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Rowan Sebastian Atkinson (born 6 January 1955) is a British comedian, actor and writer, famous for his work on sitcoms such as Blackadder, The Thin Blue Line, Mr. Bean and his voiceover work in Walt Disney's The Lion King. He has been listed in The Observer as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy, and amongst the top 50 comedy acts ever in a 2005 poll of fellow comedians.

Early life

Rowan Sebastian Atkinson was born on 6 January 1955 in Consett, County Durham, England. His parents were Eric Atkinson, a farmer and company director, and his wife Ella May (née Bainbridge), who married on 29 June 1945. He has two elder brothers, Rodney Atkinson, a eurosceptic economist who narrowly lost the United Kingdom Independence Party leadership election in 2000, and Rupert Atkinson.

Atkinson was raised Anglican. He was educated at Durham Choristers Schoolmarker, followed by St Bees Schoolmarker, and studied electrical engineering at Newcastle Universitymarker. He continued with an M.Sc. at The Queen's College, Oxfordmarker, first achieving notice at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1976. 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

Television

After university, Atkinson toured with Angus Deayton as his funny 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 ITV in 1979 called Canned Laughter. Atkinson then went on to do Not the Nine O'Clock News, 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 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) and Blackadder: The Cavalier Years (1988).
Atkinson as Mr. Bean
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 Charlie Chaplin. During this time, Atkinson appeared at the Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montrealmarker 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.

Atkinson has fronted campaigns for Hitachi electrical goods, Fujifilm, and Give Blood. Most famously, he 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 was based.

Film

Atkinson's film career began in 1983 with a supporting part in the 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.

Atkinson, with his turn as a verbally bumbling vicar, gained further recognition in the 1994 hit Four Weddings and a Funeral. That same year he featured in Walt Disney's The Lion King as Zazu the Hornbill.Atkinson continued to appear in supporting roles in successful comedies, including Rat Race (2001), [[Scooby-Doo (film)|Scooby-Doo]where are you] (2002), and Love Actually (2003).

In 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 may be the last time he plays the character. He has also starred in the James Bond parody Johnny English in 2003. Keeping Mum (2005) was a departure for Atkinson, starring in a straight role.

Comedic style

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. Atkinson suffers from stuttering, and the over-articulation is a technique to overcome problematic consonants.

Atkinson's style is often visually-based. This visual style, which has been compared to Charlie Chaplin, sets Atkinson apart as most modern television and film comedies rely heavily on dialogue, and stand-up comedy 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".

Stage

In early 2008 it was confirmed that Atkinson would fulfil a lifelong ambition and take on the role of Fagin in Lionel Bart's musical Oliver! which will be produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh. He was quoted as saying, "In the 1980s I enjoyed doing a lot of West End theatre and since then have been distracted very much by Mr Bean and film-making. I had been thinking for some time about returning to the stage, and the idea of the role of Fagin has long intrigued me. I even had the part in a school production." The production opened in January 2009. The roles of Nancy and Oliver were selected by the British public in 2008 on the BBC talent show-themed television series, I'd Do Anything. Jodie Prenger, Gwion Jones, Harry Stott and Laurence Jefcoate won the roles. On the 18 July 2009, Atkinson left his role as Fagin and was succeeded by Omid Djalili

Personal life

Marriage and children

Atkinson married Sunetra Sastry at the Russian Tea Roommarker in New York City, U.S. with Stephen Fry as his best man. The couple have two children and live near Oundlemarker in Northamptonshire as well as Oxfordshire and London.

Politics

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 — on the grounds that the bill would give religious groups a "weapon of disproportionate power" whose threat would engender a culture of self-censorship among artists..

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.

Cars

With an estimated wealth of £100 million, 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.

Atkinson also holds a UK LGV licence, gained because lorries held a fascination for him, and to ensure employment as a young actor.

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 car-fetish, and discussing it with taxi drivers, policemen, used-car salesmen and psychotherapists.

Atkinson has raced in other cars, including a Renault 5 GT Turbo for two seasons for its one make series. He owns one McLaren F1, which was involved in an accident with an Austin Metro. 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 this chance meeting with a man he later realised 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 Atkinson a lift in his Rolls Royce to the nearest telephone box, but was disappointed in his bland reaction to being recognised, noting that: "he didn't sparkle, was rather disappointing and chetif."

One car Atkinson 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."

Television appearances



Filmography

Year Title Role
1979 The Secret Policeman's Ball Various Roles
1981 Fundamental Frolics Himself
1982 The Secret Policeman's Other Ball Himself & Various Roles
1983 Dead on Time Bernard Fripp
Never Say Never Again Nigel Small-Fawcett
1989 The Appointments of Dennis Jennings Dr. Schooner
The Tall Guy Ron Anderson
1990 The Witches Mr. Stringer
1991 The Driven Man Himself
1993 Hot Shots! Part Deux Dexter Hayman
1994 Four Weddings and a Funeral Father Gerald
The Lion King Zazu
1997 Mr. Bean The Ultimate Disaster Movie Mr. Bean
2000 Maybe Baby Mr. James
2001 Rat Race Enrico Pollini
2002 Scooby-Doo Emile Mondavarious
2003 Johnny English Johnny English
Love Actually Rufus
2005 Keeping Mum Reverend Walter Goodfellow
2007 Mr. Bean's Holiday Mr. Bean


Awards

  • Variety Club Award for BBC Personality of the Year - 1980
  • BAFTA Best Light Entertainment Performance - 1989


References

  1. "The A-Z of laughter (part one)", The Observer, 7 December 2003, retrieved 7 January 2007
  2. BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Cook voted 'comedians' comedian'
  3. Foreign Correspondent - 22 July 1997: Interview with Rodney Atkinson, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, retrieved 27 January 2007
  4. Profile: UK Independence Party, BBC News, 28 July 2006, retrieved 27 January 2007
  5. Showbiz - News - Atkinson to play Fagin in new 'Oliver!' - Digital Spy
  6. http://www.oliverthemusical.com/the_show/
  7. Rowan Atkinson attacks gay hate law
  8. Rowan Atkinson: The Driven Man - Trailer - Cast - Showtimes - New York Times
  9. BBC News | Entertainment | Mr Bean crashes sports car
  10. http://www.nemonis.net/history/history.html
  11. Stars & their Cars:Rowan Atkinson - Celebrity | Fun | MSN Cars UK
  12. [Alan Clark, Diaries (Phoenix, 1993) p80]
  13. The Museum of Broadcast Communications - Rowan Atkinson article, retrieved 7 January 2007


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