Rowan Atkinson: Playing Mr Bean is like entering a completely different world

The comedy star appears on the cover of British GQ.
Rowan Atkinson: Playing Mr Bean is like entering a completely different world

By Alex Green, PA Acting Deputy Entertainment Editor

Rowan Atkinson has said playing Mr Bean is like entering a “completely different world” and that he likes to think he is very different from the character.

The actor, 67, has played the childish buffoon, who is often accompanied by his brown teddy bear and yellow Mini, since 1990 and the original sitcom has spawned films, books and an animated series.

Atkinson told British GQ the distance between his own personality and that of Mr Bean was actually very reassuring.

Rowan Atkinson on the cover of GQ as part of its Heroes series (GQ/Marcin Kempski/PA)

He told the publication: “Bean is such a weird man and – I like to think at least – far removed from my own personality, the distance I have to move in order to play him is actually very reassuring.

“It’s like entering a completely different world and I’m very happy in his world.”

Speaking about his inspiration for the role, he added: “I feel as though it’s me as a nine-year old – or me as an 11-year old – because he’s essentially a child trapped in a man’s body. That’s how I’ve always seen him.

“He’s got the innocence but also the anarchic instinct and the unpleasantness, the uncompromisingness of children.

“They don’t take a particularly sophisticated view of the world and that is both Mr Bean’s strength and his problem.”

UK Charity Premiere of Mr Bean’s Holiday – London
Rowan Atkinson as Mr Bean arriving for the UK Charity Premiere of Mr Bean’s Holiday at The Odeon in central London (Yui Mok/PA)

Atkinson also admitted he does not like Johnny English, the clumsy and incompetent spy he has played across three films.

He said: “(He is) just a fairly two-dimensional, self-obsessed individual who doesn’t really show any kindness or empathy.

“He’s good but crucially – and this is where the comedy comes in – he’s not as good as he thinks he is.

“He thinks he’s better than he is and it’s that differential and discrepancy between his ambition and his capability. That’s where the joke lies.”

SHOWBIZ Atkinson
Rowan Atkinson as Johnny English, the bumbling secret agent (PA)

Speaking about the art of performing, Atkinson, who appears in new Netflix show Man vs Bee, described tragedy and comedy as “extremely close bedfellows, and you can’t really have one without the other”.

He added: “Every joke has a victim, whether fictional or non-fictional or notional, ideological or human and, therefore, there’s always someone suffering if there’s a joke.

“I suppose you have to accept that’s the way it is.”

Rowan Atkinson speaks at the GQ Heroes conference at Soho Farmhouse, Oxfordshire from July 13th-15th.

The July/August issue of British GQ is available via digital download and on newsstands on June 28th.

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