The hard part about building an empire based on being a child in a grown man’s body is you might have to live there for a helluva long time. If you’re Paul Reubens, you can probably take off the Pee Wee Herman suit, throw on a baseball cap, and call it a day. But if you’re Rowan Atkinson, where your face is the costume? You’re probably stuck forever. It’s hard going incognito when you look like this:
But that doesn’t mean you have to like being Bean. “I don't much enjoy playing him,” says Atkinson. “The weight of responsibility is not pleasant. I find it stressful and exhausting, and I look forward to the end of it.”
Unfortunately for Atkinson, the Cult of Bean shows no signs of going away. There are more than 30 million subscribers to the Mr. Bean YouTube channel and a Facebook page dedicated to the awkward manchild has 129 million followers. And of course, the inevitable Mr. Bean NFTs are on the way. There will be 3,333 released -- collect ‘em all!
(In typical Mr. Bean fashion, the NFT launch was announced just as cryptocurrency crashed in value. We're not saying the two events are related but …)
So what’s Atkinson’s problem with Bean exactly? Part of it is the physical toll: “Visual comedy can be physically quite demanding on your body – but I felt as though I don't know if I really want to carry on doing things like this because it’s quite demanding.”
Well, sure. Rowan is a 67-year-old dude, so it’s understandable that he doesn’t want to throw his body around for a chuckle. But if that’s the case, how does he explain this, dropping this month on Netflix?
Maybe it’s not the physical comedy that Atkinson is sick of but the gurgling, burbling inanity of it all. The guy in Man vs. Bee at least seems to be an adult. He even talks in complete sentences! But Bean?
“It’s quite childish humor,” he says. “Maybe I’m just growing out of this. Maybe it’s sensible to acknowledge that it’s been fun and to draw a line under it.”
The gig seems too lucrative to simply wave goodbye. The official Mr. Bean shop indicates there’s still demand for Bean art, baby bibs, phone cases, coffee mugs, keychains, lunch boxes, tea towels … you get the idea.
So is there some way for Atkinson to have his Bean cake and eat it too? He’s already found it: Animation.
“It's easier for me to perform the character vocally than visually,” admits Atkinson, who could probably perform a season’s worth of high-pitched squeaks and gaks in a single afternoon. “Having made an animated TV series, we're now in the foothills of developing an animated movie for Mr. Bean.” Which makes sense -- whatever you think of the two live-action Bean movies, they both made major bank.
Plus, there’s the added bonus of all those animation cells that can be sold off as NFTs. Unless Mr. Bean's bumbling breaks the blockchain once and for all.
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Top image: Source