Acclaimed British comedy superstar Rowan Atkinson returns to his iconic, bumbling superspy role in Universal Pictures’ Johnny English Strikes Again (in Philippine cinemas October 10).
In the film, five days before the British PM (Emma Thompson) is to host her first G12 summit, MI7’s security is breached and every agent in the field identified and exposed. The only hope of finding the perpetrator is to bring an agent out of retirement, but with most of them either dead or close to it, the head of MI7 is left with only one choice, and his name is English… Johnny English.
With Rowan Atkinson as Johnny English, the jokes will always be free-flowing. “I enjoy visual jokes and I enjoy silly movement and I enjoy falling over,” says Atkinson, who seems delighted that Johnny English Strikes Again features plenty of the above.
“Rowan knows exactly how to communicate with his entire body, and how to make that part of the comedy,” says director David Kerr. “So you’d be mad not to embrace that when you’re planning the shots.”
Timing is everything, of course. Take the scene where Johnny English first meets Ophelia (Olga Kurylenko). Entering a swanky bar, he orders a ‘London Lemming’, much to the bemusement of the barman and our heroine Ophelia. The epitome of suave sophistication, as befits an agent of Her Majesty’s Secret Service, he toasts Ophelia, takes a sip and gets the cocktail umbrella stuck up his nose. Mastering the art of getting a cocktail umbrella stuck up the nose is not the work of a moment. It can be a painstaking process, just because Rowan is at the heart of what makes it funny.
The comedy evolves further as Johnny mistakes a sleeping pill for the Instant Release High Energy Pills. Dressed in white, a homage to Saturday Night Fever, he catapults himself across the dance floor, limbs moving in all directions. Achieving that sense of discord and chaos is a very exact science. David Kerr brought on choreographer Litza Bixler, with whom he had worked before, and together they shaped the dancing sequence with Rowan.
The three spent time identifying the music, the tone and where the physical comedy was going to be set. “We loosely structured everything, but always leaving breadth in there for improvisation,” says Bixler. “You work with the unique things he can do. It’s not about achieving a precise performance, but getting the balance between Rowan’s own precision and the fact that the character shouldn’t be too precise. He’s a precise thinker, which is an interesting contrast to his character.”
For Atkinson, it felt like a crossover to another of his most famous characters. “It’s the kind of dancing that probably Mr. Bean would do, but of course we can excuse it by the fact that Johnny English is on drugs while he’s doing it…prescription drugs in a sense, but nevertheless he’s sort of on cloud nine. So that’s how we can get Johnny English to do very un-Johnny English things.”
Of course, this is just one of the numerous Atkinson-inspired comic set-pieces that will tickle audiences watching Johnny English Strikes Again. From leading his pupils on a training exercise through the forest to scaling Volta’s yacht in magnetic boots, working undercover as a waiter, to the meticulously choreographed Virtual Reality sequence, the possibilities are endless and perfectly tailored to Atkinson’s comic genius. “It’s that physicality that people of all generations endlessly find funny,” says producer Tim Bevan. “He’s got this fantastic elastic face and elastic body that lends itself to physical comedy like virtually no one else in the world.”
Just as Johnny English strikes again…so does Rowan Atkinson.
Johnny English Strikes Again is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures. Follow us on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/uipmoviesph/; Twitter at https://twitter.com/uipmoviesph and Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/uipmoviesph/