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Though typecast as aristocratic heroines in solemn period films in the early part of her career, London-born actress Helena Bonham Carter struggled to prove her range and break free of her corseted mold. She gained notoriety as the leading ingénue in a few Merchant-Ivory productions, including "A Room with a View" (1986) and "Howards End" (1992), and quickly developed into the quintessential Edwardian heroine. Wanting to avoid being pigeonholed, Bonham Carter began appearing in more mainstream work, hooking up with commercially viable, but artistically respected filmmakers like Tim Burton and Woody Allen. Far from a Victorian prude off-screen, Bonham Carter made headlines for her tumultuous personal life after being romantically linked with Kenneth Branagh, Rufus Sewell and Steve Martin. She finally settled down and became involved with Burton, whom she met while working on "Planet of the Apes" (2001), enjoying a relationship that helped ground her both personally and professionally. From there, she appeared regularly in most of Burton's films, including "Big Fish" (2003), "Sweeny Todd" (2007) and "Alice in Wonderland" (2011), while outside the Burton universe she played the mad witch Bellatrix in...
Though typecast as aristocratic heroines in solemn period films in the early part of her career, London-born actress Helena Bonham Carter struggled to prove her range and break free of her corseted mold. She gained notoriety as the leading ingénue in a few Merchant-Ivory productions, including "A Room with a View" (1986) and "Howards End" (1992), and quickly developed into the quintessential Edwardian heroine. Wanting to avoid being pigeonholed, Bonham Carter began appearing in more mainstream work, hooking up with commercially viable, but artistically respected filmmakers like Tim Burton and Woody Allen. Far from a Victorian prude off-screen, Bonham Carter made headlines for her tumultuous personal life after being romantically linked with Kenneth Branagh, Rufus Sewell and Steve Martin. She finally settled down and became involved with Burton, whom she met while working on "Planet of the Apes" (2001), enjoying a relationship that helped ground her both personally and professionally. From there, she appeared regularly in most of Burton's films, including "Big Fish" (2003), "Sweeny Todd" (2007) and "Alice in Wonderland" (2011), while outside the Burton universe she played the mad witch Bellatrix in several "Harry Potter" films and innkeeper Madame Thénardier in the big-budget musical "Les Misérables" (2012). Whether performing in period dramas or special effects-driven fantasy, Bonham Carter always elevated any project in which she appeared.
Born in Golders Green, London, England on May 26, 1966, Bonham Carter hailed from a bloodline of great prominence; her great-grandfather was former British Prime Minister Herbert H. Asquith and her father was Raymond Bonham Carter, a noted merchant banker. Despite her pedigree, Bonham Carter experienced her share of early drama growing up. When she was five years old, her mother, Elena, suffered a nervous breakdown that left her incapacitated for nearly three years, an experience that had a profound impact on Bonham Carter's emotional worldview. Five years later, her father suffered a stroke while undergoing surgery to remove a tumor, confining him to a wheelchair and impelling her to pursue a career as a performer. In 1979, at the age of 13, Bonham Carter entered a national poetry-writing contest and won second place. Determined to be famous, the ambitious youngster used the prize money to have her photo published in a casting directory, through which she secured her first agent. Though continuing her education at Westminster School in London, it was clear what Bonham Carter wanted to do.
In 1982, the young actress made her screen debut in the British made-for-TV movie, "A Pattern of Roses," based on K.M. Peyton's 1972 novel. An Edwardian tale of a sick young boy who finds himself haunted by the ghosts of two young lovers from 70 years past, "A Pattern of Roses" led to her first feature, "Lady Jane' (1986). Widely considered her breakthrough role, Bonham Carter's dark good looks and heart-shaped face made her the perfect choice to play doomed Tudor monarch Lady Jane Grey, who ruled England uncrowned a mere nine days after the death of young Edward VI (Warren Saire). Despite her relative youth, Bonham Carter was also able to project the requisite mix of hauteur and innocence required for the role. Her second film, the Merchant-Ivory production of E.M. Forster's "A Room with a View" (1986), firmly established her as a screen presence. As Lucy Honeychurch, Bonham Carter perfectly essayed a young woman swept up in passion. She further solidified her stereotyping as a period player with a portrayal of Ophelia opposite Mel Gibson's "Hamlet" (1990), and by playing the impulsive younger sister of Emma Thompson in Merchant-Ivory's meticulous rendering of "Howards End" (1992).
