"I thought a lot about what I would be when I grew up, mostly because I didn't know any child actors who had kept their careers going and I wasn't sure I could do it."

She does not feel, however, that being a child actress was detrimental to her childhood. On the contrary, she feels she would have missed many opportunities had her childhood been different. "Math is probably the only thing that ever suffered."

But college forced her into friendships that lasted longer than ever before in her life, just because she had moved around so much. "I was socially ignorant," she says of her pre-college days. Now she feels she is more a fully-rounded member of society. At this point in her life, Foster's main concentration is "the work." And she's been happy with her recent films, even when critics have not. Critical reaction to "Stealing Home," for example, surprised her. "So many other coming-of-age films are so superficial. I really liked that movie."

But, as she says, a movie "either speaks to you or it doesn't."

"The Accused" definitely speaks to Foster.

"Whether people like this film or not, they'll definitely come out of the movie theater and talk about it for a couple of days."

* KELLY MCGILLIS is sitting on a couch, ready for questions. But she's not comfortable. It's apparent she'd rather be somewhere else _ probably anywhere else.

In fact, she says she almost didn't attend this press tour because she was disappointed in the film after seeing an early rough cut. But later, when she saw the finished product, she changed her mind. "I'm very proud of this film. I was reticent when I saw the early cut, but now I think it's a great film."

McGillis was the first actress to come to the project, and she says she had a choice of playing the rape victim or the lawyer who prosecutes the rapists.

The role of the prosecutor won out because it is a complex character who changes over the course of the film, she explained, but also because McGillis was herself raped by two men in her New York apartment in 1982, and she wasn't sure she wanted to relive the experience for a film.

But that tragedy in her life has naturally prompted very strong feelings on the subject of rape, and she sees "The Accused" as much more than merely movie entertainment. She hopes it will be an educational tool, as well.

McGillis came to public attention in her co-starring role (with Harrison Ford) in "Witness," and followed that with the hugely successful "Top Gun," opposite Tom Cruise.

But she didn't have any idea "Top Gun" would become a monster hit. She says she took that role because she was being offered nothing but "pious" roles in the "Witness" mode, and she wanted to do something very different.

She then made a couple of unsuccessful pictures, "Made in Heaven" and "The House on Carroll Street," and, naturally, has higher hopes for "The Accused." She also has two more films coming right up _ "Unsettled Land" and "The Winter People."

* SHERRY LANSING also has high hopes for "The Accused." And why not? The last picture she produced was "Fatal Attraction."

She is also very vocal and well-versed on the film's subject, full of statistics and facts about rape in America, including the frightening assertion that gang-rape at the fraternity level has become a rite of passage, proof of masculinity that encourages young men to participate.

Lansing worked with her partner Stanley R. Jaffe and screenwriter Tom Topor ("Nuts") in developing a screenplay that would deal with the subject of gang-rape, and further with the responsibility of society toward rape victims. It also became a story condemning those who witness violent crime but do nothing about it, whether or not they actively participate.

"I have always wondered what I would do if I witnessed a crime. I would hope I would interfere or try to stop it in some way.

"The culpability of the bystander is something that I don't think has been explored very well in film.

"My mother escaped from Nazi Germany and I would listen to her stories about those who just stood by and let it happen. This is the sin of omission."

Lansing says her goal with this film is to see the establishment of "Good Samaritan Laws" in the United States, laws that would make witnessing a crime and doing nothing a punishable offense.

The film was made for $8 million, a pittance by Hollywood standards these days, and it took five years to get it off the ground. "But that helped make it better. It made us work harder."

Lansing, a former actress and model who rose in the behind-the-camera ranks to become the first female head of a major studio (20th Century Fox), says she has always wanted to be involved in production, and now feels she can work exclusively on films about which she has strong feelings.

Her next project with partner Jaffe reunites them with "Fatal Attraction" star Michael Douglas, "Black Rain," to be directed by Ridley Scott ("Alien," "Blade Runner").