Rowan Atkinson biography

Mr. Bean’s Holiday starring Rowan Atkinson

Rowan Sebastian Atkinson (born 6 January 1955) is an English actor, comedian, and screenwriter. He is most famous for his work on the satirical sketch comedy show Not the Nine O’Clock News, and the sitcoms Blackadder, Mr. Bean and The Thin Blue Line. He has been listed in The Observer as one of the 50 funniest actors in British comedy, and amongst the top 50 comedians ever in a 2005 poll of fellow comedians. He has also had cinematic success with his performances in the Mr. Bean movie adaptations Bean and Mr. Bean’s Holiday and in Johnny English and its sequel Johnny English Reborn.

Early life and education of Rowan Atkinson

Rowan Atkinson, the youngest of four brothers, was born in Consett, County Durham, England.His parents were Eric Atkinson, a farmer and company director, and Ella May (née Bainbridge), who married on 29 June 1945. His three older brothers were Paul, who died as an infant, Rodney, a Eurosceptic economist who narrowly lost the United Kingdom Independence Party leadership election in 2000, and Rupert. Rowan Atkinson was brought up Anglican, and was educated at Durham Choristers School, St. Bees School, and Newcastle University.In 1975, he continued for the degree of MSc in Electrical Engineering at The Queen’s College, Oxford, the same college his father matriculated at in 1935, and which made Atkinson an Honorary Fellow in 2006. First achieving notice at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1976, while at Oxford, he also acted and performed early sketches for the Oxford University Dramatic Society (OUDS), the Oxford Revue and the Experimental Theatre Club (ETC), meeting writer Richard Curtis and composer Howard Goodall, with whom he would continue to collaborate during his career.

Career of Rowan Atkinson

Radio career of Rowan Atkinson

Rowan Atkinson starred in a series of comedy shows for BBC Radio 3 in 1978 called The Atkinson People. It consisted of a series of satirical interviews with fictional great men, who were played by Atkinson himself. The series was written by Atkinson and Richard Curtis, and produced by Griff Rhys Jones.

Television career of Rowan Atkinson

After university, Rowan Atkinson toured with Angus Deayton as his straight man in an act that was eventually filmed for a television show. After the success of the show, he did a one-off pilot for London Weekend Television in 1979 called Canned Laughter. Rowan Atkinson then went on to do Not the Nine O’Clock News for the BBC, produced by his friend John Lloyd. He starred on the show along with Pamela Stephenson, Griff Rhys Jones and Mel Smith, and was one of the main sketch writers.

The success of Not the Nine O’Clock News led to his starring in the medieval sitcom The Black Adder, which he also co-wrote with Richard Curtis, in 1983. After a three-year gap, in part due to budgetary concerns, a second series was written, this time by Curtis and Ben Elton, and first screened in 1986. Blackadder II followed the fortunes of one of the descendants of Rowan Atkinson’s original character, this time in the Elizabethan era. The same pattern was repeated in the two sequels Blackadder the Third (1987) (set in the Regency era), and Blackadder Goes Forth (1989) (set in World War I). The Blackadder series went on to become one of the most successful BBC situation comedies of all time, spawning television specials including Blackadder’s Christmas Carol (1988), Blackadder: The Cavalier Years (1988), and more recently “Blackadder: Back & Forth” (1999), which was set at the turn of the Millennium.

Mr. Bean Movie Lifesize Standup PosterRowan Atkinson’s other famous creation, the hapless Mr. Bean, first appeared on New Years Day in 1990 in a half-hour special for Thames Television. The character of Mr. Bean has been likened somewhat to a modern-day Buster Keaton. During this time, Atkinson appeared at the Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal in 1987 and 1989. Several sequels to Mr. Bean appeared on television in the 1990s, and it eventually made into a major motion picture in 1997. Entitled Bean, it was directed by Mel Smith, his former co-star from Not the Nine O’Clock News. A second movie was released in 2007 entitled Mr. Bean’s Holiday. In 1995 and 1997, Atkinson portrayed Inspector Raymond Fowler in the popular The Thin Blue Line television series, written by Ben Elton, which takes place in a police station located in fictitious Gasforth.

