Actor and comedian
Born Rowan Sebastian Atkinson, January 6, 1955, in Newcastle–Upon–Tyne, England; son of Eric and Ella May Atkinson; married Sunetra Sastry (a makeup artist), 1990; children: Benjamin, Lily. Education: University of Newcastle, BS; the Queen's College at Oxford University, MS.
Management —PGJ Management Ltd., 7 Soho St., London, England W1D 3DQ.
Actor on stage, including: Beyond a Joke, Hampstead, England, 1978; The 1979 Amnesty International Comedy Gala, Her Majesty's Theatre, London, 1979; Rowan Atkinson in Revue, Globe Theatre, London, 1981; The Secret Policeman's Other Ball (comedy gala), Drury Lane Theatre, London, 1981; One Man Show, 1981 and 1986; Not in Front of the Audience, Drury Lane Theatre, 1982; The Nerd, Aldwych Theatre, London, 1984; Rowan Atkinson: The New Revue, Shaftesbury Theatre, London, 1986; Rowan Atkinson at the Atkinson, Brooks Atkinson Theatre, New York City, 1986; Mime Gala, London International Mime Festival, Bloomsbury Theatre, London, 1987; The Sneeze, Aldwych Theatre, 1988; one–man–show tours to Australia, Canada, United States, and Far East. Also appeared in Oxford University Revues, Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Writer of theatrical works, including: (with Richard Curtis) Rowan Atkinson in Revue, Globe Theatre, 1981; (with Richard Curtis and Ben Elton) Rowan Atkinson: The New Revue, Shaftesbury Theatre, 1986; (with Richard Curtis and Ben Elton) Rowan Atkinson at the Atkinson, Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 1986.
Television appearances include: Doctor Who, 1963; The Innes Book of Records, 1979; Canned Laughter (movie), 1979; Not The Nine O'Clock News, 1979–82; The Blackadder, BBC, 1983; Blackadder II, BBC, 1985; Comic Relief, BBC1, 1986; Blackadder the Third, BBC, 1987; "Just for Laughs II," Showtime Comedy Spotlight, Showtime, 1987; "Live from London," HBO Comedy Hour, HBO, 1988; Blackadder: The Cavalier Years (movie), 1988; Blackadder Goes Forth, 1989; "Montreal International Comedy Festival," HBO Comedy Hour, HBO, 1989; Blackadder's Christmas Carol, BBC, then A&E, 1989; The Appointments of Dennis Jennings, HBO, 1989; Mr. Bean, 1990–95; The Return of Mr. Bean, 1990; A Bit of Fry and Laurie, 1990; The Curse of Mr. Bean, 1991; Mr. Bean Goes to Town, 1991; Bernard and the Genie (movie), 1991; The Trouble with Mr. Bean, 1992; "Rowan Atkinson: Not Just Another Pretty Face," HBO Comedy Hour, HBO, 1992; Mr. Bean Rides Again, ITV, 1992; Merry Christmas Mr. Bean, 1992; Mr. Bean in Room 426, 1993; Laughing Matters (also known as Funny Business ), Showtime, 1993; Rowan Atkinson On Location in Boston, 1993; Mind the Baby Mr. Bean, 1994; Do–It–Yourself Mr. Bean, 1994; Back to School Mr. Bean, 1994; Full Throttle, 1994; The Thin Blue Line, 1995–96; The Story of Bean (movie), 1997; Ohh Nooo! Mr. Bill Presents, Fox Family Channel, 1998; A Royal Birthday Celebration (movie), 1998; Mr Bean (animated series), 2003—. Creator of television programs, including: Not the Nine O'Clock News, 1980; The Blackadder, 1983; Blackadder the Third, 1987; Laughing Matters, 1993. Writer of television programs, including: (with others) Not the Nine O'Clock News, 1979–82; Canned Laughter, 1979; (with Richard Curtis) Blackadder, 1983; Blackadder II, 1985; Blackadder the Third, 1987; Blackadder Goes Forth, 1989; (with Robin Driscoll, Richard Curtis, and Ben Elton) Mr. Bean, 1989–91; "Rowan Atkinson: Not Just Another Pretty Face," HBO Comedy Hour, 1992; Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean, 1992; The Driven Man, 1993; (contributor) Laughing Matters (also known as Funny Business ), 1993; Ohh Nooo! Mr. Bill Presents, 1998; Blackadder Back & Forth, 1999.
