Since first hitting screens all the way back in 1990, Mr. Bean has been the most popular creation of British comedian Rowan Atkinson. Almost entirely dialogue-free, the madcap misadventures of Atkinson’s bumbling, childlike character started life on television before appearing in two movies. Despite a fairly limited body of work, Mr. Bean became an international sensation, attracting a huge following all over the world.
Let’s take a look back at the classic show – along with its two film sequels and various other spin-offs – with some fun facts that you may not have known.
20. Atkinson came up with the character at university
Rowan Atkinson originally conceived the idea for the character who became Mr. Bean when he was studying at Oxford University for his Electrical Engineering Master’s degree. It took a while for him to nail the formula, however. When Atkinson first portrayed the character on screen in the 1979 one-off comedy special Canned Laughter, he gave him the name Robert Box.
Atkinson then performed as Mr Bean at the Edinburgh Fringe in the early 80s, and at Montreal’s Just For Laughs comedy festival in 1987. After completing the fourth season of his iconic sitcom Blackadder, Atkinson worked with his collaborators Richard Curtis and Ben Elton to finally give the character his own TV show.
19. He almost had a different name
After re-jigging the Robert Box character, Atkinson decided on a name change. Mr Bean, however, wasn’t originally Mr Bean at all, but the considerably less-appealing Mr White. (It’s probably for the best that this was abandoned, as might have resulted in some confusion with Harvey Keitel’s character Mr. White in controversial 1991 crime thriller Reservoir Dogs).
After deciding that Mr White didn’t sound quite right, Atkinson decided to name his character after a vegetable: he went with Mr. Cauliflower. Mr Bean was the next and thankfully final choice.
18. He was based on a popular French movie character
English to the core he may be, but Mr Bean’s creation was inspired by another popular character from across the Channel. Jacques Tati’s Monsieur Hulot, who appeared in six films from 1949 to 1974, was like Mr Bean a silent, bumbling character who would often find himself in awkward social situations.
In a 2015 interview, Atkinson said of Tati: “I loved his movies, and you know, Mr. Hulot’s Holiday I remember seeing when I was 17 – that was a major inspiration. He opened a window to a world that I’d never looked out on before.”
17. It’s not just the Brits that love a bit of Bean
Mr Bean has been massively successful in Britain, but it’s not just the Brits that love his show. Since first airing in the UK in 1990, the live-action Mr. Bean show has been sold to more than 190 countries worldwide. The lack of dialogue helps make Mr. Bean accessible to viewers everywhere.
It’s said that at any point in the last 30 years, Mr Bean was showing somewhere in the world, while 70 territories still have either the live-action or animated Mr Bean shows in syndication this minute.
16. He’s more famous than royalty
Clearly, Mr Bean is known to audiences the world over. You might be surprised at how famous the character actually is, though. A 2015 poll, aimed at establishing which famous Brits were best known to foreigners living in the UK, produced some surprising results.
It turned out that Mr Bean was better known to non-Brits than Catherine, Princess of Wales, the wife of Prince William and Britain’s likely future Queen.
15. We know his first name
Casual viewers of Mr. Bean might be convinced that the only real info they have on the character is his last name, but this isn’t the case. During the show, Mr. Bean can be seen writing his real full name, while in one scene in the 1997 Mr Bean movie we even get to see his passport.
Both confirm that Mr. Bean’s first name is, in fact, “Mr.” Which means, of course, that his full title would be Mr. Mr. Bean, a suitably absurd name for the character.
14. Mr. Bean’s flat changes between episodes
If you watch the show closely, it would seem Mr. Bean has trouble staying in one place for too long. Throughout the run of the show, Mr. Bean’s flat changes completely between episodes. While some episodes see him with a single living room that also houses his bed, others have him in a two-room flat where the bed is in a separate room.
Perhaps Mr. Bean’s constant tomfoolery doesn’t make him too popular with landlords and/or resident’s associations?
13. He talks that way because of Rowan Atkinson’s stutter
One of Mr. Bean’s defining characteristics is his manner of speech. On the rare occasions when he does speak, it’s a goofy, hesitant sort of voice. This was inspired in part by Rowan Atkinson’s own difficulty with his speech growing up. As a child, Atkinson had a crippling stutter, only overcoming it when he learned to use performing as therapy years later.
Atkinson’s main problem was always the letter B; this is why Mr. Bean has an odd way of saying his own name. This was also why, as Blackadder, Atkinson pronounced the name ‘Bob’ in such an unusual, exaggerated manner.
12. Atkinson originally used the Bean voice on Not the Nine O’Clock News
Mr Bean didn’t just arrive out of nowhere for Rowan Atkinson; he spent years honing the character, on stage and sometimes in front of our very eyes. The voice that Rowan Atkinson uses for Mr Bean had been used previously by Atkinson on the BBC sketch show Not the Nine O’Clock News, in the ‘man who likes toilets’ sketch.
Running from 1979 until 1982, Not the Nine O’Clock News was a breakthrough TV show for the British alternative comedy scene of the time. As well as Atkinson himself, his co-stars Mel Smith, Griff Rhys Jones and Pamela Stephenson all went to hugely successful careers.
11. He’s seriously popular on social media
It might not come as a surprise to you at this point, considering all you now know about Mr. Bean and his level of popularity, but the character is huge on social media. At the time of writing, the official Mr. Bean Facebook page has 134 million followers.
On YouTube, the official Mr. Bean page has 31.4 million subscribers and his clips have collectively well over a billion views. This makes him more popular than Will Smith, Taylor Swift and McDonald’s. Not bad for a character whose show ended in 1995.
