Making Light of the Dark Arts

JamMovies -, 26 November 2002
By Liz Braun, Toronto Sun

Here's a problem: One of the best characters in Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets is the hilarious Professor of the Dark Arts, Gilderoy Lockhart -- and he's not in the third book. Fans know this means no Kenneth Branagh in the third Harry Potter movie, and book heresy though it may be, some would bend the rules to get more Gilderoy.

"Would you please write to J.K. Rowling and suggest that?" says Branagh, laughing. The man who steals every scene he's in in Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets has phoned from London, where he's currently directing the hugely successful The Play Wot I Wrote in the West End. The actor who brought Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet and Love's Labour's Lost to the big screen has gone from champion of Shakespeare to kid magnet in one role. Thanks to Harry Potter, Branagh, 41, is currently a sensation with the smallfry crowd.

"It's highly unusual for me to suddenly become cool," he says, with self-deprecating humour. Branagh explains that guest stars and crew members often bring their kids along to rehearsal for The Play Wot I Wrote. "And I like kids, and I always say hello -- and the little faces are frozen, the eyes go wide, then you see them pulling the elbow of the adult who brought them, and then: 'Would you mind signing an autograph?' It's very touching, actually."

(Branagh, who aims to please when approached by little kids, often signs 'Gilderoy Lockhart' for autograph seekers.)

He says he's quite enjoying the hubbub around Potter.

"It would be interesting to be someone known for films like this," he says, cheerfully, "but of course, there are no other films like Harry Potter. And it makes you more, more castable, I guess." He gives all the praise for the impact made by Lockhart straight back to J.K. Rowling and her writing.

"She did write a part she seemed to enjoy writing," he says, adding, "I'm not trying to be falsely modest."

The actor has no time to be falsely anything. Branagh is busy readying The Play Wot I Wrote for Broadway, where it opens in March. The play is an homage to the late comic duo Morecambe and Wise, and it features a famous person every night as the guest star (and punch line.)

He's also written and directed a new short film that he hopes will play film festivals and like that, he's been doing a fair amount of writing and he has a feature film to direct in the near future. It's not exactly part of a plan -- it's just being able to do the sort of work he likes. "I've really just been following my nose for the last few years," he says.

"My greatest interest is working with good people."

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