Rowan Atkinson

Rowan Atkinson

Date of birth: 06-01-1955
Born in Consett, near Durham, Rowan Atkinson was educated at Durham Choristers School, and St Bees School, before going on to study electrical engineering at Newcastle University and a master's degree at Queen's College, Oxford. There he performed sketches with the Oxford University Dramatic Society and the Experimental Theatre Club, where he met writer Richard Curtis.

He took part in various student revues at the Edinburgh Fringe from 1973 to 1977, followed by a revue in London's Hampstead Theatre in 1978 called Beyond A Joke.

That year, he was offered his own television series by ITV but turned it down in favour of Not the Nine O'Clock News, for which he also wrote many of the sketches.

His performance in the Secret Policeman's Ball Amnesty benefits in 1979 - where he was one of the most junior comics alongside the likes of John Cleese and Peter Cook - helped cement his reputation. And he returned for the Secret Policeman's Other Ball in 1981. That year, he also performed in revue with Richard Curtis at London's Globe Theatre.

His growing success led to his starring in the medieval sitcom The Black Adder, which he also co-wrote with Richard Curtis, in 1983. For the remaining three series (in 1985, 1978 and 1989), Ben Elton replaced Atkinson as co-writer.

Atkinson toured with Angus Deayton as his sidekick in 1986 and again in 1991. He also appeared at Montreal's Just For Laughs festival in 1987 and 1989. His stand-up shows were released in two albums: Live In Belfast in 1982, and Not Just A Pretty Face in 1987.

Also on stage, he performed in The Nerd in 1984-85 and in Chekov's The Sneeze in 1988-89, both at the Adwych Theatre in the West End. In 2009, he will return to the stage to play Fagin in the revival of Oliver!

Other than Blackadder, his most famous creation is Mr Bean, a silent nerdish character, a version of who first appeared in the live shows. A total of 18 half-hour specials were made for ITV between 1990 and 1995. A huge international hit, thanks to the comedy not depending on language, the character appeared in his own blockbuster movie in 1997 and a follow-up is due for release in 2007. An animated children's series was launched in 2002.

Atkinson's other film credits include The Tall Guy in 1989, a cameo as a vicar in 1994's Four Weddings And A Funeral, the voice of Zazu in The Lion King in 1994, spy spoof Johnny English in 2003, and Love Actually also in 2003.

He was also one of the founders of Comic Relief, appearing in the original 1986 live show and making various appearances in the telethons over the years. He also starred in the Ben Elton-penned police sitcom The Thin Blue Line in 1995-6.

Away from his work, Atkinson prefers a life out of the spotlight, living in a secluded manor house in Oxfordshire with his wife Sunetra, who he married in 1990, his two children, Lily and Benjamin, and large collection of cars.

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Rowan Atkinson to make Johnny English 3

Spy sequel in pre-production

Rowan Atkinson is to make a surprise comeback as Johnny English, eight years after the bumbling spy's last film outing.

Chortle can reveal that pre-production has begun on the espionage spoof, with shooting due to begin in the autumn and the film set to hit cinemas in October 2018.

The plot of the third movie in the franchise, and further cast details, are yet to be revealed.

Atkinson spoke of his desire to return as the inept secret agent earlier this year while promoting ITV's detective series Maigret, telling The Sun 'we’re hoping to make a Johnny English this year, so I certainly haven’t turned my back on comedy.'

In January, he revived another of his iconic characters, Mr Bean, for a cameo in the Chinese film Top Funny Comedian: The Movie.

Johnny English originated in a similar character, the MI5 agent Richard Latham, in a series of Barclaycard adverts in the 1990s, with Henry Naylor as his luckless sidekick Bough. Some of the gags from the commercials were repeated in the original 2003 film.

Although not as bankable as the Mr Bean films, Johnny English, co-starring Ben Miller, John Malkovich and Natalie Imbruglia, still took £124million internationally at the box office, despite a critical panning

The 2011 sequel Johnny English: Reborn, co-starring Gillian Anderson, Daniel Kaluuya, Rosamund Pike and Dominic West, was marginally better received by critics and again took £124million.

Atkinson said in 2011 that he was too old for Mr Bean before reprising him. And he's previously remarked of English that he's 'an enjoyable character to play’.

'He’s fun and he’s rather human,’ he said. ‘I think he’s a rather realistic character. Perhaps he’s a more realistic and believable character than James Bond, in many ways. James Bond is just a superman. It’s rather fun to play someone with more faults and foibles.'

Chortle approached the film’s makers, Working Title for comment but they declined.

- by Jay Richardson

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Published: 18 May 2017

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