10. Viewing figures for the show were huge
Mr. Bean was an immediate hit with audiences, with millions tuning in for every episode. The viewing figures were highest for The Trouble with Mr. Bean, the New Year’s Day 1992 episode which sees the character going to the dentist and picnicking in the park, where he contends with a pesky wasp.
The episode was watched by a whopping 18.74 million viewers in the UK. This made it the fifth most watched British TV broadcast of 1992.
9. Mr. Bean has been used in many different advertising campaigns
In the world of advertising, they say nothing sells like sex, but there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that Mr. Bean lures customers almost as well. Rowan Atkinson has played his most famous creation in advertising campaigns for many big companies over the years, including Snickers, M&Ms, Nissan and Fujifilm.
Mr. Bean also appeared in an ad for the Norwegian supermarket chain Rema 1000, proving just how global the character’s appeal is.
8. The animated series may have confirmed that Mr. Bean is an alien
Because of his odd nature and a title sequence in which he appears to fall to Earth under the gaze of a beam of light, fans have long speculated that Mr. Bean may in fact be an alien. An episode of the Mr. Bean animated series is thought to have actually confirmed this theory.
In one episode, the cartoon Bean is beamed aboard an alien spaceship, where he’s met by a few familiar faces. The aliens aboard the craft are all identical to Mr. Bean, with the difference being that they all appear to have different teddies. For many proponents of the alien theory, this was confirmation.
7. Richard Curtis suggests the character might instead be an angel
Richard Curtis, the Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill filmmaker who co-created Mr. Bean along with Rowan Atkinson, doesn’t necessarily agree with the extra-terrestrial hypothesis. Another popular fan theory is that Mr. Bean is in fact a fallen angel, and this is something that Curtis would seem to endorse.
In his 2003 film Love Actually, Curtis wrote Rowan Atkinson’s character as an angel. It’s not a detail that made it into the film, however, and besides, both Atkinson and Curtis prefer to let audiences make their own minds up on the matter (regarding both Mr. Bean and Atkinson’s Love Actually role).
6. There were only ever 14 episodes
Given how huge Mr. Bean has become, you might be surprised at just how little screen time the character has had. Only 14 TV episodes of Mr. Bean were ever produced, most of them around 25 minutes in length, adding up to five hours and 53 minutes total. There was also a 72-minute compilation episode, The Best Bits of Mr. Bean, first broadcast in December 1995.
This is nothing compared to the Mr. Bean animated series. Premiering in January 2002, five seasons and a one-off special have been produced to date, totaling at 134 episodes.
5. The first Bean movie was record-breakingly successful
Despite the show’s popularity, 1997’s Bean (or, Bean: The Ultimate Disaster Movie) was a bigger box office hit than expected. In the UK alone, Bean made an impressive $28 million, but worldwide the film grossed a total of $251.2 million, on a budget of just $18 million, making it one of the most successful British productions ever at the time.
Again proving the character’s global reach, Bean became the first film ever to break $100 million before its US release. The 2007 sequel Mr. Bean’s Holiday was only slightly less successful, earning $232.2 million off the back of a $25 million budget.
4. Rowan Atkinson’s daughter cameos in Mr. Bean’s Holiday
As well as being the character’s last full-blown screen appearance to date, Mr. Bean’s Holiday also features a cameo that even hardcore fans of the franchise might have missed. There’s a character credited as Lily at the Stereo, who controls the display at the church fete where Mr. Bean wins a holiday at at the beginning of the film.
This character is played by no random extra. Lily at the Stereo is in fact Lily Atkinson, Rowan Atkinson’s daughter. She also appeared in Johnny English Reborn, another of her father’s films.
3. The character goes by many names around the world
Due to the language barrier, rarely do movie or TV show titles ever make a smooth transition from English into another language. Mr. Bean has been exported to many countries around the world, but he doesn’t go by Mr. Bean in all of them.
In China, for example, the character is known as Foolish Bean. Meanwhile, in Vietnam he is Sir Bean, whereas in Finland his show goes by the name Nolojen Tilanteiden Mies, or Man of the Situation.
2. Atkinson retired the character in 2012 – but quickly changed his mind
After more than two decades of playing Mr. Bean, Rowan Atkinson announced in late 2012 (after appearing in the opening ceremony of that year’s Olympic Games in London) that he was done playing the character. The comedian remarked at the time, “Apart from the fact that your physical ability starts to decline, I also think someone in their 50s being childlike becomes a little sad.”
However, it didn’t take long for Atkinson to go back on his word. He has continued to voice the animated version of Bean, as well as playing the role in a 2014 Snickers commercial and a 2015 Red Nose Day sketch. In 2016, he revealed in an interview that he couldn’t ever really bring himself to retire the character.
1. Mr. Bean made a third film appearance in a Chinese comedy
After the Snickers ad and the Red Nose Day sketch, Rowan Atkinson has played Mr. Bean a third time on the big screen, but it’s a movie that few in the western hemisphere have seen. 2017’s Top Funny Comedian: The Movie, or Huan Le Xi Ju Ren as it’s known in China, is a spin-off of a popular Chinese TV show (in the America’s Got Talent vein), and features Atkinson in a cameo as Bean.
Only released in its native China, the film is a Hangover-type misadventure movie about four friends trying to find their missing pal on a trip to Macau. Mr. Bean isn’t the only western icon to appear in the movie, as American boxer Evander Holyfield is also in the cast.