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The film "Johnny English"
  Rowan Atkinson
  Further information
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British films: Britain/Films


The film "Johnny English" is a comedy action film. It opened in cinemas across the UK on Friday 11th April 2003, and the video and DVD were released in August 2003.

Johnny English (DVD)
Studio: Universal Pictures Video
Date: August 2003
Johnny English (Video)
Studio: Universal Pictures Video
Date: August 2003

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Johnny English - a civil servant who becomes Britain's top spy - played by Rowan Atkinson (for details about Rowan Atkinson, see: below)
Pascal Sauvage - a French businessman who has made a lot of money by building prisons - played by John Malkovich (a popular American actor)
Agent Bough (pronounced "Boff") - Johnny English's assistant - played by Ben Miller (a British comedian who is best know as one half of the stand-up double act Armstrong & Miller)
Lorna Campbell - a mysterious woman who appears at Sauvage's parties - played by Natalie Imbruglia (Natalie is a singer who also acted in the Australian soap opera series "Neighbours")

Johnny English
(Rowan Atkinson)

Pascal Sauvage
(John Malkovich)

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If you are not a native English speaker, you may find it helpful to study some of the vocabulary before you go to see the film. However, there are many visual jokes as well as jokes which involve playing with words, so most people should be able to enjoy the film even if they cannot understand everything.

Most of the main characters speak with clear accents, except for Pascal Sauvage (played by the American John Malkovich), who speaks with a false French accent (he copies some of the features of the way that many French people speak English; for example, he does not pronounce the letter "h" at the start of words).

Johnny is a slang form of the common male names John or Jonathan. The term Johnny Foreigner is an old-fashioned term which was sometimes used by British people to refer to a foreigner (it is quite a comic expression, and is not respectful). The term "Johnny Turk" was used during the First World War to refer to Turkish people. Because this film makes fun of the English - and also of the relationship between the UK and "foreigners" (in this case, the French and other Europeans) - the name Johnny English is used for the main character.

Foreign vocabulary
Johnny likes foreign languages, but doesn't know how to use them properly. There are several foreign words or phrases used in the film:
French: bonne chance - good luck; château - castle; ne pas cracher svp (s'il vous plaît) - please don't spit; sauvage - savage (wild, uncivilised)
German: auf Wiedersehen, Herr Englisch (German) - goodbye, Mr English (in a Bond film, his enemy sometimes says "goodbye, Mr Bond" before he is killed)
Italian: arrivederci - goodbye
Japanese: Johnny tries to show off his Japanese, but actually says something rude

Royal vocabulary:
When other people talk about the British Queen (Elizabeth the Second), the respectful term to use is Her Majesty.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the head of the Church of England and is the person who is responsible for appointing a new king or queen. The ceremony is known as a coronation, and includes the placing of a crown on the head of the new king or queen.
The crowns and other valuable jewellery which are looked after by the royal family are known as the Crown Jewels. These are currently displayed in the Tower of London, which can be visited by members of the public.
One of the honours which the Queen gives to people who have served Britain well is known as a knighthood. This gives that person the right to put the word "Sir" (or "Lady") at the start of the name.
The Queen was given a type of dog known as a corgi as a present for her 18th birthday in 1944, and her love of this type of dog is well-known. Over the years since then she has owned a total of 30 different corgis and 8 cross-breeds; at present she looks after four corgis.

