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Last Updated:  Monday, 7 April, 2003, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
Rowan reveals passion for danger

By Ian Youngs
BBC News Online entertainment staff

John Malkovich, Rowan Atkinson and Natalie Imbruglia in Johnny English
John Malkovich and Natalie Imbruglia also star in the film
Rowan Atkinson's latest film, Johnny English, in which he plays an accident-prone British secret agent, is released on Friday.

Rowan Atkinson has spent so long playing lovable but clueless characters - from the gormless Mr Bean to the arrogant Blackadder - that it is hard to imagine him any other way.

In Johnny English, he brings us another admirable buffoon in the shape of the daring but hapless spy who has to save the crown jewels and the nation from a dastardly plot.

So in real life, with the comical, rubbery face and such convincing comic creations, it comes as a slight surprise to find that he is not actually clueless, bumbling or gormless.

In fact, he fancies himself as being closer to James Bond than Johnny English - and says it is a secret ambition to be a real special agent.

Rowan Atkinson in Johnny English
Thrills are attractive, and the danger is undoubtedly attractive
Rowan Atkinson
"I think it's every red-blooded male's fantasy to be a top secret agent because of the glamour that has been invested in that world by movies, and James Bond in particular," he says.

But it is probably more fun being a fictional agent, he adds, "because you don't get killed".

His passion for fast cars and hobby as a racing driver have already led to two publicised crashes, he averted an air disaster by taking the controls when his pilot collapsed in 2001, and he did many of his own stunts for Johnny English.

"Thrills are attractive, and the danger is undoubtedly attractive," he says.

"Although I think I am a relatively serious-minded bloke who tries to lead quite a discreet and modest life, there's undoubtedly a bit of me that does seek a bit of danger every now and again.

"Even if it's the danger of creating a brand new character in a movie and trying to make it work. Clearly, if I was seeking safety I would be playing Mr Bean for the rest of my life."

The prospect of reviving Mr Bean is one Atkinson is keen on - but for now, is more concerned with Mr English.

Rowan Atkinson in Johnny English
It is not just "Bean does Bond", Atkinson says
The worst of Her Majesty's finest first appeared as a character in television commercials in 1992, and Atkinson liked him so much that he wanted to make him the star of a film.

"I just liked his pompousness, really, and his irrational self-belief," Atkinson says.

"I think he's actually rather a nice man, Johnny English. I think he's a good-hearted man.

"He's too full of himself, but he's basically brave and determined and he doesn't let anything stand in his path."

And when everything goes wrong, English either bluffs his way through or is rescued by his trusty sidekick Bough.

As the posters say: "He knows no fear, he knows no danger, he knows nothing."

But despite the goofiness - especially when he is seen dancing around his bathroom to Abba's Does Your Mother Know? - it is not just "Bean does Bond" as some have said, Atkinson says.

"No, it's the man who played Mr Bean who's trying to be James Bond. But this is a long, long way from being Mr Bean," he says.

Once you've got the script, that's when it gets depressing for me... I find that very difficult, very stressful.
Rowan Atkinson
Despite his past success, the comic reveals that he does not enjoy the process of filming.

"The fun bit is working on the script with the writers - thinking of the ideas," he says.

"Then once you've got the script, that's when it gets depressing for me. That's when my role really starts - the role of the performer, to make the script work.

"I find that very difficult, very stressful. I worry about it a great deal. I'm convinced, like a lot of actors, that whatever I've done is not as good as I could have done it."

He does not need to put himself through the process - one recent rich list put his fortune at £60m, making him the UK's richest TV star.

Rowan Atkinson in Johnny English
Atkinson said he would like to do another Mr Bean film
But he keeps coming up with new projects to satisfy his "creative curiosity", he says.

If he spent the rest of his career playing Mr Bean, that would be a "lucrative and not totally unsatisfying job", he said.

"But it's not satisfying enough," he says. "If you've got any creative curiosity then you want to try something different all the time."

But Mr Bean is likely to reach big screens at least one more time, he says.

"I may do another Mr Bean film. I feel as though it would be nice to do another one," he says.

"Despite the fact that there are many factions in this country that don't have a lot of time for Mr Bean, I personally have a lot of time for him. So I'd like to see him doing it again."

As long as the fate of the country does not depend on it.

Bond spoof gets première
07 Apr 03  |  Entertainment
Johnny English lets country down
06 Apr 03  |  Entertainment
Spy comedy to promote London
31 Mar 03  |  England
Williams records spy spoof theme
28 Mar 03  |  Entertainment
Atkinson unharmed after car crash
09 Jul 01  |  Entertainment
Atkinson 'averted air disaster'
24 Mar 01  |  Entertainment

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