Rowan Atkinson

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Birth name

Rowan Sebastian Atkinson


6 January 1955 (age 57)

Consett, Durham, England, United Kingdom


Stand up, Television, Film

Years active



Physical comedy, Satire, Black comedy


Peter Sellers, Charlie Chaplin, Jacques Tati[1]


Steve Pemberton

David Walliams


Sunetra Sastry (m. 1990)

Notable works and roles

Not the Nine O'Clock News


Mr. Bean

The Thin Blue Line

Johnny English

BAFTA Awards


Best Light Entertainment Performance

1981 Not the Nine O'Clock News

1990 Blackadder Goes Forth


Laurence Olivier Awards


Best Comedy Performance

1981 Rowan Atkinson in Revue






Rowan Sebastian Atkinson (born 6 January 1955) is a British 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,[2] and amongst the top 50 comedians ever in a 2005 poll of fellow comedians.[3] 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. He also starred in the film Never Say Never Again (a spy film based on the James Bond novel Thunderball) in 1983.

Early life and education

Atkinson, the youngest of four brothers, was born in Consett, County Durham, England.[4] His parents were Eric Atkinson, a farmer and company director, and Ella May (née Bainbridge), who married on 29 June 1945.[4] 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.[5][6] Atkinson was brought up Anglican,[7] and was educated at Durham Choristers School, St. Bees School, and Newcastle University.[8] 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,[9] which made Atkinson an Honorary Fellow in 2006.[10] First achieving notice at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1976,[8] 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[8] and composer Howard Goodall, with whom he would continue to collaborate during his career.



Atkinson had 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.[11]


After university, 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. 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 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'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.[12] 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.

Atkinson has fronted campaigns for Kronenbourg,[13] Hitachi electrical goods,[citation needed] Fujifilm, and Give Blood. 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.

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.


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.

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. 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.

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 this, as recently mentioned by Atkinson in 2011, was the last time he played the character.[14] 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 did live on-stage skits – also appearing with members of Monty Python – in The Secret Policeman's Ball (1979).

Rowan Atkinson appeared in the 2009 revival of the West End musical Oliver! as Fagin.[15] The production was directed by Rupert Goold. A year prior he starred in a pre-West End run of the show in Oxford, directed by Jez Bond.

Comedic style

Best known for his use of physical comedy in his trademark character of Mr. Bean, 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. Atkinson suffers from stuttering,[16] and the over-articulation is a technique to overcome problematic consonants.

Atkinson's often visually based style, which has been compared to Buster Keaton,[12] 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

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.[17] Sastry is of mixed descent, being the daughter of an Indian father and a British mother.[18] The couple married at the Russian Tea Room in New York City on 5 February 1990. They have two children and live in Oundle, Northamptonshire as well as in Ipsden, Oxfordshire and in Highbury, London.[citation needed] 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. However, when Rowan 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]'.[19] Fry was best man at Atkinson's wedding in 1990. Atkinson was formerly in a relationship with actress Leslie Ash.[20]


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.[21] In 2009, he criticised 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.[22]


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 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 car-fetish, and discussing it with taxi drivers, policemen, used-car salesmen and psychotherapists.[23]

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.[24][25][26] He also owns a Honda NSX. Other cars he owns include an Audi A8,[27] and a Honda Civic Hybrid.[28]

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 chétif."[29]

One car 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."[30][31]

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.


Television appearances


Guest appearances








The Secret Policeman's Ball

Various roles

Solo skits, plus with Monty Python


Fundamental Frolics




The Secret Policeman's Other Ball

Himself & Various Roles



Dead on Time

Bernard Fripp


Never Say Never Again

Nigel Small-Fawcett

a spy film on the James Bond Novel Thunderball


The Appointments of Dennis Jennings

Dr. Schooner

Short Film

The Tall Guy

Ron Anderson



The Witches

Mr. Stringer



The Driven Man



Also Writer


Hot Shots! Part Deux

Dexter Hayman



Four Weddings and a Funeral

Father Gerald


The Lion King


Voice Only


Bean: The Ultimate Disaster Movie

Mr. Bean

Also Writer/Executive Producer


Maybe Baby

Mr. James



Rat Race

Enrico Pollini




Emile Mondavarious



Johnny English

Johnny English


Love Actually


Nominated – Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Ensemble Acting


Keeping Mum

Reverend Walter Goodfellow



Mr. Bean's Holiday

Mr. Bean

Also Writer


Johnny English Reborn[32]

