Nighy to play hippy rabbit in 'Magic Roundabout'

Having won a Bafta nomination for his performance as a washed-up rock star in Love Actually, the actor Bill Nighy has landed the part of another ageing rocker...Dylan, the hippy rabbit in The Magic Roundabout.

The cartoon series is being made into a feature film and the casting team have been searching for months to find the appropriate voice for the spaced-out bunny who appears to have been growing more than just carrots in his vegetable patch.

Mr Nighy, 54, was considered perfect for the role after starring alongside Hugh Grant and Martine McCutcheon in Love Actually. In the film directed by Richard Curtis, he played a Rod Stewart look-alike who went on children's television programmes to re-launch his music career.

In what might seem like a strange dream to the actor, he now finds himself working on one of the best-loved children's shows of his youth. Britain's most flamboyant rocker Robbie Williams has already been cast in the film, as the shaggy dog Dougal. The dog's appetite for copious amounts of sugar seemed harmless enough in 1965 when the series was first hatched by Serge Danot but would probably not win the show too many endorsements from dieticians.

The part of the little girl Florence has been taken by another pop star Kylie Minogue.

Joanna Lumley has agreed to play Ermintrude, the dozy cow with a flower in her mouth, and Richard O'Brien will provide the voice for Zebedee, whose catchphrase "Time for bed" signalled the end of the day for a generation of children.

The feature film is being made by Pathe and is expected to be released early next year. The Magic Roundabout attracted audiences of eight million during its heyday in the 1970s when it was screened by BBC1 in the five minutes before the early evening news. The show preceded The Simpsons in being a children's programme that was also loved by adults for the witty commentary.

Dylan, with his goofy teeth and guitar, became one of the most popular characters, even though he was often asleep. The film will be a co-production between the French company Films Action, which owns the rights, and Bolexbrothers, which is based in Bristol.

The film-makers have promised to remain faithful to the characters in the 1970s series. The original French programme came to Britain from M. Danot without a script and Eric Thompson, father of the actor Emma, created the story and provided the voices.

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