Kenneth Branagh Revels in Playing Conceited Fop

Reuters - Yahoo, 26 October 2002
By Paul Majendie
*Thanks, Amy

For Shakespearean actor Kenneth Branagh (news), it was a delightful change of direction -- playing a conceited dandy in "Harry Potter (news - web sites) and the Chamber of Secrets."

Branagh, who garnered Oscar nominations for his acclaimed "Hamlet" and "Henry V" movies, clearly reveled in the comic challenge of playing the foppish Gilderoy Lockhart, Professor of the Dark Arts to the wizards of tomorrow.

But he was acutely aware after the success of J.K. Rowling (news - web sites)'s wizard sagas that millions of children around the world already had a firm idea of how they imagined the foppish professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

"It was nerve-wracking because I was aware that 'Chamber of Secrets' is a major film with huge audience expectations and that fans already had a very established idea of who Lockhart is," Branagh said.

But he had a ball playing the bouffon-haired buffoon.

"He's very flamboyant, rather vain and terribly narcissistic. So he is a delicious character to play, ferociously irritating and charming, but we had to convince audiences that he could have done all the things he claims."

Splendidly attired in a string of green, blue, red and gold outfits, Branagh said: "We wanted to create a hybrid between a period dandy and someone who looked as if they could fit into Hogwarts. Lockhart struts like a peacock and wears a different costume in every scene --- and of course there's his hair."

The child stars confessed to being overawed by the reputation of one of Britain's foremost classical actors, who first won acclaim in 1989 when directing and starring in "Henry V." He has since directed three more Shakespeare adaptations.

Danniel Radcliffe, who plays Harry Potter, said: "It is quite intimidating when you are about to meet him as he is this unbelievable Shakespearean actor. But he is one of the nicest guys I have ever met."

Emma Watson (news), who plays Harry's bossy little friend Hermione, dubbed the arrogant professor "the Brad Pitt (news) of his day" and reveled in the Branagh scenes.

The Daily Telegraph's John Hiscock, one of the first critics to see the film, said: "Branagh, wavy hair beautifully coiffed and eyes twinkling, clearly enjoys himself as the preening Lockhart whose shortcomings are humiliatingly exposed by Harry." And director Christopher Columbus felt he fitted in perfectly with the all-British ensemble of actors. "I couldn't conceive of anyone else playing Gilderoy Lockhart," he said.

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