Rowan Atkinson is one of Britain’s most famous comedy exports. Thanks to his hilarious portrayal of Mr. Bean, his acclaimed historical sitcom Blackadder and his roles in such hit movies as Four Weddings And A Funeral and The Lion King, he’s one of the most beloved funnymen of the past 50 years. But how much do you know about Atkinson himself? Read on for some fascinating facts about the comedy legend which you might not have known.
10. He’s a big time car fanatic
Rowan Atkinson is a self-confessed petrol head. The comedian has a real passion for motors and even writes articles for CAR magazine so he can share this passion with others.
It’s not just fancy sports cars that Atkinson loves, however. He even has a passion for big trucks, and has a valid HGV licence.
9. He has a degree in electrical engineering
It seems crazy to think of Atkinson as anything other than a comedian and actor, but he actually got a degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from Newcastle University in 1974.
He then went on to Queen’s College, Oxford and earned a Masters in the same subject. In fact, Atkinson had already begun doctoral work in this area when he decided to devote himself to comedy full-time.
8. He went to primary school with Tony Blair
Rowan Atkinson hails from Consett in the North East and went to the prestigious school Cathedral Chorister School in Durham.
One of his fellow classmates was none other than future Labour Party leader and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was two years above him.
7. He’s good friends with Prince Charles and Camilla
Atkinson definitely has some friends in high places! He’s one of the few celebrity guests who were invited to attend the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Knowles.
Atkinson has also done a lot of charitable work for The Prince’s Trust, which might help explain the connection.
6. He was one of only 3 actors to appear in every series of Blackadder
As the title character, Rowan Atkinson was one of only three actors who appeared in all four seasons of Blackadder (as well as its two one-off special episodes).
The other two were Baldrick actor Tony Robinson and Tim McInnerny, who first played Percy and later Captain Darling in Blackadder Goes Forth.
5. He drove his own Aston Martin in Johnny English
In Johnny English, Rowan Atkinson brought his incompetent secret agent (loosely based on a character the comedian portrayed in a series of TV commercials for Barclaycard) to the big screen.
In a nod to James Bond, Johnny English drives an Aston Martin DB7 Vantage – and, as might not be a surprise given Atkinson’s passion for cars, the comedy legend actually owns this car in real life.
4. He has problems with his speech
Rowan Atkinson has suffered with a stammer for many years. This is why he gives very few interviews, as he isn’t too keen on conversing with strangers.
Atkinson also has difficulty pronouncing words with the letter ‘B’ in them, which explains why his pronunciation of the name ‘Bob’ in Blackadder is so distinctive.
3. He didn’t like the first season of Blackadder
As well as taking the title role, Atkinson also co-wrote first season of comedy The Black Adder with Richard Curtis. The show was not a huge success and was almost cancelled; Atkinson himself was in favour of this, as he was not pleased with his work.
Happily, both Atkinson and the BBC changed their minds. The far more acclaimed later seasons Blackadder II, Blackadder the Third and Blackadder Goes Forth were instead co-written by Curtis and Ben Elton.
2. He’s been in a number of car accidents
Atkinson may be a keen motor enthusiast and seasoned driver, but unfortunately this hasn’t kept him from been involved in quite a few car accidents.
He has suffered crashes in his McLaren F1 and his Aston Martin V8 Zagato, but managed to walk away without any serious injuries.
1. He saved his family from crashing in an aeroplane
In 2001, Atkinson was travelling on a private plane with his family over Kenya, when the pilot suddenly passed out. Atkinson wound up taking the controls, despite having never piloted a plane before.
Thankfully, Atkinson kept control of the aircraft long enough for the pilot to come back round and land the plane safely at Wilson Airport, Nairobi.