Film appearances include: Monty Python Meets Beyond the Fringe (also known as Pleasure at Her Majesty's ), 1977; The Secret Policeman's Ball, 1979; The Secret Policeman's Other Ball, 1981; Fundamental Frolics, 1981; Dead on Time, 1982; Never Say Never Again (also known as Warhead ), 1983; The Tall Guy, 1989; The Witches, 1990; Hot Shots—Part Deux, 1993; The Driven Man, 1993; Four Weddings and a Funeral, 1994; The Lion King (voice), 1994; Bean, 1997; Blackadder Back and Forth, 1999; Maybe Baby, 2000; Rat Race, 2001; Scooby Doo, 2002; Johnny English, 2003; Love Actually, 2003. Producer of films, including: Bean, 1997. Writer of screenplays, including: The Secret Policeman's Ball, 1979; Bean, 1997.
BBC TV Personality of the Year, 1980 and 1989; British Academy Award for best light entertainment television performance, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, for Not the Nine O'Clock News, 1980; Laurence Olivier Award, best comedy performance of the year, Society of West End Theatre, for Rowan Atkinson in Revue, 1981; British Academy Award for best light entertainment television performance, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, for Blackadder Goes Forth, 1989; Golden Rose Award for Mr. Bean, 1990; Montreaux Television Festival Award for Mr. Bean, 1990; SWET Award for Comedy Performance of the Year, for One Man Show ; award for best cable television comedy, for Blackadder.
Rowan Atkinson is a British comic actor with international popularity, best known as the star of the films Bean, in which he played the kooky Mr. Bean made popular by the television series with the same name, and 2003's Johnny English, in which he played another wacky character, this time a spy named Johnny English. The black–haired, bug–eyed comedian has become one of England's most popular funnymen and his keen, often black comedy has earned him an international following.
Atkinson began performing in 1979 while still at Oxford University where he studied electrical engineering. It was at the university that he met Richard Curtis, who continues to work with him. They began writing comedy material together and collaborated on several projects. Together, they created Not the Nine O'Clock News, a series that began airing on the BBC in 1979. In 1981, Atkinson became the youngest performer to have a one–man show in London's West End when he performed in Rowan Atkinson in Revue at the Globe Theatre.
One of his most popular roles was on The Blackadder, a hysterical historical farce. This BBC series ran from 1983 to 1989, with some specials airing after the series concluded. Atkinson played the title character, Edmund Blackadder, described variously as "a priggish, upper–crust weasel" and "dastardly aristocrat." The show also ran in the United States on PBS.
In 1992, his stand–up act was filmed for HBO as Rowan Atkinson Live. In the program, said Ty Burr in Entertainment Weekly, "all the comedian's sides merrily collide. You can see his debt to Monty Python in the 'dead student' sketch, and even an echo of Benny Hill.… Quite simply, he's one of the finest silent comedians alive. I mean that in the classic, Mack Sennett sense." Atkinson was, in 1996, the top–earning British actor. According to Entertainment Weekly, he made more than eleven million pounds sterling. He also has a production company called Tiger Aspect.
Largely responsible for his success was the character of Mr. Bean and the eponymous television show. The Bean character was born in 1979 when Atkinson and Curtis created the strange and silent man for a performance at a comedy festival. According to the Mr. Bean website, the character was loveable and always needed to be helped out of sticky situations. The character was given his own 13–episode series essentially to preserve the Bean performances. Mr. Bean was the highest–rated comedy series in British history and it has, according to Maclean's, "entered a kind of permanent orbit like the original Star Trek. The series has been broadcast in more than 80 countries, and some nine million videos have been sold around the world."
Atkinson has a fond view of the Mr. Bean character. According to the Mr. Bean website, he said, "I have a huge faith and a huge liking of the character.… The essence of Mr. Bean is that he's entirely selfish and self–centered and doesn't actually acknowledge the outside world." The 1997 film based on Atkinson's character from the BBC series made about $130 million in the United Kingdom before being released in North America later that year. At the time, this was a box office record. Perhaps it could be attributed to the fact that—for the first time—Bean spoke.
