When Mr. Bean Talks
By Sanuj Hathurusinghe
“To be successful, you don’t need beautiful face and heroic body, what you need is skilful mind and ability to perform.”
— Rowan Atkinson
Perhaps there isn’t a TV character adored, loved, accepted, and understood more than Mr. Bean. The TV show with the same name, first aired in the UK in 1990 and went on to be aired for five years but the popularity it gained went way beyond its country at origins, reaching 245 territories worldwide. In SouthEast Asia where Western movies, sitcoms and TV shows are adored, Mr. Bean became so popular that the name ‘Rowan’ became a popular boy baby name in the ‘90s. The popularity of Mr. Bean in turn, made Atkinson popular as well.
People all over the world started to recognise him by the character and not necessarily by his name; which is a bit unfair on him because there is way more to Atkinson than the character Mr. Bean. However, as his friend and the bestman of his wedding Stephen Fry once said Atkinson, "hasn't got an ounce of showbiz in him," so he didn’t bother trying to prove that he is even better when there are dialogues included.
Personally, I think he should well have because it is such a shame that a versatile and talented actor like Atkinson is unfairly limited to one almost-mute, goofy character he only played for 15 episodes. Here are some of the other stellar performances Atkinson has delivered before and after Mr. Bean that you may have missed.
Understandably, Atkinson has a penchant for comedy so almost all of these performances are comedic ones, but that doesn’t mean he only generates cheap laughs through slapstick comedy. More than often Atkinson gets involved in the writing process, either in the capacity of a writer or just giving his two pennies worth but either way, he makes sure the comedy he has to perform has substance.
The rest of the world may have got to know who Atkinson is through Mr. Bean but long before that in 1982, Atkinson marked his presence in British sitcom with his portrayal of Prince Edmund – the Blackadder. His genius yet, comedic and destinedto-fail schemes and endeavours to seize the crown from his father and brother are a treat to watch and you might get a glimpse of Mr Bean-like gestures and postures from Atkinson in the 1982 Blackadder.
Blackadder went on to have three more adaptations namely; Blackadder II, Blackadder the Third, and Blackadder Goes Forth. The second Blackadder takes place in Tudor court of Elizabeth I where Atkinson plays Lord Edmund Blackadder who strives to win her majesty’s favour while getting dangerously closer to offend her which could result in a grisly fate for him.
The third Blackadder takes place in the Regency era when Edmund Blackadder serves as butler to the halfwit Prince George while in the last Blackadder Atkinson plays Captain Edmund Blackadder, stuck in World War I, who tries his best to avoid the banality of the war.
In my opinion Blackadder II and Blackadder the Third bring the best of Atkinson, in terms of natural acting and immaculate dialogues uttering. Everything is in the dialogues, the way they are delivered, and acting. There is hardly any action and Atkinson doesn’t at all try to look or act funny, unlike in the first Blackadder. "Your brain is so minute Baldrick, that if a hungry cannibal cracked your head open, there wouldn't be enough to cover a small water biscuit."
The Thin Blue Line
Atkinson’s portrayal of Inspector Raymond Fowler is another stellar performance of the Mr. Bean star. Fans of the Blackadder series immediately fell in love with The Thin Blue Line since the show contained a lot of eater eggs and inside jokes referencing the Blackadder series.
The show revolves around Inspector Fowler (Atkinson) who is the Officer-in-Charge of Gasforth Police Station who is a stickler for rules. Each episode is a new mishap of the life of the anachronistic, yet charming and funny Inspector Fowler. Unfortunately, the show got cancelled after two seasons but those 14 episodes are a real treat to watch. “Appearances, as we shall see, are like bus timetables; often highly misleading”
— Inspector Fowler, The Thin Blue Line
Four Weddings and a Funeral
The movie is rather popular as one of the nest Hugh Grant movies since he was the main man but that doesn’t necessarily take the spotlight away from Atkinson’s brief but convincing and hilarious portrayal of Father Gerald in wedding number two. Perhaps it is this performance that helped Atkinson land the lead role in the 2005 movie Keeping Mom where he again plays a pastor whose personal life surrounding him collapses while he is preoccupied with writing the perfect sermon.
“I remember looking up Johnny English in a film guide and it said 'intermittently hilarious' - quite a good description of five good jokes and a lot of longueurs. I find it frustrating that, apart from Four Weddings and a Funeral, I have yet to be involved in a film of which I am totally proud.”
— Rowan Atkinson
Rowan Atkinson: Not Just a Pretty Face
As an actor who stepped into the show business via the stage, it shouldn’t come across as a surprise how good Atkinson is on live stage and how at-ease he is before a live audience. Sadly, not many know about this side of Atkinson and Rowan Atkinson: Not Just a Pretty Face perhaps is the best opportunity you will have at witnessing his live acting brilliance.
In this 1992 TV special Atkinson and his Mr. Bean co-star Angus Deayton in Boston doing a live performance of the same styles of humour we've seen in Mr. Bean and Blackadder. The most amazing thing about this live special is how easy and natural it is for Atkinson to deliver each and every different character with ease; some are filled with witty dialogues, some depend heavily on facial expressions, some doesn’t have a dialogue at all, and some are combinations of all.
Remember Atkinson’s performance at the London Olympics opening ceremony? Well, this is like that but much more! It is a mustwatch if you want to see the full spectrum of Atkinson’s acting capabilities. “I've always required a formal setting, a stage or a film or TV studio in which to perform. And above all I need to become somebody else. I'm certainly not a stand-up comedian in any sense.”
— Rowan Atkinson