General vocabulary:
mission (a task); cheerio (a slang way of saying goodbye); snuffed out (killed); to step into the breach (); ballpoint (a type of pen: a biro); to unveil (to remove the cover from something; often used for a ceremony where something new is shown to the public for the first time); to mingle (to socialise with other people; to mix); inconspicuously (in a way that cannot be noticed by others; subtly); a Bloody Mary (a drink made by mixing tomato juice and vodka - this is a popular drink with women); cheesy nibblets (small snacks made of cheese, for example at a cocktail party); impaled: "a bottom impaled on a giant cactus" (pierced by a sharp object); an assailant (an attacker); a maniac (a crazy person); an island nation (a country such as Britain which is an island and may therefore have a different culture from other countries nearby); Data Support (a department in a company which helps to collect information); frizzy hair (curly hair); to have all the bells and whistles (to have all the extra features which make it special); a master criminal (a person who is an expert at doing illegal things); a grille (a set of metal bars used to cover an entrance or hole); a bobby (a slang but positive word for a British policeman); cemetery (a place where dead bodies are buried); a parish (the local area which is covered by a church); a grieving granny (a grandmother who is crying over the death of someone); a hearse driver (the person who drives a car in which there is a dead body in a coffin); a lunatic (a crazy person); a response unit (people who are sent out to deal with some kind of emergency, for exampla after a dangerous person has escaped from care); a cock-up (something that is done very badly); is being taken care of ("is being killed"; in other cases this could also mean "is being looked after"); to eliminate someone (to kill someone); bugged (a secret listening device has been placed there); villain (a bad person; a criminal); like a coiled viper (like a snake which has made a circular shape and is ready to attack); a sea urchin (a small animal which lives in water that is not very deep: it has a round shell which is covered with sharp needles); sherbert lemons (types of sweets which are popular with schoolchildren); Geronimo! (an expression shouted when starting an attack; a character from old American TV series "The Lone Ranger"); grotty (in bad condition); to be a spent force (to be someone who was once strong but is not powerful any more); poo (a children's word for faeces; excrement); London FM (an imaginary radio station; Capital FM is a real radio station in London); a fraudster (a person who obtains money by deceiving someone else); a charlatan (a person who pretends to be an expert in something for which he/she is not qualified); a sham; (a false or fake situation); a low life (a person who lives from criminal or immoral activity); high treason (a very serious crime, which threatens the security of the country)

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There are many references to scenes in James Bond films: Johnny English is a "parody" of these films. For example:
- The scene in "From Russia with Love" in which James Bond throws his hat onto a hatstand (a coat is used in this film)
- There are weapons which are disguised as ordinary objects in all of the Bond films (a pen is used in this film)
- Bond films always include a beautiful woman who are seduced by Bond (Johnny is less successful at this!)
- When Bond is offered a drink he usually asks for a "vodka Martini - shaken, not stirred" (Johnny asks for a "Bloody Mary, please - not too spicy")
- Numbers are used to refer to the spies - in the Bond films, James is known as 007 (Johnny is called "Agent 1")

Many of the jokes in the film are visual and are easy to understand. However, there are also jokes which may need some explanation for non-British people. Some examples:
- Johnny English works for "MI7". MI stands for "Military Intelligence". MI5 is the security intelligence agency which deals with defence issues within the UK (see: MI6 is the section which deals with security intelligence outside the UK. MI7 doesn't exist!
- There are some jokes about the people from France and other European countries. These are not meant to be taken seriously, although the words themselves could be considered offensive. For example, when English hears that the party is being hosted by the Frenchman Sauvage he says: "The only thing which the French should be allowed to host is an invasion" (this means that the only thing you should let a French person organise is a takeover of France by another country; it is a unkind reference to the Vichy government at the time of the Second World War). Later, a radio discjockey asks English listeners to call him and tell him the "10 things you most like about the French", but gets no callers. British people like this kind of "black humour" - the words are unpleasant and are said with a serious face, but they are not meant seriously.
- English says, "The word mistakes, sir, is not one that appears in my dictionary". This is a reference to a quotation by Napoleon who is believed to have said "Impossible, ce n'est pas francais" (literally: "the word impossible is not a French word").
- There is a tattoo on the bottom of one of the criminals which reads "Jesus is coming - look busy". This is a rude joke which could have several different meanings.

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The film is set mainly in England, apart from some scenes which were filmed in France (Monaco). Among the English places shown are:
- The Church of St Michael & All Angels, Hughenden, Buckinghamshire (first funeral)
- St Albans Cathedral, St Albans, Hertfordshire (coronation scene)
- Dover ferry terminal, Dover, Kent
- Sandringham Palace is one of the Queen's palaces in England

The following are some of the places in London which you can see during the film:
- 10 Downing Street (the main home of the British Prime Minister)
- Buckingham Palace (the main home of Queen Elizabeth the Second)
- The Houses of Parliament (including Big Ben, the clock tower shown on the home page: Home)
- The Tower of London (where important prisoners were once kept, and where the Crown Jewels can now be seen)
- Canary Wharf (this building is used as the headquarters of Pascal Sauvage's company; see picture below)
- Brompton Cemetery, Fulham Road, London SW10 9UG (the second funeral scene; near Fulham Broadway underground station; map)
- Yo Sushi!, 3B Belvedere Road, London SE1 7GP (a Japanese sushi restaurant near Waterloo station; map)

The Crown Jewels ...

