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Why Rowan Atkinson Doesn't Like Playing Mr. Bean In Live Action Anymore

Here's a fun fact: In 2014, the British Council surveyed tens of thousands of citizens from 20 different countries, inquiring about how they perceived the United Kingdom for a report entitled "As Others See Us." When asked "What makes the UK attractive?" respondents replied with words like "culture," "landscapes," and "history." Asked what destinations were associated with the nation, people said "Big Ben," "Buckingham Palace," and so on. Then, when told to list "People associated with the UK's contemporary arts and culture," a substantial portion of this international cross-section of folks replied "Mister Bean." More people said "Mister Bean" than "Benedict Cumberbatch." That's how important Mister Bean is to the national heritage — he's more British than Smaug.

That's a lot of pressure to pile onto one man's tweed shoulders, so maybe it's not surprising to learn that Rowan Atkinson, the world-renowned comedic actor behind the Mister Bean persona, seems pretty much done with the character — at least in live action. During a wide-ranging interview with RT this week, the 65-year-old performer spoke about the possibility of another outing for England's most beloved purveyor of muted tomfoolery following thirty years of television, film, and animated adventures. The odds don't look great.

Three decades of Bean left a bad taste in Atkinson's mouth

"I don't much enjoy playing him," Atkinson said of Mister Bean. "The weight of responsibility is not pleasant. I find it stressful and exhausting, and I look forward to the end of it."

This isn't the first time that Atkinson has spoken out about what is arguably his most well known role. In 2012, he told The Daily Telegraph that the end was near for the character, stating that "Apart from the fact that your physical ability starts to decline, I also think someone in their 50s being childlike becomes a little sad."

Still, the Bean train has continued to roll forward, undoubtedly thanks to the character's enduring popularity. Making the jump from live action to animation has had an enormous impact, with over 100 episodes of cartoon hijinks produced between 2002 and 2019, helping to catapult the official Mister Bean YouTube page to over 25 million subscribers from around the world. That extra layer of separation from the part seems to have helped the performer. "Having made an animated TV series, we're now in the foothills of developing an animated movie for Mr. Bean," Atkinson told RT. "It's easier for me to perform the character vocally than visually."

"I don't actually like the process of making anything," he continued, summing up how basically everyone feels about everything at this point, "with the possible exception of Blackadder, because the responsibility for making that series funny was on many shoulders, not just mine." He was suspiciously silent, however, on the topic of Johnny English.