Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

The Spying Game; Interview: Rowan Atkinson

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

The Spying Game; Interview: Rowan Atkinson

Article excerpt

Byline: Kate Whiting

ROWAN Atkinson has been known to reduce an audience to hysterics just by raising an eyebrow.

But the comic genius, who has entertained us for more than 30 years with memorable characters such as Edmund Blackadder and Mr Bean, is surprisingly grave in real life.

''Generally speaking, I find work quite hard and stressful,'' admits the 56-year-old. ''It's much friendlier being in an ensemble cast. One of the problems with Mr Bean, for example, is it's far more singular and you're on your own as a performer, whereas with Blackadder, there was this democratic feel of the jokes being distributed around the cast and that made for a very nice atmosphere.'' Atkinson talks in an earnest way, choosing and enunciating his words carefully, perhaps to avoid the stammer that occasionally slips into conversation - and yet, reportedly, never occurs while he's in character.

He readily admits his desire to carefully control his roles leads to long gaps between films. As a result it's been eight years since his last turn as bumbling spy Johnny English.

''One of the problems I have is the need to be part of the process from the very beginning to the very end,'' he says.

''I sometimes yearn for a world in which an actor just turns up for six weeks, does his bit, then goes away and does another film. I tend to be part of the scriptwriting, shooting and post-production process, which dribbles on for months, and means the project takes years.

''If you want to do a bit of theatre or take time off, then inevitably it's going to be every four or five years that films appear. Eventually I'll just run out of time,'' he adds, with a sober laugh.

His last film role was in Mr Bean's Holiday in 2007 after which he got ''distracted'' by playing Fagin in Oliver! The Musical in London's West End. But he's been in talks to revisit Johnny English since 2006.

''Unfortunately, I'm someone who can only have one ball in the air at once,'' he says.

''I have to devote myself to a project entirely and if I get distracted by something else, what I'm working on stops dead in its tracks. …

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