Helena Bonham Carter (born 26 May
1966) is an English actress. Bonham Carter made her film debut in the K.
M. Peyton film, A Pattern of Roses, before appearing in her first leading
role in Lady Jane. She is best known for her portrayals of Lucy
Honeychurch in the film A Room with a View, Marla Singer in the film Fight
Club, Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter film series, her
Oscar-nominated performance as Kate Croy in The Wings of the Dove, her
Golden Globe-nominated performance as Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd: The
Demon Barber of Fleet Street, as well as her other collaborations with Tim
Burton, her domestic partner since 2001. Bonham Carter will play the
villainous Red Queen, alongside notable actors such as Johnny Depp, Alan
Rickman, Anne Hathaway, and Christopher Lee, in her partner Tim Burton's
2010 film, Alice in Wonderland, and Enid Blyton in an adaptation of her
life entitled Enid.
Bonham Carter was born in Golders Green, London. Her mother, Elena (née
Propper de Callejón), is a psychotherapist. Her father, Raymond Bonham
Carter, was a merchant banker and the alternate UK director representing
the Bank of England at the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C.
during the 1960s; he came from a famous British political family, being
the son of English Liberal politician Sir Maurice Bonham Carter and
renowned politician and orator Violet Bonham Carter, whose father was the
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, H. H. Asquith (1908–1916). Helena
Bonham Carter's maternal grandfather, Eduardo Propper de Callejón, was of
half Spanish and half Jewish ancestry, and served as a diplomat and former
Minister-Counsellor at the Spanish Embassy in Washington, D.C. Bonham
Carter's Jewish maternal grandmother, Hélène Fould-Springer, was the
daughter of Baron Eugène Fould-Springer (a French-born banker), and Marie
Cecile Von Springer (whose father was the industrialist Baron Gustav
Springer). Hélène Fould-Springer's sister was the French philanthropist
Liliane de Rothschild (1916–2003), the wife of Baron Élie de Rothschild,
and her other sister, Therese Fould-Springer, was the mother of British
writer David Pryce-Jones.
Bonham Carter has two brothers, Edward and Thomas, and is a distant cousin
of fellow actor Crispin Bonham-Carter, who played Mr. Bingley in the 1995
BBC production of Pride and Prejudice, and Jane Bonham Carter. Bonham
Carter is also distantly related to Admiral Stuart Bonham Carter, Ian
Fleming, author of the James Bond novels (through marriage), pioneering
English nurse Florence Nightingale and is the grand-niece of Anthony
Asquith, legendary English director of such classics as Carrington VC and
The Importance of Being Earnest. Bonham Carter was educated at the South
Hampstead High School, a girls' independent school in Hampstead, London
and later at Westminster School, a co-educational independent school near
the Palace of Westminster. Bonham Carter was denied admission to King's
College, Cambridge University, not because of her grades or her test
scores, but because school officials were afraid that she would leave
mid-term to pursue her acting career. Because of Cambridge's rejection,
Bonham Carter decided to concentrate fully on acting.
When Bonham Carter was just five, her mother had a serious nervous
breakdown, from which it took her three years to recover. Upon her
recovery, her experience in therapy led her to become a psychotherapist
herself — Bonham Carter now pays her to read her scripts and deliver her
opinion of the characters' psychological motivations. Five years after her
mother's recovery, there was a more terrible familial blow. While
holidaying in Greece, her father went deaf in one ear. He was diagnosed
with acoustic neuroma, and a routine operation was carried out to remove
the benign tumour. It went badly wrong. After 9 hours in surgery, Raymond,
only 50 years of age, had a stroke that left him half-paralysed and
confined to a wheelchair. With her two older brothers (both now bankers)
at college, Bonham Carter was left to help her mother cope. She would
later study her father's movements and mannerisms for her role in The
Theory of Flight.
Bonham Carter has not received any formal training in acting. In 1979, she
won a national writing contest and used the money won to pay for her entry
into the actors directory Spotlight. She made her professional acting
début at the age of 16, in a television commercial. She also had a part in
a minor TV film A Pattern of Roses.
Her first starring film role was as Lady Jane Grey in Lady Jane which had
mixed reviews. The story reflected the troubled life of England's
nine-days' Queen from her troubled adolescence and arranged marriage to
her ill-fated accession and subsequent execution. Her breakthrough role
was Lucy Honeychurch in A Room with a View which was filmed after Lady
Jane, but released beforehand. Bonham Carter also appeared in episodes of
Miami Vice as Don Johnson's love interest during the 1986–87 season and
then, in 1987, opposite Dirk Bogarde in The Vision. Bonham Carter
auditioned for the role of Nancy Spungen in Sid and Nancy, however she
lost out to Chloe Webb, and turned down the role of Bess McNeill in
Breaking the Waves due to the sexual content. The role went to Emily
Watson, who was nominated for an Academy Award for the role.
