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Conjuring A Stellar Ensemble
In keeping with the family tradition established on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the filmmakers reunited not only the original child cast for Chamber of Secrets, but also their stellar ensemble of the U.K.'s greatest adult actors.

Reprising their roles from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone are acclaimed actors John Cleese (The World is Not Enough, A Fish Called Wanda, Monty Python) as Nearly Headless Nick; Robbie Coltrane (Nuns on the Run, GoldenEye, The World is Not Enough) as the gentle giant Hagrid; Warwick Davis (Willow) as the Charms teacher Professor Flitwick; Richard Griffiths (Sleepy Hollow, Naked Gun 2, King Ralph) as Harry's Uncle Vernon Dursley; Richard Harris (Gladiator, Unforgiven, Camelot) as Hogwarts' all-knowing Headmaster Albus Dumbledore; Alan Rickman (Truly Madly Deeply, Sense and Sensibility, Die Hard) as the enigmatic Potions Professor Severus Snape; Fiona Shaw (My Left Foot, The Butcher Boy, Franco Zeffirelli's Jane Eyre) as Harry's Aunt Petunia Dursley; Dame Maggie Smith (Oscar-nominated for her role in Gosford Park; Tea With Mussolini, Richard III) plays Dumbledore's loyal deputy Professor Minerva McGonagall; and Julie Walters (Billy Elliot, Educating Rita, Personal Services) as Mrs. Molly Weasley.

Perhaps the most prominent of the new and exciting characters introduced in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is Gilderoy Lockhart, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor, played by the multi-talented actor, writer and director Kenneth Branagh (Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, Dead Again, Shackleton).

According to Columbus, Kenneth Branagh was the only man for the job. "Ken is one of the great stage and screen actors of our time, and a great filmmaker," Columbus attests. "He's a perfect fit for our all-British ensemble, and he's one of the few younger actors who can hold his own against the likes of Richard Harris, Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman. I couldn't conceive of anyone else playing Gilderoy Lockhart."

"Lockhart is amongst the most challenging roles in either of the two films," Heyman elaborates. "We needed someone who could be both annoying and charming, who would embrace Lockhart's narcissism, be hysterically funny, and still keep him grounded in reality. Ken did all we asked of him and more. He's absolutely fantastic."

While he relished playing the part of the ostentatious phony, Branagh did not take the role lightly. "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 says. "He's very flamboyant, rather vain and terribly narcissistic. So he's 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. We had to make him plausible. I trusted Chris Columbus and his comic timing implicitly."

"Whereas Ken Branagh is the nicest man on earth, Lockhart is a show-off and a fraud," says Radcliffe of the newest addition to Hogwarts' eclectic teaching staff. "Girls love him and boys hate him because they know that something about him is not quite right."

Indeed, Lockhart casts his charismatic spell on Hogwarts' female students, especially the typically single-minded Hermione. "She is absolutely dreamy about Lockhart," confesses Emma Watson, who calls the arrogant professor "the Brad Pitt of his day. Hermione is obsessed with him, as are the other girls. And Kenneth Branagh is so down to earth and he's such a fantastic actor that he made the

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