American audiences, however, did not take a liking to the character and the film only earned about $45 million in the United States. Perhaps, Atkinson told Entertainment Weekly, audiences did not get the satire. "Americans don't quite see the joke of why you shouldn't make a beer mug or plastic whistle from a [famous James Whistler] painting."
Some British critics do not get Bean either. As Atkinson told Maclean's, "The more educated critics have decided he's the least–amusing comedy character ever created. There was really quite a lot of extremely dismissive criticism of the movie in some of the trendier, more intelligent newspapers. But that wasn't so much about the movie as about seven years of pent–up frustration over the popularity of a character they've never enjoyed."
Apart from his television roles, Atkinson had scene–stealing parts in several films. Most notable were a small part in 1983's Never Say Never Again, the last Bond film starring Sean Connery; 1989's The Tall Guy, in which he played Ron Anderson, a snarky standup comic, opposite Jeff Goldblum; and the tongue–tied priest in 1994's Four Weddings and a Funeral.
According to John Howard–Davies, who worked with Atkinson on Not the Nine O'Clock News and produced and directed him in the television series Mr. Bean, Atkinson "brings a touch of genius to everything he does," he said in an interview with Variety. "He is a painstaking performer who can drive people mad with his obsession with perfection.… Rowan has very good judgement. He only does what he wants to do and what he believes in. It's quite probable that his best work is still to come."
In 2003, Atkinson was riding high on the international success of Johnny English. In this Bond spoof, Atkinson played a bumbling incompetent yet again, this time trying to block a plot to steal the Crown Jewels. "It's no accident that English is played by the extraordinary British comedian Rowan Atkinson," Entertainment Weekly 's Lisa Schwarzbaum wrote in a 2003 review. "Those, therefore, who don't respond to the mesmerizing self–centeredness of the nitwit Bean may feel equally underentertained by the antics of English, who is chosen for assignment only because he has accidentally caused the demise of every one of his superiors. English has little of [Austin] Powers' sophisticated cheekiness." Atkinson did many guest spots on American television shows to plug the film, such as his appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. His goal, he told Entertainment Weekly, was to move beyond his cult figure status with American viewers: "Achieving success in the U.S. isn't something I hanker for on a personal level, and it's not really necessary for commercial reasons. But it would be nice. It's nice when two people like you, but it's even nicer when three like you."
Also in 2003, Atkinson's animated television series debuted. In addition to being the executive producer and supplying all of the vocal sounds for the series, Atkinson was "filmed for every script so that the animators could capture the movements of this unique character," the Mr. Bean website stated. Each episode was set in the real world, but found Mr. Bean in situations that escalated into mayhem. Series producer Claudia Lloyd stated on the Mr. Bean website, "Moving into animation just seemed a natural evolution for such a self–contained and defined character." That same year, Atkinson appeared in Love Actually, an ensemble romantic comedy that followed the love lives of some very different couples in various interrelated stories, all set in the week before Christmas in London, England.
Atkinson, who lives in suburban London, is married to Sunetra Sastry, a makeup artist, with whom he has two children. He rarely gives interviews and when he does, reveals little information about his personal life and reportedly does not relish making personal appearances. When not working, Atkinson enjoys racing and collecting cars; he is especially fond of Aston Martins and Ferraris.
(With Robin Driscoll) Mr. Bean's Diary, Boxtree, 1992.
Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television, volume 27, Gale Group, 2000.
Debrett's People of Today, Debrett's Peerage Ltd., 2004.
Marquis Who's Who, Marquis Who's Who, 2004.
Entertainment Weekly, November 21, 1997; March 27, 1998; July 25, 2003, p. 51; August 1, 2003, p. 32.
Maclean's, October 20, 1997.
People, November 24, 1997; December 1, 1997.
Variety, June 23, 1997.
"Credits," E! Online, http://www.eonline.com/Facts/People/0,12,909,00.html?celfact2 (March 4, 2004).
"Mr. Bean," Mr. Bean—The Animated Series, http://www.mrbean.co.uk/site.htm (March 4, 2004).
"Rowan Atkinson," All Movie Guide, http://www.allmovie.com/cg/avg.dll?p=avg&sql=2:2727 (March 10, 2004).
"Rowan Atkinson," E! Online, http://www.eonline.com/Facts/People/Bio/0,128,909,00.html (March 4, 2004).
— Linda Dailey Paulson