Rowan Atkinson has hinted that his days of playing the much-loved character Mr Bean could be nearing an end as he turns his sights to more serious stage roles.
The 57-year-old actor made the suggestion in an interview with The Daily Telegraph as he prepares for his first straight role in the West End, appearing in Richard Eyre's revival of Quartermaine's Terms by Simon Gray.
Atkinson said his comedy creation Mr Bean has been a global success, but that playing childlike roles as a middle-aged actor could be perceived as "a little sad".
He told the paper: "The stuff that has been most commercially successful for me - basically quite physical, quite childish - I increasingly feel I'm going to do a lot less of.
"I also think someone in their 50s being childlike becomes a little sad. You've got to be careful."
Atkinson last appeared at the Olympics Opening Ceremony, where he imagined taking part in the famous opening scene of Chariots Of Fire - a performance seen by millions around the world and judged by many to be in the character of Mr Bean.
But he now feels he would like to shed the bumbling buffoon, describing the character as "a rod for my own back", although he appreciates what it has brought him.
And he hopes for more stage roles in the future, saying he "feels comfortable in the medium".
"In the end, there's nothing like it, as long as I can find roles I feel I could play."
He is confident of his future success, telling the newspaper: "I want to believe that I could play parts as well as anybody else.
"If you think, well actually Michael Gambon would be much better than you, you shouldn't be doing it."
Quartermaine's Terms runs at the Theatre Royal Brighton from January 8-12, and the Theatre Royal Bath from Jan 14-19, before its West End stint at Wyndham's Theatre from Jan 23 to April 13.