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Taking Up Acting Helped Rowan Atkinson Overcome His Stutter

Taking Up Acting Helped Rowan Atkinson Overcome His Stutter

What a great example of will power. The Mr Bean and Johnny English actor turned to drama to overcome a stammer during his school years.

Claire Reid

Claire Reid

It seems strange now but despite now being one of the best-loved comic actors in Britain, if not the world, Rowan Atkinson suffered terribly as a child from a speech impediment.

The Mr Bean, Johnny English and Blackadder actor, who is reportedly to become a father for the third time at the age of 62, turned to drama to overcome a stammer during his school years.

Credit: Mr Bean

Born in 1955 as one of four children, he attended the Durham Choristers School and was described by one teacher as 'shy with a slight stutter and a slightly rubbery face just like the one he has now.'

However, when Rowan, who has a master's degree in electrical engineering, took to the stage he became a different person and developed into the actor we all know and love.

Canon John Groves, who also taught the future at St Bees School, said in Atkinson's 1999 biography: "In class he was very middle of the road. There was nothing outstanding about him. I didn't expect him to become a fantastic scientist. And he was a quiet lad who walked his own path. But when he walked on-stage he was exceptional."

Rowan Atkinson
Rowan Atkinson

Credit: PA

It's rumoured that problems with Rowan's speech led to him being bullied throughout his school career, with even former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was also a student at Durham Choristers School, admitting to remembering Atkinson's treatment.

Whilst acting on the side, Rowan knuckled down to get a M.Sc. in electrical engineering from Oxford University as well as meeting some of the people who would influence his later career.

It was at university that he met Richard Curtis, who saw the shy Atkinson come out of his shell underneath the spotlight before later collaborating with him on the Blackadder series.

Rowan Atkinson Blackadder
Rowan Atkinson Blackadder

Credit: Blackadder

Curtis described his performances as "pure genius" and within years, Atkinson was winning awards for his comic timing and acting prowess.

However, it has not been plain sailing even though he is now a massively successful and accomplished performer.
Asked about his speech in an interview with TIME magazine in 2007, Atkinson revealed that he still lives with his affliction.

He said; "It comes and goes. I find when I play a character other than myself, the stammering disappears. That may have been some of the inspiration for pursuing the career I did."

His story goes to show that despite his problems, perseverance and will power can help overcome things that seem to stand in the way of success. Top LAD.

Featured Image Credit: Mr Bean / Polygram

Topics: rowan atkinson, Celebrity