Rowan Sebastian Atkinson, born 6 January 1955 is an English comedian, screenwriter, and actor. He is most famous for his work on the satirical sketch comedy show Not The Nine O'Clock News, and the sitcoms Blackadder and Mr. Bean. He has been listed in The Observer as one of the 50 funniest actors in British comedy, and amongst the top 50 comedy actors ever in a 2005 poll of fellow comedians.
arly life and education
Atkinson, the youngest of four brothers, was born in Consett, County Durham, England. His parents were Eric Atkinson, a farmer and company director, and Ella May (née Bainbridge), who married on 29 June 1945. 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.Atkinson was brought up Anglican, and was educated at Durham Choristers School, St. Bees School, and Newcastle University. 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, which made Atkinson an Honorary Fellow in 2006. First achieving notice at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1976, 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 and composer Howard Goodall, with whom he would continue to collaborate during his career.
Atkinson 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.
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. 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.
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 Walt Disney's The Lion King as 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.
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. 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.
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, and the over-articulation is a technique to overcome problematic consonants.
Atkinson's often visually based style, which has been compared to Buster Keaton, 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".
Atkinson first met Sunetra Sastry in the 1980s, who was working as a make-up artist with the BBC.Sastry is of mixed descent, being the daughter of an Indian father and a British mother. The couple married at the Russian Tea Room in New York City in 1990. They have two children and live in Oundle, Northamptonshire as well as Ipsden, Oxfordshire and Highbury, London. In October 2010, his Blackadder co-star Stephen Fry confessed on The Rob Brydon Show that he had contemplated asking Sastry out (she was a make-up artist on the series), but discovered she was going on a date with Atkinson and kept quiet. Fry was best man at Atkinson's wedding in 1990. Atkinson was formerly in a relationship with actress Leslie Ash.
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.
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.
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.
Atkinson has raced in other cars, including a Renault 5 GT Turbo for two seasons for its one make series. He used to own a McLaren F1, which was involved in an accident in Cabus, near Garstang, Lancashire with an Austin Metro. It was written off in a serious crash in August 2011 when it caught fire after Atkinson reportedly lost control and hit a tree.He also owns a Honda NSX. 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 chétif.
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.
Canned Laughter (1979), an experimental sitcom pilot for LWT
The Secret Policeman's Ball (1979), a charity special for Amnesty International
Not the Nine O'Clock News (1979–1982)
Peter Cook & Co (1980)
The Innes Book of Records (1980), guest appearance
Blackadder as Prince Edmund (The Black Adder), Lord Blackadder (Blackadder II), Edmund Blackadder (Blackadder III), Ebenezer Blackadder (Blackadder's Christmas Carol) & Captain Blackadder (Blackadder Goes Forth) (1983–1989)
Saturday Live as guest host (1986)
Mr. Bean as Mr. Bean (1990–2009 various times)
Rowan Atkinson Live as assorted characters (1992) (VHS of live sketches)
Bernard and the Genie as Bernard's Boss (1991) (TV movie)
Funny Business (1992), a documentary about the craft of comedy
A Bit Of Fry And Laurie (1992), guest appearance
The Thin Blue Line as Inspector Raymond Fowler (1995–1996)
Blackadder: Back and Forth as Blackadder (2000)
Mr. Bean (animated TV series) as Mr Bean, voice (2002)
The Comic Relief Red Nose Day telecasts, including appearing in:
Blackadder: The Cavalier Years as Edmund Blackadder (1988)
Nosenight sketches (1989)
Mr Bean's Red Nose Day as Mr Bean (1991)
(I Wanna Be) Elected as Mr Bean (1992)
Blind Date with Mr Bean as Mr Bean (1993)
Torvill and Bean as Mr Bean (1995)
Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death as The Doctor (1999)
Popsters as Nasty Neville (2001)
Lying to Michael Jackson as Martin Bashir (2003)
Spider-Plant Man as Peter Piper and Spider-Plant Man (2005)
Mr Bean's Wedding as Mr Bean (2007)
The Greatest Worst Bits of Comic Relief as Himself (2007)
We Are Most Amused (2008), a special show to celebrate Prince Charles' 60th birthday
Blackadder Rides Again as himself (2008)