'Harry Potter' Gets 'Weddings' Director

08/11/2003 at 12:30 PM EDT

"Harry Potter" is about to get a healthy dose of wit and sophistication.

Mike Newell, 61, the British film director of the hit comedy "Four Weddings and a Funeral," has signed on to direct the fourth installment of the movie series based on the J.K. Rowling saga, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," reports the BBC.

Newell becomes the first Briton to handle the British teen wizard's cinematic adventures.

"The Goblet of Fire" is due to start rolling for the cameras next April, and in it, the teen wizard faces some stiff competition in the magic department from his schoolmates.

Newell's other credits include "Donnie Brasco," a Mafia thriller that starred Johnny Depp before his pirate mascara, and the director has just wrapped "Mona Lisa Smile," which stars Julia Roberts.

"I'm very excited about directing 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,'" said 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 screen."

The American-born Chris Columbus, a "Home Alone" graduate, directed the first two films, "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" and "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," while Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron has finished "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," to be released later this year.

Producer David Heyman calls Newell "the perfect choice. ... He has worked with children, made us laugh, and had us sitting on the edge of our seats. He is great with actors and imbues all his characters, all his films, with great humanity. I'm thrilled."

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