These early films led to her being typecast as a "corset queen", and
"English rose," playing pre- and early 20th century characters,
particularly in Merchant-Ivory films. She has since expanded her range,
with her more recent films being Fight Club, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse
of the Were-Rabbit, and Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,
Corpse Bride, Big Fish and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
Bonham Carter speaks French fluently, starring in a 1996 French film
Portraits chinois. In August 2001, she was featured in Maxim. She played
her second Queen of England when she was cast as Anne Boleyn in the ITV1
mini-series Henry VIII; however her role was restricted, as she was
pregnant with her first child at the time of filming. Bonham Carter was a
member of the 2006 Cannes Film Festival jury that unanimously selected The
Wind That Shakes the Barley as best film.
Bonham Carter played Bellatrix Lestrange in 2007's Harry Potter and the
Order of the Phoenix and 2009's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
She will reprise the character in the film adaptations of Harry Potter and
the Deathly Hallows. Bonham Carter received positive reviews as Lestrange,
described as a "shining but underused talent". She then played Mrs.
Lovett, Sweeney Todd's (Johnny Depp) amorous accomplice in the film
adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's Broadway musical, Sweeney Todd, the Demon
Barber of Fleet Street. The film was released on 21 December 2007 in the
US and 25 January 2008 in the UK. Directed by Tim Burton, Bonham Carter
received a nomination for the Golden Globe for Best Actress for her
performance. She won the Best Actress award in the 2007 Evening Standard
British Film Awards for her performances in Sweeney Todd and Conversations
With Other Women, along with another Best Actress award at the 2009 Empire
Awards. Bonham Carter also appeared in the fourth Terminator film entitled
Terminator Salvation, playing a small but pivotal role.
In May 2006, Bonham Carter launched her own fashion line, "The
Pantaloonies", with swimwear designer Samantha Sage. Their first
collection, called Bloomin' Bloomers, is a Victorian style selection of
camisoles, mop caps and bloomers. The duo are now working on Pantaloonies
customized jeans which Bonham Carter describes as "a kind of scrapbook on
Bonham Carter joined the cast of partner Tim Burton's 2010 film, Alice in
Wonderland as the The Red Queen. Bonham Carter appears alongside Johnny
Depp, Anne Hathaway, Christopher Lee and Alan Rickman. Bonham Carter's
role consists of two merged roles, The Queen of Hearts, and The Red Queen.
In early 2009, Bonham Carter was named one of The Times newspaper's top 10
British Actresses of all-time. Bonham Carter appeared on the list with
fellow actresses Julie Andrews, Helen Mirren, Judi Dench and Audrey
Bonham Carter signed to play author Enid Blyton in the BBC Four television
biopic, Enid. It is the first depiction of Blyton's life on the screen,
and Bonham Carter stars with Matthew Macfadyen and Denis Lawson.
Bonham Carter was in a relationship with actor Kenneth Branagh (with whom
she appeared in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and The Theory of Flight),
from 1994 to the summer of 1999. In 2001, she began her current
relationship with director Tim Burton whom she met while filming Planet of
the Apes. Burton has taken to casting Bonham Carter in his movies,
including Big Fish, Corpse Bride, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and Alice in Wonderland.
They live in Belsize Park, London, in neighbouring houses with a
connecting doorway because they felt they could not live in the same
They purchased the house when she became pregnant with the couple's first
child, son Billy Raymond Burton, who was born on 4 October 2003. The
couple maintains a close relationship with actor Johnny Depp, who appears
in many of Burton's films. Depp is Billy Ray's godfather, accepting the
role after Burton persuaded Bonham Carter to ask him. At age 41, she gave
birth to her second child, a daughter named Nell Burton, on 15 December
2007 in Central London. She says she named her daughter Nell after all the
"Helens" in her family lineage.
In August 2008, when four of her relatives were killed in a safari bus
crash in South Africa, she was given indefinite leave from filming
Terminator Salvation, and returned later to complete filming.
In 2008, Bonham Carter and Burton put their American apartments up for
sale. The apartments are in the Greenwich Village area, in New York City.
The couple sold them for a collective $8.75 million. In early October
2008, it was released that Bonham Carter had become a patron of the
charity Action Duchenne, the national charity established to support
parents and sufferers of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Bonham Carter
released the statement:
"As a patron of Action Duchenne, I would like to urge as many people as
possible to find out about the work of the charity and the devastating
effects of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Treatments and a cure seem
tantalisingly close but they will not appear without further support and
funding. Please join Action Duchenne in helping to make muscle wasting
In December 2008, Bonham Carter lent her voice to an MTV domestic violence
public service announcement, reciting a passage about love from the First
Epistle to the Corinthians. The 60-second commercial features a
dysfunctional couple in a domestic environment. No dialogue is heard —
only accompanying music and Bonham Carter's voice. Bonham Carter recorded
her vocal in a single take for the ad, which aired on 2 December 2008. The
ad will air across MTV in the UK and across Europe as part of MTV's
Staying Alive campaign. MTV will also make the ad available online and is
considering running it in cinemas.
In early 2009, Bonham Carter joined fellow Hollywood A-listers Ewan
McGregor, Kate Winslet, Liam Neeson, Helen Mirren and others in leaving
the imprint of her lips on a card and signing it. The kiss prints, which
are featured in the window of Newcastle’s famous Fenwick store, will now
be auctioned off for charity.