With his bulgy wild eyes, staunch British attire, and hilarious facial expressions, Rowan Atkinson steps out of his British supercar, smiling from ear to ear as he passes by throngs of cheering fans. Over the years, the 60-year-old Brit has become synonymous with slapstick humor, mime-like motions, and absurd situations, and he continues to this day to amuse us with his antics as the accident-prone Mr. Bean.
But there’s another side to the Consett, U.K.-born actor that people don’t always expect; while he may be a funny man in front of the camera, this multi-millionaire is one hell of a car collector. During an interview with Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear a few years back, Atkinson listed a few of his cars to the audience amid gasps and guffaws (many of us had no idea how much of a hardcore petrolhead the oddball Brit really was). Oh, and he races historic cars as a hobby and changes his car collection lineup as often as his gym shorts.
For all of his on-stage tomfoolery, Atkinson is a pretty smart guy. He has a Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from The Queen’s College, Oxford, to prove this point. But it was in theater where he garnered the most praise, and by the late 1970s his unusual facial expressions and wacky sense of humor were garnering him national press in England. Over the next two decades, Atkinson moved into rolls as Blackadder, Mr. Bean, Johnny English, and as the bird, Zazu, in The Lion King. As his wealth grew, so did his obsession with cars.
We’ve seen him act a fool in his 1976 British Leyland Mini 1000 more than quite a few times, as he avoids parking deck fees, drives with his feet while changing clothes, and enjoys a pastry while a tank slowly crushes it to smithereens in the background. But behind all of these hi-jinks lies a devout automotive enthusiast who takes his motoring quite seriously, and has the bank account to back it up.
Currently valued at over $133 million, Atkinson is now able to buy whatever the hell he wants. He’s been known to contribute to such British automotive magazines as Car, Octane, and Evo merely because he loves the subject and knows his stuff. Atkinson doesn’t just stop with cars either; he holds a category C+E (formerly ‘Class 1?) truck driving license partially because he has always been fascinated by big trucks. Earlier in his career, this seemed to be his solid fall-back plan if the whole acting thing didn’t work out. In 1991, The Driven Man launched in Britain as Atkinson’s own short-lived version of Top Gear, where he zipped around London discussing cars with taxi drivers, policemen, used-car salesmen, and psychotherapists, all in the hopes of better understanding what it is that makes someone so obsessed with automobiles.
On the downside, Atkinson has quite the spotty driving record. He infamously crashed his über rare McLaren F1 not once but twice, with the first incident taking place in 1999, when he buried the beak of the car deep in the back of some crappy compact car. The second incident occurred in 2011 when the McLaren caught fire after spinning out of control and plowing into a tree, thus triggering one of the largest insurance payouts in British history. Repairs to the nearly-totaled supercar took almost two years to fix, but Mr. Bean made out like a bandit in the end, as CNBC reported, the twice-crashed McLaren F1 sold for a staggering $12.2 million back in June of this year — making the actor almost $11 million in profit.
Atkinson has also reportedly owned an Acura NSX, an Audi A8, a Škoda Superb, a V8 Aston Martin Vantage Zagato, an Aston Martin DB2, and a cherry 1939 BMW 328. But one car Atkinson refuses to add to his collection is a Porsche, claiming that even though he doesn’t “go around saying that Porsches are a pile of dung,” but that he “psychologically” couldn’t handle owning one.
This guy has lived one heck of a high-octane-filled life, has performed on stages the world over, spent countless hours working on skits with the likes of Monty Python. He’s driven, raced, and crashed multi-million dollar supercars, and punched his way to the fastest lap time in 2011 as the “Star in a Reasonably Priced Car” for BBC’s Top Gear. In March 2001, the BBC reported that Atkinson saved the lives of his wife and two children when the pilot of a private plane they were in collapsed, and the quirky actor had to take-over as pilot until he was able to slap the unconscious man hard enough that he regained consciousness.
Turns out that Mr. Bean isn’t as silly as he might appear.