Rowan Atkinson discusses his extremely successful career in a new interview with British GQ.
The actor, who is the second of four all-star GQ Heroes covers to be released this week, has had a career spanning over 40 years.
He says of one of his most known roles, “Mr. Bean”: “I feel as though it’s me as a nine-year old – or me as an 11-year old – because he’s essentially a child trapped in a man’s body.
“That’s how I’ve always seen him. He’s got the innocence but also the anarchic instinct and the unpleasantness, the uncompromisingness of children. They don’t take a particularly sophisticated view of the world and that is both Mr. Bean’s strength and his problem.”
Atkinson goes on to say of the beloved character, “Bean is such a weird man and – I like to think at least – far removed from my own personality, the distance I have to move in order to play him is actually very reassuring. It’s like entering a completely different world and I’m very happy in his world.”
Despite the character Johnny English also being one of Atkinson’s most famous roles, the actor doesn’t like him so much.
Atkinson admits, “[He is] just a fairly two-dimensional, self-obsessed individual who doesn’t really show any kindness or empathy. He’s good but crucially – and this is where the comedy comes in – he’s not as good as he thinks he is. He thinks he’s better than he is and it’s that differential and discrepancy between his ambition and his capability. That’s where the joke lies.”
Elsewhere in the interview, the star, who is notoriously private, talks about the link between tragedy and comedy: “Tragedy and comedy are extremely close bedfellows, and you can’t really have one without the other. Every joke has a victim, whether fictional or non-fictional or notional, ideological or human and therefore, there’s always someone suffering if there’s a joke. I suppose you have to accept that’s the way it is.”
He adds of struggling with the fame aspect of his career, “I much prefer, as a private individual, to keep my cards very close to my chest.
“I don’t really want to be known as an individual. I want to be known for the work, not who I am or what I think.”
The July/ August issue of British GQ is available via digital download and on newsstands on June 28.