According to Variety, Brit actor, Rowan Atkinson has signed up for his first leading role in nearly three years, as a village vicar in rural Britcom Keeping Mum.

In a distant echo of his cameo as a hapless clergyman in Four Weddings and a Funeral, Atkinson will play a pastor so obsessed with writing the perfect sermon that he doesn't notice his wife's infidelity or the adolescent escapades of his kids.

Kristin Scott-Thomas (another "Four Weddings" alum) is the spouse, and Patrick Swayze the brash golf instructor with whom she dallies. Maggie Smith plays the discreet housekeeper who decides to take the situation in hand and rid the town of its dirty secrets.

The $17 million movie is directed and co-written by Welsh helmer Niall Johnson, who previously scripted the hit chiller White Noise. He describes Keeping Mum, which starts shooting February 4th in Cornwall and the Isle of Man, as "a blackly comic spin on the Mary Poppins story." The original script is by American writer Richard Russo (Nobody's Fool).

Meanwhile, Atkinson's reps confirm that sequels to Bean and Johnny English are moving purposefully forward in parallel development at Working Title, with Bean 2 looking likely to shoot later in 2005.

Brian B.