Four Weddings Helmer Wild About Harry

With a billion-dollar franchise to protect, who are you gonna call? In the case of the Harry Potter series, Warner Bros. Pictures has dialed up the director of the most successful British film comedy ever.

It was announced that Four Weddings and A Funeral director Mike Newell has agreed to helm Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth film in the smash-hit series. Newell most recently completed production on the latest Julia Roberts’ vehicle, Mona Lisa Smile. He’s also known for directing Enchanted April and Donnie Brasco.

“We’re really happy to bring Mike on board to direct this movie,” says Jeff Robinov, Warner Bros. Pictures president of production. “He has the ability to get tremendous performances from his actors, and handles drama and comedy equally well. We’ve been lucky to have worked with excellent filmmakers on the first three Harry Potter movies and we’re looking forward to continuing that tradition as we start on the next one with Mike.”

Production on the fourth Potter film is scheduled to begin in England in April 2004. David Heyman will produce and Steve Kloves will write the screenplay for the film, slated for release worldwide in late 2005. Newell will be the first British director to helm a Harry Potter movie. The films are based on the best-selling series of books by J.K. Rowling and are set in the U.K.

The first two movies in the series broke worldwide records with a combined box office gross of nearly $1.9 billion. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third film in the series, is currently being filmed under the direction of Alfonso Cuarón at Leavesden Studios and on location in England and Scotland.

“I’m very excited about directing the film,” says Newell. “As audiences have become more familiar with both the books and the movies, there has been an increasing challenge to continue to develop each of these characters and to make their world real on the screen. It’s a pleasure to follow directors Chris Columbus and Alfonso Cuarón, who have done so much to establish the tradition of Harry Potter on film.”

Newell, through his company Fifty Cannon Ent., has executive-produced such films as Traffic, I Capture the Castle and High Fidelity.