Like a blend of Mr. Bean and Bond, Rowan Atkinson bumbles his way to saving the world in his third Johnny English outing, your Sunday night movie on M-Net. Johnny English Strikes Again sees the titular character yanked out of MI7 retirement to track down a hacker, placing English out of his antiquated depth as he wraps his mind around modern tech and new spy tricks.
But before we join English for another bout of secret spy shenanigans, let’s take a peek at our favourite Atkinson roles, so often borne out of collaborations with close friends.
Blackadder, Blackadder (1983 – 2002)
Atkinson met writer and director Richard Curtis during their university days at Oxford. And the rest, as they say, is history. Part of that history is this whip-smart period comedy, which takes audiences through various eras of English history during four seasons and a host of TV specials. Atkinson and Curtis created the show together, casting Atkinson in the title role. With his dry delivery and penchant for physical comedy, along with a fantastic supporting cast, Atkinson cemented his comedy status with a character that became synonymous with his name.
Mr. Bean, Mr. Bean (1990 – 2018)
But there was another character that was destined to become even more synonymous with the English actor, and bring him global fame. Again pairing with pal Curtis, the duo created the indefatigable Mr. Bean. Embodied by Atkinson, making masterful work of his talent for physical comedy, the character initially made his appearance during their varsity days. In 1990, he found himself on television. Since then, the exasperating yet endearing Bean has found his way to movies, an animated series, and even the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Zazu, The Lion King (1994)
As Disney leaned more and more towards using big celebrity names for their animated features, Atkinson landed the feathery task of voicing Zazu, King Mufasa’s right-hand bird. The esteemed comedy actor joined the likes of James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, and Whoopi Goldberg in a memorable journey through the Pride Lands, infusing his energy and dry wit into the fastidious hornbill.
Father Gerald, Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
Richard Curtis wrote the screenplay for this now-classic British rom-com, so it was no surprise to find Atkinson pop up in the part of the priest. In what is undeniably one of the film’s best bits, he fumblingly officiates his first wedding, bungling the vows to hilarious effect.
Inspector Raymond Fowler, The Thin Blue Line (1995 – 1996)
Playing the groom in the aforementioned scene was David Haig, who teamed up with Atkinson for this sitcom following the fun and foibles of an English police force. Curtis may not have been involved this time round, but fellow Blackadder and Mr. Bean writer, Ben Elton, was. Elton not only created the show, but also penned the scripts. A new comedic character allowed Atkinson to display his comedic range, delivering the finicky Inspector Fowler in a manner which skillfully distinguished him from his famous predecessors.
Rufus, Love Actually (2003)
Curtis made his feature directorial debut with this star-studded holiday film. Of course, Atkinson popped in for a cameo. As a delightfully exasperating, gift-wrapping guru of a salesman he marvelously flips between humour and tension as he almost throws a spanner in the works of Alan Rickman’s awkward indiscretion. Together with the music, Atkinson’s carefully crafted physical performance, Rickman’s angst, and Curtis’s playfulness, this part is so much more than a cameo.
Feature image: Rowan Atkinson in Johnny English Strikes Again.