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TNS Meets Rowan Atkinson

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Next month will see actor Rowan Atkinson reprise his role as Johnny English, the improbable secret agent who doesn’t know fear or danger, in the comedy spy-thriller Johnny English Reborn.

TNS speaks to the film’s star and its director Oliver Parker on the release of the munch-anticipated sequel, the concentrated work of comedy, and that car crash.Rowan Atkinson in action as the hilarious Johnny English

Rowan Atkinson is one of the country’s best loved comedic actors. Famous for his roles in Blackadder and Mr. Bean, he now returns to our screens as Johnny English, the most unlikely intelligence officer in Her Majesty’s Secret Service, a role that he first took in 2003 in the eponymous smash hit comedy.

In his latest adventure, MI-7 agent English must stop a group of international assassins before they eliminate a world leader and cause global chaos. Since his last mission English has fallen off the grid and spent years honing his unique skills in a remote region of Asia. But now, as the life of the Chinese premier is under threat, the unorthodox agent is called back into action and must employ the latest gadgets to unravel a deep web of conspiracy that takes him on an international adventure. For Johnny English, disaster may be an option, but failure never is.

Directed by Oliver Parker, the man behind films including St. Trinians and Dorian Gray, Johnny English Reborn promises to be bigger and better than its predecessor, receiving five-star reviews from critics and audiences alike.

Now, in preparation for the film’s release on Friday 7th October, Atkinson and Parker sit down with us to talk about the new release.

TNS: Given that Johnny English was such a big hit in 2003, many people are surprised that it has taken so long for a sequel to be released. Why do you think it has taken eight years for the follow up to film to reach our screens?

Rowan Atkinson: Well I think we always wanted to return to him, we knew as soon as the first movie came out in 2003 that there was another film to be made. In fact, the first script meeting I remember attending for this film was in 2004, and we worked on the film for a year and a half before we put it on hold so that I could do a Mr. Bean sequel instead. And then I got distracted by my turn as Fagin in Oliver! on the West End and various other projects, so we didn’t get back to work on it until 2009. So I’m sorry that its taken so long, its all down to my distraction and laziness.

TNS: Mr. Parker, I imagine that given the great success of the first film, it was easy to agree to this project when you were approached, but was the prospect of directing a sequel to such a hit also a little daunting?

Oliver Parker: Well I think to do a sequel is a tricky thing. Not only was the first Johnny English so successful, but it was also my son’s favourite film at the time, so that was an extra pressure to inherit. The fear is to retread the same ground, but I thought that Hamish [McColl, Screenwriter] had done such a good job of expanding the world of the film, and combining that with Rowan’s and Tim Bevan’s [Producer] passion for the film, it made it a project that I was really excited to get involved with.

TNS: Well, its certainly an exciting final product! The film is a much bigger production than its prequel, with shooting taking place everywhere from Hong Kong to the Alps, what was it like working on such a large scale?

OP: It was really exciting! It was great being out on the reconnaissance in Hong Kong and being able to say “Ideally I’d like a helicopter to do this shot,” and for them to actually stand there and write it down. Normally they just think I’m joking! But it only really worked because we had a really great crew behind us. We all really wanted to make sure that the set pieces were able to stand up against the new style of Bond and Bourne movies that have come out in the gap between the two Johnny English ones.

RA: I think that its extra size and glamour means that the film feels really contemporary, and engages with the audience on a different level than the original. Certainly by any objective measure, this film is better than the previous one, and I hope that allows it to have a greater impact on the film world than Johnny English.

OP: Yes, that would be rather nice wouldn’t it!

TNS: As with the original film, Johnny is given an impressive array of gizmos and gadgets to help him on his quest to defeating evil. It looked like a lot of time and consideration was put into their creation, is the technology in the film something you are particularly fond of?

OP: Gadgets are so much fun, and I think that’s something that the kids who watch the film really enjoy. They are fascinated by it. But so is Rowan, he was always there with the crew working on the construction of the gadgets we used. He was very involved.

RA: Yes, I really do enjoy gadgets, or anything on wheels, be that cars or high-speed wheelchairs like the one in the film. In fact I think that they tried to give me every form of transport imaginable in this one, a boat, a skidoo, a bicycle, a car. I think that the best gadget from the film is the one that changes a car’s license plate from inside the car….

TNS: And are there any real life gadgets you couldn’t live without?

RA: Oh, I would have to say my waste disposal unit. It is just so very handy.

Johnny English: Reborn is released nationwide Friday 7th October.

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