Rowan Atkinson has fronted campaigns for Kronenbourg, Fujifilm, and Give Blood. Rowan Atkinson appeared as a hapless and error-prone espionage agent in a long-running series for Barclaycard, on which character his title role in Johnny English and Johnny English Reborn was based. He also starred in a comedy spoof of Doctor Who as the Doctor, for a “Red Nose Day” benefit. Rowan Atkinson has also starred as the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car in the motoring show, Top Gear in July 2011, where he recorded the second fastest lap in the Kia Cee’d with a time of 1:42.2.

Rowan Atkinson appeared at the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony as Mr. Bean in a comedy sketch during a performance of “Chariots of Fire“, playing a repeated single note on synthesiser. He then lapsed into a dream sequence in which he joined the runners from the film of the same name (about the 1924 Summer Olympics), beating them in their iconic run along West Sands at St. Andrews, by riding in a minicab and tripping the front runner.

Retirement of Mr. Bean

Mr. Bean’s Holiday starring Rowan AtkinsonOn November 19th, 2012 it was announced that the character of Mr. Bean will be retired. “The stuff that has been most commercially successful for me —- basically quite physical, quite childish —- I increasingly feel I’m going to do a lot less of,” Atkinson told the Daily Telegraph’s Review. “Apart from the fact that your physical ability starts to decline, I also think someone in their 50s being childlike becomes a little sad. You’ve got to be careful.”

Film work of Rowan Atkinson

Rowan Atkinson’s film career began in 1983 with a supporting part in the ‘unofficial’ James Bond movie Never Say Never Again and a leading role in Dead on Time with Nigel Hawthorne. He appeared in former Not the Nine O’Clock News co-star Mel Smith’s directorial debut The Tall Guy in 1989. He also appeared alongside Anjelica Huston and Mai Zetterling in Roald Dahl’s The Witches in 1990. In 1993 he played the part of Dexter Hayman in Hot Shots! Part Deux, a parody of Rambo III, starring Charlie Sheen.

Rowan Atkinson gained further recognition with his turn as a verbally bumbling vicar in the 1994 hit Four Weddings and a Funeral. That same year he was featured in Disney’s The Lion King as the voice of Zazu the Red-billed Hornbill. Rowan Atkinson continued to appear in supporting roles in successful comedies, including Rat Race (2001), Scooby-Doo (2002), and Love Actually (2003).

In 2005, he acted in the crime/comedy Keeping Mum, which also starred Kristin Scott Thomas, Maggie Smith and Patrick Swayze.

Johnny English, starring Rowan AtkinsonIn addition to his supporting roles, Atkinson has also had success as a leading man. His television character Mr. Bean debuted on the big screen in 1997 with Bean to international success. A sequel, Mr. Bean’s Holiday, was released in March 2007 and also became an international success. He has also starred in the James Bond parody Johnny English in 2003. Its sequel, Johnny English Reborn was released on 7 October 2011.

Rowan Atkinson in the Theatre

Rowan Atkinson did live on-stage skits – also appearing with members of Monty Python – in The Secret Policeman’s Ball (1979).

The Sneeze and Other Stories, seven short Anton Chekhov plays, translated and adapted by Michael Frayn, were performed by Rowan Atkinson, Timothy West and Cheryl Campbell at the Aldwych Theatre, London in 1988.

Rowan Atkinson appeared in the 2009 revival of the West End musical Oliver! in the role of Fagin. The production was directed by Rupert Goold. A year prior he starred in a run of the show in Oxford, directed by Jez Bond.

Comedic style of Rowan Atkinson

Best known for his use of physical comedy in his trademark character of Mr. Bean, Rowan Atkinson’s other characters rely more heavily on language. Atkinson often plays authority figures (especially priests or vicars) speaking absurd lines with a completely deadpan delivery.

One of his better-known trademark comic devices is over-articulation of the “B” sound, such as his pronunciation of “Bob” in a Blackadder episode. Rowan Atkinson suffers from stuttering, and the over-articulation is a technique to overcome problematic consonants.

Rowan Atkinson’s often visually based style, which has been compared to that of Buster Keaton, sets him apart from most modern television and film comedies, which rely heavily on dialogue, as well as stand-up comedy which is mostly based on monologues. This talent for visual comedy has led to Atkinson being called “the man with the rubber face”: comedic reference was made to this in an episode of Blackadder the Third, in which Baldrick (Tony Robinson) refers to his master, Mr. E. Blackadder, as a “lazy, big-nosed, rubber-faced bastard”.