Breaking free from her usual fare, Bonham Carter delivered a fine portrayal of a drug addict engaged to Don Johnson's detective on NBC's "Miami Vice" (1984-89). The actress later won applause as a working-class stripper in the British TV-movie "Dancing Queen" (1993) and was superb as Marina Oswald in the NBC telefilm "Fatal Deception: Mrs. Lee Harvey Oswald" (1993). As Woody Allen's unhappy spouse contemplating an affair in "Might Aphrodite" (1995), Bonham Carter seemed to eerily channel Mia Farrow, especially in her vocal cadences. The role of the foul-mouthed, married coal miner's daughter in the Canadian-made "Margaret's Museum" (1995) earned her fine notices, as well as a Genie Award. But few bothered to show up in theaters.
Returning to bread-and-butter period pieces, Trevor Nunn tapped her for Olivia in his filming of The Bard's "Twelfth Night" (1996). For personal reasons, Bonham Carter turned down the role of Bess in Lars von Trier's "Breaking the Waves" (1996) and watched Emily Watson receive all the critical bouquets. In 1997, it was her turn to receive accolades in what many felt was the best role of her career - playing the manipulative Kate Croy in Iain Softley's "The Wings of the Dove." Delivering a tour-de-force performance, Bonham Carter finely walked a line between desperation and hedonism as a woman hoping to land a lowly journalist (Linus Roache) and the fortune of a dying American heiress (Alison Elliott). Her imaginative and finely calibrated performance earned her nominations for Best Actress at the Golden Globes and Academy Awards. After a turn as a dowdy spinster in "Keep the Aspidistra Flying" (1998), she joined then-boyfriend Kenneth Branagh for the modern romance "Theory of Flight" (1998), in which she played a victim of a rare motor neuron disease. And not forsaking period roles, Bonham Carter was the bewitching Morgan Le Fey opposite Sam Neill's "Merlin" (NBC, 1998).
In 1999, Bonham Carter once again cast off the petticoats and pretty frocks to portray a contemporary neurotic woman who attends various self-help groups just for kicks in the intriguing, but flawed "Fight Club," starring Edward Norton and Brad Pitt As the complex, yet sexily engaging Marla, Bonham Carter's performance was a refreshing change of pace that made audiences and critics recognize anew her prodigious gifts. For her next high profile role - that of the sympathetic Ari in the new adaptation of "Planet of the Apes" (2001) for director Tim Burton - the actress' porcelain features were covered with simian makeup. But her expressive eyes and plummy voice made her recognizable, allowing Bonham Carter to once again offer a fine turn, albeit in an ultimately disappointing film. Later that year, Bonham Carter once again played an alluring siren as a patient who drives her dentist (Steve Martin) into a world of sex, drugs and murder in the black comedy "Novocaine" (2001).
In 2003, Bonham Carter was cast in Thaddeus O'Sullivan's costume drama "The Heart of Me" that depicted her as a free-spirited artist who lures a staidly married businessman (Paul Bettany) into an extramarital affair. That same year, she was the enigmatic amnesiac, Ruby, opposite Guy Pearce in the slow-moving supernatural mystery, "Till Human Voices Wake Us." Meanwhile, her personal relationship with Burton flourished alongside their professional careers. In 2003, the couple had their first child, Billy Raymond, after she appeared as a one-eyed witch with a glass eye in Burton's charming fantasy, "Big Fish." Following a turn as the doomed Anne Boleyn in made-for-TV movie "Henry VIII" (PBS, 2003-04), Bonham Carter reunited with Burton for "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (2005), a remake of Mel Stuart's "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" (1971) that hewed closer to the original Roald Dahl novel. She played the downtrodden yet hopeful Mrs. Bucket, whose lucky son Charlie (Freddie Highmore) wins one of five golden tickets good for a tour of the chocolate factory owned by an eccentric recluse (Johnny Depp). Next for the actress were vocal roles in two popular stop-motion animated features: she provided the voice for the titular undead ghoul in "Tim Burton's The Corpse Bride" and for Lady Campanula Tottington, who hires a cheese-loving inventor and his faithful dog to battle a marauding veggie-chomping beast, in "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" (both 2005).
