Branagh's theatrical return

London -- Kenneth Branagh is returning to the London stage for the first time in more than a decade.

The National Theater announced Wednesday that the actor and director will star in "Edmond," a David Mamet play that's being revived at the National this summer.

Branagh, 42, played the self-absorbed Gilderoy Lockhart in last year's "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" and is director of the West End hit "The Play What I Wrote," which is moving to Broadway this spring.

In "Edmond," opening in July, Branagh plays a man who leaves his wife and becomes involved in an underworld of illicit sex, violence and crime. Mamet's play was last seen in London in 1985 at the Royal Court Theater.

Hudson a last-minute hostess

Beverly Hills, Calif. -- "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" star Kate Hudson has about that much time to prepare for hosting duties at the upcoming sci-tech Oscar ceremony.

The actress has agreed to oversee the March 1 presentation of the Scientific and Technical Academy Awards, which honor behind-the-scenes advancements in motion picture arts, organizers announced Tuesday.

The black-tie event at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel is set to take place about three weeks before the main Oscar ceremony March 23 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

Hudson, 23, whose mother is actress Goldie Hawn, had a supporting actress Oscar nomination for playing a groupie in 2000's "Almost Famous." Her other film credits include "The Four Feathers," "Dr. T & the Women" and "200 Cigarettes."

Grisham approves of movie

Blytheville, Ark. -- John Grisham says he was pleased with an advance version of a TV movie based on his autobiographical novel, "A Painted House."

The Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, scheduled to air April 27 on CBS, features "a lot of cotton and mud," Grisham said. Scenes were filmed in the area.

Grisham, who grew up in northeast Arkansas, said he expects the TV movie to premiere in Jonesboro, probably at Arkansas State University. He said Hallmark officials were expected to hold the premiere in mid-March.

"The Runaway Jury," a film based on another of his novels, is set for release in theaters this fall, said Grisham, who was in Blytheville Monday to sign copies of his latest novel, "The King of Torts."

New face in White House

New York -- Joshua Malina, who has joined NBC's "The West Wing," describes the cast as "a benevolent madhouse."

"As soon as the director yells 'Cut,' Martin Sheen and John Spencer are trading old New York theater war stories, Allison Janney is pretending to talk to someone on a prop phone, Dule Hill is tap dancing with jaw-dropping skill, Richard Schiff is tossing Hershey's Kisses into a coffee mug from across the room, Bradley Whitford, that avid yoga showoff, has his foot atop a bookcase, and I'm usually pressuring people to play poker with me," Malina tells People magazine in its Feb. 24 issue.

Malina, 37, plays speechwriter Will Bailey on the Emmy-winning NBC White House drama.


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