‘Potter’ bags Bard guy

Branagh to play Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts

Kenneth Branagh, who made his name directing and acting in Shakespearean projects, has signed up to play Gilderoy Lockhart in Warner Bros’ sequel to Harry Potter, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.”

Second film in the franchise is skedded to start production Nov. 18. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” will open on Nov 16.

Film is based on J.K. Rowling’s second book in the “Harry Potter” series of the same name. The principal leads in “Sorcerer’s Stone” will reprise their roles for the sequel.

Branagh’s character, a charming, handsome golden-haired wizard who has made his name as a successful writer and shameless self-promoter, and is enlisted to teach at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts.

He teaches Harry and his friends Ron and Hermoine, who develops a crush on the Professor who is regarded by many as a fraud and a charlatan.

Branagh, repped by manager Judy Hofflund of Hofflund/Polone, is also set to play Richard III on stage at the Crucible Theater in Sheffield starting Feb. 11. Thesp is expected to finish the majority of his work on the “Harry Potter” sequel and then return to finish the remainder of his scenes again in mid-April.

Branagh most recently starred in Philip Noyce’s upcoming “Rabbit Proof Fence.”

His other recent credits include HBO’s “Conspiracy” for which he has received an Emmy nomination, and “Shackleton,” the true story of Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 endurance expedition to the South Pole for Channel Four.

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