Johnny English

Also Executive Producer


Live comedy albums



  1. ^ "Blackadder Hall Blog » Blog Archive » Rowan Interview – no more Bean… or Blackadder". 23 August 2007. Retrieved 21 June 2011.
  2. ^ "The A-Z of laughter (part one)", The Observer, 7 December 2003. Retrieved 7 January 2007.
  3. ^ "Cook voted 'comedians' comedian'". BBC News. 2 January 2005.
  4. ^ a b Barratt, Nick (25 August 2007). "Family Detective – Rowan Atkinson". The Daily Telegraph (UK).
  5. ^ Foreign Correspondent – 22 July 1997: Interview with Rodney Atkinson, Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 27 January 2007.
  6. ^ Profile: UK Independence Party, BBC News, 28 July 2006. Retrieved 27 January 2007.
  7. ^ Mann, Virginia (28 February 1992). "For Rowan Atkinson, comedy can be frightening". The Record. Retrieved 10 December 2007.
  8. ^ a b c "BBC – Comedy Guide – Rowan Atkinson". BBC. 4 December 2004. Archived from the original on 4 December 2004. Retrieved 29 December 2008.
  9. ^ "page 6: "The donation was given in memory of Rowan Atkinson's father, Eric Atkinson, who matriculated at Queens in 1935."" (PDF). Retrieved 21 June 2011.
  10. ^ "queens iss 1" (PDF). Retrieved 21 June 2011.
  11. ^ "Pick of the Day", The Guardian, 31 January 2007.
  12. ^ a b "". Retrieved 21 June 2011.
  13. ^ mhm grax. "Kronenbourg Commercial". Retrieved 21 June 2011.
  14. ^ Wong, Tony (22 August 2007). "It's not easy being Bean". Toronto Star. Retrieved 22 August 2007.
  15. ^ "Denise Van Outen leads celebs in standing ovation as Oliver! arrives with a bang". London: BBC. 15 January 2009. Retrieved 19 April 2010.
  16. ^ "10 Questions for Rowan Atkinson". Time. 23 August 2007. Retrieved 1 June 2011.
  17. ^ Profile: Beany Wonder, 10 June 2007, The Hindu
  18. ^ MY DELICIOUS MRS BEAN; Shy Rowan was struck dumb on chaotic first date., 7 August 1997, The Mirror
  19. ^
  20. ^ Adams, Guy (24 March 2007). "Rowan Atkinson: Comic engima – Profiles, People – The Independent". The Independent (UK). Retrieved 25 February 2011.
  21. ^ Freeman, Simon (20 June 2005). "Rowan Atkinson leads crusade against religious hatred Bill". The Times (UK). Retrieved 22 September 2009.
  22. ^ Geen, Jessica. "Rowan Atkinson attacks gay hate law". Retrieved 21 June 2011.
  23. ^ Dargis, Manohla (7 February 2005). "Rowan Atkinson: The Driven Man – Trailer – Cast – Showtimes". The New York Times.
  24. ^ Dunning, Craig (5 August 2011). "Mr Bean and Blackadder star Rowan Atkinson in hospital after McLaren F1 supercar crash". Retrieved 5 August 2011.
  25. ^ Update: TV star Rowan Atkinson in hospital following Cambridgeshire crash EveningStar
  26. ^ "Mr Bean crashes sports car". BBC News. 27 October 1999.
  27. ^ "". Retrieved 21 June 2011.
  28. ^ Wormald, Andrew (31 May 2011). "Stars & their Cars:Rowan Atkinson – Celebrity Fun | MSN Cars UK". Retrieved 21 June 2011.
  29. ^ Alan Clark Diaries (Phoenix, 1993) p. 80
  30. ^ Wormald, Andrew; Benjamin Atkinson (6 October 2005). "Stars & their Cars:Rowan Atkinson". MSN. p. 1. Retrieved 1 July 2007.
  31. ^ "". Retrieved 21 June 2011.
  32. ^ Tatiana Siegel (8 April 2010). "Universal signs up for more English". Variety. Retrieved 7 April 2010.

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