In 2007, Bonham Carter joined the cast of Tim Burton's "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," a film adaptation of the Broadway musical starring Johnny Depp, Alan Rickman and Sacha Baron Cohen. Her performance as Mrs. Lovett, business partner and accomplice of the titular serial killer (Depp), earned her several award nominations, including for Best Actress at the Golden Globes. Also that year, Bonham Carter joined the extended cast for the fifth installment to J.K. Rowling's book and film empire, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." As the femme fatale Bellatrix Lestrange, Bonham Carter received positive reviews despite being somewhat underused - an inevitability given the enormity of the cast and film. She next had a small, but pivotal role as a scientist in "Terminator Salvation" (2009), a part she took because Burton was a big fan of the "Terminator" series. But while filming, Bonham Carter received tragic news that four members from her extended family were killed in a minibus accident while on safari in South Africa. Given indefinite leave to tend to her grieving family, she returned to New Mexico soon after the tragedy to complete her work. Meanwhile, she played The Red Queen in Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" (2010), before reprising Bellatrix Lestrange for "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part 1" (2010). Bonham Carter next returned to period British-centric fare with "The King's Speech" (2010), playing Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, whose husband, King George VI (Colin Firth), must overcome a severe speech impediment in order to rally a nation during a time of war. With a film filled with top-notch performances, it came as no surprise that Bonham Carter earned herself Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress. After an appearance in the franchise-capping "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" (2011), Bonham Carter returned to work with Burton once more for the film adaptation of the gothic TV cult classic "Dark Shadows" (2012). In a reinterpretation that mixed equal measures of campy humor with the macabre machinations, the actress delivered yet another delicious performance as a youth-obsessed psychiatrist who makes the deadly mistake of taking advantage of Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp), a 200-year-old vampire. Bonham Carter finished out the year in grand style with prominent roles in a pair of film adaptations based on major works of literature. Following a turn as the benevolent spinster Miss Havisham in director Mike Newell's "Great Expectations" (2012), she embraced the villainy of the greedy Madame Thénardier in the star-studded feature production of the hit musical "Les Misérables" (2012), co-starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway.
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CAST: (feature film)
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Bonham Carter was a model for Yardley products in England.
"I'm a genre unto myself. If a period film opens and I'm not in it, the critics write, 'And the Helena Bonham Carter role is played by ...' Period movies are my destiny. I should get a few ribs taken out, because I'll be in a corset for the rest of my life." --Helena Bonham Carter, quoted in Entertainment Weekly, April 3, 1992.
"I'm not sure that I'm employable [in Hollywood] really. It used to make me feel quite inadequate that I don't have a certain look or legs that go on forever. Now I sort of don't mind the whole physical thing." --Bonham Carter in USA Today, November 21, 1997.
"I'm quite happy trundling along. And I'd be quite pleased to do a few more period roles, I know it might be a yawn for everybody else if I keep popping up seemingly, to repeat myself, but I don't think so because, again, beyond the look of the films, since they come from novels, the characters tend to be very well-drawn and dimensional, and the stories then to be character-driven so you don't end up having to play the decorative girlfriend who's described only in terms of her looks rather than by any form of character. And it is ironic that the more interesting parts for women are set in the past." --Bonham Carter in Detour December 1997/January 1998.
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