Branagh Lands Second Harry Potter Film

Kenneth Branagh, that redoubtable Shakespearean actor-director, is signing on to the second Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

No, he's not going to direct it, silly Muggle, he's going to act in it, as Gilderoy Lockhart, Hogwarts' Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor, who becomes the object of Hermione's fancy, much to Harry's disgust. Hugh Grant was earlier mentioned for the role of the golden-haired wizard, but has reportedly dropped out due to scheduling difficulties.

The second film in the Warner Bros. franchise is scheduled to start production Nov. 16, the same day that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone will open. The principal leads in Sorcerer's Stone will reprise their roles for the sequel, according to Variety.

Branagh is also set to play Richard III on stage at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, England, starting Feb. 11. He is expected to finish most of his work on the Harry Potter sequel, and then return to finish his scenes again in mid-April.

The 40-year-old thespian most recently starred in Philip Noyce's intriguingly titled 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.

Reuters/Variety contributed to this story.