Personal life of Rowan Atkinson

Marriage and children

Rowan Atkinson first met Sunetra Sastry in the late 1980s, when she was working as a make-up artist with the BBC. Sastry is the daughter of an Indian father and a British mother.[23] The couple married at the Russian Tea Room in New York City on 5 February 1990. They have two children and live in Apethorpe, Northamptonshire near Corby as well as in Ipsden, Oxfordshire and in Highbury, London. In October 2010, his Blackadder co-star Stephen Fry confessed on The Rob Brydon Show and in his second autobiography (The Fry Chronicles) that, although he was already openly homosexual at the time, he had considered asking Sastry (who was his make-up artist) out. When Atkinson came to him one day and asked if he could swap make-up artists because he wanted to ask Sastry out, ‘all idea of [his] asking out Sunetra left [him]’. Fry was best man at Atkinson’s wedding in 1990. Atkinson was formerly in a relationship with actress Leslie Ash.[26]

Politics of Rowan Atkinson

In June 2005, Atkinson led a coalition of the UK’s most prominent actors and writers, including Nicholas Hytner, Stephen Fry, and Ian McEwan, to the British Parliament in an attempt to force a review of the controversial Racial and Religious Hatred Bill, which they felt would give overwhelming power to religious groups to impose censorship on the arts. In 2009, he criticized homophobic speech legislation, saying that the House of Lords must vote against a government attempt to remove a free speech clause in an anti-gay hate law. In 2012 he voiced his support for the Reform Section 5 campaign, which aims to reform or repeal Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, particularly its statement that an insult can be grounds for arrest and punishment. It is a reaction to several recent high-profile arrests, which Rowan Atkinson sees as a restriction of freedom of expression.

Cars of Rowan Atkinson

With an estimated wealth of £70  million, Rowan Atkinson is able to indulge his passion for cars that began with driving his mother’s Morris Minor around the family farm. He has written for the British magazines Car, Octane, Evo, and “SuperClassics”, a short-lived UK magazine, in which he reviewed the McLaren F1 in 1995.

Rowan Atkinson holds a category C+E (formerly ‘Class 1’) lorry driving licence, gained in 1981, because lorries held a fascination for him, and to ensure employment as a young actor. He has also used this skill when filming comedy material. A lover of and participant in car racing, he appeared as racing driver Henry Birkin in the television play Full Throttle in 1995. In 1991, he starred in the self-penned The Driven Man, a series of sketches featuring Atkinson driving around London trying to solve his obsession with cars, and discussing it with taxi drivers, policemen, used-car salesmen and psychotherapists.[31]

Rowan Atkinson has raced in other cars, including a Renault 5 GT Turbo for two seasons for its one make series. He owns a McLaren F1, which was involved in an accident in Cabus, near Garstang, Lancashire with an Austin Metro in October 1999. It was damaged again in a serious crash in August 2011 when it caught fire after Atkinson reportedly lost control and hit a tree. He also owns a Honda NSX. Other cars he owns include an Audi A8, and a Honda Civic Hybrid.

The Conservative Party politician Alan Clark, himself a devotee of classic motor cars, recorded in his published Diaries a chance meeting with a man he later realized was Atkinson while driving through Oxfordshire in May 1984: “Just after leaving the motorway at Thame I noticed a dark red DBS V8 Aston Martin on the slip road with the bonnet up, a man unhappily bending over it. I told Jane to pull in and walked back. A DV8 in trouble is always good for a gloat.” Clark writes that he gave Rowan Atkinson a lift in his Rolls-Royce to the nearest telephone box, but was disappointed in his bland reaction to being recognized, noting that: “he didn’t sparkle, was rather disappointing and chétif.”

One car Rowan Atkinson has said he will not own is a Porsche: “I have a problem with Porsches. They’re wonderful cars, but I know I could never live with one. Somehow, the typical Porsche people—and I wish them no ill—are not, I feel, my kind of people. I don’t go around saying that Porsches are a pile of dung, but I do know that psychologically I couldn’t handle owning one.”

He appeared in episode 4, series 17 of Top Gear in the “Star in a reasonably priced car” section, where he drove the Kia Cee’d on the test track in 1:42.2, taking first place on the board, but was later beaten by Matt LeBlanc during the second episode of the eighteenth series, with a lap time of 1:42.1.

He attended the inaugural Indian Grand Prix as a guest of McLaren. Atkinson’s anguished reaction to the Lap 24 incident between Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa, was shown during replays of the collision.

