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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Blackadder will NEVER return

Don't listen to Baldrick, says Ben Elton

Blackadder will never return, Ben Elton has vowed, scotching the constant rumours of a comeback.

And the show’s co-writer blamed Baldrick actor Sir Tony Robinson for spreading false hope among fans.

‘Every time Tony does an interview he says, "Oh, I think there might be another,",’ Elton said. 

‘But don’t listen to Baldrick on this one, you need to hear it from me or Richard [Curtis] as we write it. There is never going to be another — I can tell you that now.’

Elton also told The Sun that working on the comedy ‘wasn’t a particularly happy experience for everyone’.

‘It was very tense, lots of egos, lots of frustrations but through it all everyone remained friendly and deeply respectful. But it was edgy.’

And he described how it was frustrating how the cast including star Rowan Atkinson would spend ‘three hours discussing whether vole or gerbil is a funnier word, when Richard and I had written vole because we know it’s a funnier word’.

His decision not to return to the hit show was also influenced by the reception to previous one-off specials, which he now describes as ‘semi-half arsed revivals’ which were ‘shit’.

The latest rumours of a Blackadder comeback were sparked in June when the cast were spotted ‘having a great laugh’ at a reunion in London members’ club Soho House.

It came soon after Curtis said he'd loved to see Atkinson return to the role – but this time as a grumpy old man rather than a younger upstart.

But Elton appears to have put the kibosh on those hopes in the new interview, conducted as he prepares to hit the road for his first stand-up tour in 15 years. Click here for the dates.

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Published: 6 Sep 2019

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