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JOHNNY ENGLISH

About The Production
It has become custom within the movie business to adapt successful ventures from other mediums (books, plays, television series, even popular songs) into film projects. Johnny English may be one of the first to adapt a film version from…a commercial.

Between 1992 and 1997, gifted comic actor Atkinson was featured in series of popular British credit card commercials playing a somewhat accident-prone spy. It was at that time Atkinson got the idea about making a feature film based on the character from the television advertisements.

Atkinson notes, "Those commercials, even though they were only sixty-seconds long, had a movie feel to them. They were elaborate and atmospheric with very high production values. They just felt like a mini-movie, so it seemed logical to make a maxi-movie."

Having collaborated with Atkinson over a number of years, producing The Tall Guy in the ‘80s and Bean in the ‘90s, Working Title were looking for another joint feature project with him.

"The idea of doing a film about this British spy was perfect," says producer Tim Bevan. "The interesting thing about British movies is that the two genres that seem to be successful are the spy movie and the comedy—this was an opportunity to combine the two."

A few years elapsed between the completion of the television commercials and the actual start of the film project, entitled Johnny English, during which time its star and the Working Title producers were kept busy by a myriad of separate projects.

Eventually, screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were commissioned to write the script. (In addition to the pair's experience with screenwriting in various genres, their expertise within the spy genre—having penned The World Is Not Enough—was highly regarded.)

Atkinson was also very involved from the beginning. He remembers, "I helped to guide the scriptwriters. I was in on the ground floor, as they say."

Together with Purvis, Wade, and Bevan, Atkinson was ensconced for many months in a boardroom at Working Title, kicking ideas around. Once the script began to take shape, the star sat in on all of the writers' meetings. Months later, the company had a screenplay and began the search for a director.

Prior to Johnny English, Atkinson had been in discussions with director Peter Howitt (who had helmed Working Title's hit Sliding Doors) concerning a collaborative project that never came to fruition. Now, with a script ready for reading, the actor forwarded a copy to Howitt to get his opinion on the screenplay.

Peter Howitt comments, "I was cutting a film in Los Angeles and I got a call from Rowan, asking if I would take a look at the script he had and give him my thoughts. Then, after a couple of months of these scripts arriving, Rowan said that he'd like me direct. It was quite clear having seen the character and the commercials that they were striking and memorable. Getting to work with that character and Rowan was very exciting."

Wade and Purvis worked on the script tirelessly for two years before leaving the project to work on the next Bond film, Die Another Day. Screenwriter William Davies was brought on board to continue to hone the work and smooth the transition from television commercial to page to the big screen.

While forging the script, it was paramount to all that the character of Johnny English remain closer in feel to that über-spy with the numeric moniker than any of the bumbling progeny created in the seemingly unending list of spy spoofs.

Atkinson offers, "Johnny loves being a secret agent so much that he oversteps himself. He always thinks that he's better at something than he actually is. He's the sort of person who, in a hurdle race, would clear the first hurdles extremely well, but he'd be waving at the crowd and he would trip and fall on the last h

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