Television appearances

  • Canned Laughter (1979), an experimental sitcom pilot for LWT
  • The Secret Policeman’s Ball (1979), a charity special for Amnesty International
  • Not the Nine O’Clock News (1979–1982)
  • Peter Cook & Co (1980)
  • The Innes Book of Records (1980), guest appearance
  • Blackadder as Prince Edmund (The Black Adder); Lord Blackadder (Blackadder II); Edmund Blackadder and Macadder (Blackadder III); Ebenezer Blackadder (Blackadder’s Christmas Carol); and Captain Blackadder (Blackadder Goes Forth) (1983–1989)
  • Saturday Live as guest host (1986)
  • Mr. Bean as Mr. Bean (1990–2012 various times)
  • Rowan Atkinson Live as assorted characters (1992) (VHS of live sketches)
  • Bernard and the Genie as Bernard’s Boss (1991) (TV movie)
  • Funny Business (1992), a documentary about the craft of comedy
  • A Bit Of Fry And Laurie (1992), guest appearance
  • The Thin Blue Line as Inspector Raymond Fowler (1995-1996)
  • The Story of Bean as himself (1997)
  • Blackadder: Back and Forth as Black Adder and Centurion Blaccadicus (2000)
  • Mr. Bean (animated TV series) as Mr. Bean, voice (2002)
  • The Comic Relief “Red Nose Day” telecasts, including appearances in:
    • Blackadder: The Cavalier Years as Edmund Blackadder (1988)
    • Nosenight sketches (1989)
    • Mr Bean’s Red Nose Day as Mr. Bean (1991)
    • (I Wanna Be) Elected as Mr. Bean (1992)
    • Blind Date with Mr Bean as Mr. Bean (1993)
    • Torvill and Bean as Mr Bean (1995)
    • Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death as The Doctor (1999)
    • Popsters as Nasty Neville (2001)
    • Lying to Michael Jackson as Martin Bashir (2003)
    • Johnny English as Johnny English (2003)
    • Johnny English Reborn as Johnny English (2011)
    • Spider-Plant Man as Peter Piper and Spider-Plant Man (2005)
    • Mr Bean’s Wedding as Mr. Bean (2007)
    • The Greatest Worst Bits of Comic Relief as himself (2007)
  • We Are Most Amused (2008), a special show to celebrate Prince Charles’ 60th birthday
  • Blackadder Rides Again as himself (2008)
  • Not Again: Not the Nine O’Clock News as himself (2009)
  • The Olympics opening ceremony as Mr. Bean (2012)

Guest appearances

  • Wogan (1988, 1991)
  • Children in Need (1988), guest appearance as Mr. E. Blackadder
  • Noel’s House Party, guest appearance as Blackadder
  • Going Live, guest appearance as Mr. Bean
  • This Morning (1995), guest appearance as Mr. Bean
  • Big Breakfast
  • Parkinson (2003)
  • Blue Peter (2004, 2007), guest appearance as Mr. Bean
  • London Tonight (2005)
  • BBC Breakfast (2007)
  • Richard & Judy (2007)
  • The Dame Edna Treatment (2007), guest appearance as Mr. Bean
  • Top Gear (2011)


1982Fundamental FrolicsHimself
1982The Secret Policeman’s Other BallHimself & various roles
1983Dead on TimeBernard Fripp
Never Say Never AgainNigel Small-Fawcetta spy film based on the James Bond novel Thunderball
1989The Appointments of Dennis JenningsDr. SchoonerShort Film
The Tall GuyRon Anderson
1990The WitchesMr. Stringer
1991The Driven ManHimselfTV
Also Writer
1993Hot Shots! Part DeuxDexter Hayman
1994Four Weddings and a FuneralFather Gerald
The Lion KingZazuVoice Only
1997BeanMr. BeanAlso Writer/Executive Producer
2000Maybe BabyMr. James
2001Rat RaceEnrico Pollini
2002Scooby-DooEmile Mondavarious
2003Johnny EnglishJohnny EnglishNominated – European Film Award for Best Actor
Love ActuallyRufusNominated – Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Ensemble Acting
2005Keeping MumReverend Walter Goodfellow
2007Mr. Bean’s HolidayMr. BeanAlso Writer & Producer
2011Johnny English RebornJohnny EnglishAlso Executive Producer

Live comedy albums

  • Live in Belfast (1980)
  • Not Just a Pretty Face (1987)

Courtesy of Wikipedia

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