Branson full of hot air in ‘Around the World’ cameo

Virgin owner to play hot air balloon operator

HOLLYWOOD — Richard Branson, the British entrepreneur who started Virgin Atlantic Airlines and owns the Virgin Group, has joined the cast of Walden Media’s “Around the World in 80 Days.”

Aptly, Branson’s cameo role has him playing a hot air balloon operator, alongside Luke and Owen Wilson, who will play the Wright brothers.

Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan, Jim and Daniel Wu star in the pic, whose cast includes Kathy Bates, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Johnny Knoxville, Rob Schneider, John Cleese and Belgian thesp Cecile de France.

Pic, directed by Frank Coraci, is shooting at Studio Babelsberg in Germany, where it moved in April for a three-month shoot after it began principal photography in Thailand.

Branson has appeared on “Friends” and “Baywatch” and has had a number of cameos in movies and various TV shows. These include British hit comedy TV series “Only Fools and Horses,” “There’s Only One Paul McCartney” and the feature “Derek and Clive Get the Horn.”