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Tyro in ‘Potter’ brew

Helmer Yates rises to 'Phoenix'

Brit helmer David Yates has been invited by Warner Bros. to play with its prized Harry Potter franchise.

Days after setting relative newcomer Michael Goldenberg to script “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” Warner Bros. and producer David Heyman are close to setting Yates to direct the fifth installment of the franchise. Pic is slated to start production late 2005 and hit theaters in summer 2007.

Like Goldenberg, Yates was a surprise choice. Yates has only one bigscreen credit: the 1998 feature “The Tichborne Claimant.” But his television work is what cast a spell on WB brass and Heyman, with prize-winning dramas that include “The Way We Live Now” and miniseries “State of Play.”

He is attached to direct Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany in the Warner Independent-distributed “Brideshead Revisited.”

After “Potter” installments by veteran directors Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuaron and Mike Newell, the studio and Heyman were rumored to be looking for new blood. Names surfaced like Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Matthew Vaughn. But Yates, who sparked to the idea of a film in which the student wizard navigates the hormonal cauldron, will likely have a directing deal in place by next week.

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