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Rowan Atkinson talks Johnny English and James Bond influences

17-Sep-2011 • Actor News

The first Johnny English film, released in 2003 on a budget of $35 million, raked in $161 million at the box office. This time the budget is much bigger for "Johnny English: Reborn" – a move to keep the franchise abreast of the Bond and Bourne films.

‘I loved the Bond movies as a child, and I still do,’ confesses star Rowan Atkinson to the Daily Mail.

‘They are hugely inspiring – a wonderful combination of glamour and adventure. The books were written in the Fifties and were all about Britain as a fading power but they had this brilliant secret agent who could make Britain look great again.

‘The Cold War was a very dominant feature of the books, and that doesn’t exist any more. The character doesn’t really fit the times and the idea that a member of the British intelligence would be driving a Rolls-Royce Phantom in this day and age – or even an Aston Martin – is patently ludicrous.

'We go along with the idea because that was the template that Ian Fleming set and we update it. Even though we are not a Bond or a Bourne movie, we are the comic equivalent. We rely on people’s familiarity with, and liking for, that world – the world of espionage.’

The new film opens with our hero honing his martial arts skills in a remote Tibetan retreat, having been thrown out of MI7 at the end of the first film. He is called back into the fold reluctantly by MI7’s new boss (Gillian Anderson) when she learns of a plot to assassinate the Chinese leader and is informed by a key contact that he will only deal with English.

‘In terms of budget, set design and casting we were keen to make it as much like a Bond film as we could,’ explains Atkinson.

‘We haven’t cast any comedians. Everybody in it (Anderson is joined by Rosamund Pike and Dominic West) either has been in or could be found in a James Bond movie.’

It might be an acutely observed comic homage to 007 but the new film features action sequences that wouldn’t look out of place with Daniel Craig in the frame – a speedboat chase in Hong Kong; a fight across the rooftops in Macau; helicopters and gadgets galore, including Atkinson’s favourite, a customised Rolls-Royce Phantom with a unique nine-litre V16 engine.

‘That was deliberate,’ says Atkinson. ‘We wanted to give the story a little more credibility and a little more believability in the hope that any silliness that we indulged in on top would shine out in sharp relief against this very serious background.

Thanks to `danslittlefinger` for the alert.

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