... at the Tower of London


The Gold State Coach at the Royal Mews
Picture: The Royal Collection ©2003,
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

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- The British female classical group Bond are playing at Sauvage's reception party.
- The music which is played at the coronation is "Zadok the priest" by George Frideric Händel. This has been used at every British coronation since 1727. Handel was born in Germany but was made a British citizen by King George the First (his body is buried in Westminster Abbey, London).
- The song "Does your mother know?" by Swedish group Abba is featured in the film's bathroom scene.

Johnny English [soundtrack] (audio CD)
Artists: Various
Label: Universal Classics
Date: April 2003
Handel - Coronation Anthems (audio CD)
Artists: Cambridge King's College Choir, Academy of Ancient Music
Label: EMI Classics
Date: October 2001

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Rowan Atkinson became well-known in Britain when he joined Mel Smith, Griff Rhys-Jones and Pamela Stephenson in a television series of comedy sketches called Not The Nine O'Clock News. The series was called this because it was shown on television (on BBC2) at the same time as the main evening news (on BBC1). Many of the comedy sketches made fun of topical events or popular singers. He starred in a TV comedy series set in a police station called "The Thin Blue Line"

One of his most popular roles in the UK has been in the TV comedy programme known as BlackAdder. He played a character known as BlackAdder who is living in a different period of British history in each of the four series (starting in 1485 and ending in 1917), "assisted" by a servant known as Baldrick.

Rowan Atkinson's other best-known character was Mr Bean. This TV series was based on visual humour (there are almost no words), and became successful throughout the world. A film "Bean - The Ultimate Disaster Movie" was made.

Other film roles include parts in "The Tall Guy", the James Bond film "Never Say Never Again" (see: Britain/Films/Bond), "Four Weddings and a Funeral" (see: Britain/Films/Guide), "Lion King", "Maybe Baby" and "Scooby-Doo". In 2001 he starred with John Cleese in the comedy film "Rat Race".

Johnny English is based on a character which Rowan Atkinson played in a popular series of adverts for a British credit card (Barclaycard).

Later in 2003 Rowan Atkinson will appear with Hugh Grant and Martine McCutcheon in Love Actually, a comedy set in London. This is directed by Richard Curtis (who also directed "Bridget Jones's Diary" and "Notting Hill").

Rat Race (2001) (DVD)
Starring: Rowan Atkinson, John Cleese
Studio: Pathe Distribution Ltd
Date: November 2002
Bean - The Ultimate Disaster Movie (1997) (DVD)
Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Peter MacNicol
Studio: Universal Pictures Video
Date: December 2001
Blackadder - The Complete Box Set (DVDs)
Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson
Studio: BBC Worldwide Publishing
Date: November 2001
Blackadder: the Whole Damn Dynasty: 1485-1917 (Book)
Authors: Richard Curtis, Ben Elton, John Lloyd, Rowan Atkinson
Publisher: Penguin Books
Date: November 1999
Cunning: The "Blackadder" Programme Guide (Book)
Authors: Chris Howarth, Steve Lyons
Publisher: Virgin Books
Date: January 2002
Not The Nine O'Clock News - The Gorilla Kinda Lingers (Video)
Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Mel Smith, Griff Rhys-Jones, Pamela Stephenson; Studio: BBC
Date: 1995

Rowan Atkinson Live (Audio tape)
Starring: Rowan Atkinson
Studio: Laughing Stock Production
Date: September 1995

The Tall Guy (1988) (DVD)
Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Emma Thompson, Rowan Atkinson
Studio: Mgm Home Ent. (Europe) Ltd
Date: February 2003

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For further information about the film Johnny English, see:

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British films: Britain/Films
British comedy: Ideas/Fun
James Bond films: Britain/Films/Bond

Home page: Home

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