Helena Bonham Carter is famous for her roles in The King’s Speech, Les Misérables, Alice in Wonderland, Big Fish, Fight Club, and many others. Who would have thought that she had no formal acting training or that she once walked away from an Oscar-nominated role? Read on for more fascinating things you may not know about Helena Bonham Carter.
She Hasn’t Had Any Formal Acting Training
Considering that Helena Bonham Carter has won three Screen Actors Guild Awards and a British Academy Film Award, it’s surprising that she didn’t go to acting school. She started acting professionally at the age of 16, and she landed her breakthrough role just three years later.
Carter attended South Hampstead High School and Westminster School before being denied acceptance into King’s College. Reportedly, the college board anticipated that she would leave to pursue acting and rejected her application on those grounds.
Her Mother Helps With Her Roles
Helena Bonham Carter’s mother, Elena, had a nervous breakdown when Helena was just five years old. Elena ended up needing three years to recover, but the journey inspired her to become a psychotherapist. Her expertise has helped Helena master her roles.
The actress reportedly pays her mother to psychoanalyze her characters to get a deeper look into their motivation. Elena reads the script and then tells Helena what she believes makes the character tick. The professional insight may be the key to Helena’s convincing portrayal of her roles.
She Has Two Children With Tim Burton
Helena Bonham Carter met director Tim Burton on the set of the 2001 film Planet of the Apes. The pair got married the same year and went on to have two children together. Burton bought the house next to Carter’s London home, and they connected the two.
They also bought the Mill House in Sutton Courtenay, which had been in Carter’s family for generations. The couple did many films together, including Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Alice in Wonderland. Though they split in 2014, Carter mentioned in an interview that it might actually be easier to work together outside of marriage.
Her Cousin Is Also An Actor
Helena Bonham Carter isn’t the only one in her family who got the acting bug. Her cousin, Crispin Bonham Carter, is an actor, theatre director, and educator. He starred alongside Ewan McGregor and Rachel Weisz in the 1993 period drama Scarlet and Black.
The actor was also Mr. Bingley in the BBC miniseries adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, which starred Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. He also appeared in Bridget Jones’s Diary and Absolutely Fabulous before becoming a teacher at Alexandra Park School. More recently, Crispin became the Assistant Head at the Queen Elizabeth’s School, Barnet.
She Auditioned For The Lead In Labyrinth
When Helena Bonham Carter was just starting out, she auditioned for the lead role in the 1986 classic Labyrinth. Though the film certainly fits Carter’s style, the role ultimately went to Jennifer Connelly.
It all worked out, though, because Carter still landed her first lead film role that year. She was the title character in the British romance drama Lady Jane. Prior to that, she had made her film debut as Lucy Honeychurch in the 1985 film A Room with a View.
She Studied Her Father For Her Role In The Theory Of Flight
Helena Bonham Carter’s father, Raymond, was the descendant of a family well-known in British politics. Raymond was a merchant banker who was diagnosed with acoustic neuroma in 1976. The illness led to an operation that resulted in Raymond having a stroke.
The stroke caused Raymond to become half-paralyzed and in need of a wheelchair. Two decades later, Helena landed the role of a woman with motor neuron disease in the film The Theory of Flight. She studied her father’s mannerisms to realistically depict someone living in a wheelchair and who has limited motor abilities.
She Was The Face Of Marc Jacobs’ 2011 Ad Campaign
It’s no secret that Helena Bonham Carter’s style stands out from many other Hollywood leading ladies, and the fashion industry has taken notice. In 2010, Vanity Fair put her on their annual Best-Dressed List. The following year, Marc Jacobs recruited the actress to be the face of his Autumn/Winter advertising campaign.
Carter has been typecasted as a “corset queen” due to her performances in period pieces that are set around the turn of the 20th century. Her style somewhat reflects this branding, and she has listed Vivienne Westwood and Marie Antoinette as her influences.
Her Maternal Grandfather Was A Spanish Diplomat
Helena Bonham Carter’s maternal grandfather was Spanish diplomat Eduardo Propper de Callejón, who saved thousands of Jews during WWII. His involvement in the war earned Propper de Callejón the Courage to Care Award and he was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.
His name appears on a monument at Yad Vashem memorial in Israel where he is honored. Propper de Callejón married Carter’s grandmother, Baroness Hélène Fould-Springer, whose family was upper class and regarded for their success in banking.
She Took Singing Lessons For Her Part In Sweeney Todd
More than 20 years after establishing herself as a professional actor, Helena Bonham Carter faced a new challenge: singing. She had yet to do a musical, but when her then-husband Tim Burton signed on to direct Sweeney Todd, she had to audition.
In the DVD’s behind-the-scenes interview, Carter revealed that she’d adored the character of Mrs. Lovett since she was 11 years old and even used to dress up as her. Carter took singing lessons for three months to prepare for the role. It certainly paid off because Carter’s performance earned her an Evening Standard British Film Award and a Golden Globe nomination!
She Backed Out Of Her Role In Breaking The Waves
Breaking the Waves is a 1996 drama that’s regarded as one of director Lars con Trier’s most acclaimed films. Helena Bonham Carter was initially set to play the lead role of Bess, but she dropped out at the last minute.
Trier has said that Carter left due to the physical and emotional demands of the part. He also noted that many actors saw the role as a risky one in terms of their careers. It ultimately went to Emily Watson, who had never acted on film before. The breakthrough role garnered Watson an Oscar nomination for Best Actress!
She Mastered French For Her Role In Portraits Chinois
A decade into her acting career, Helena Bonham Carter challenged herself by taking on a lead role in the French film Portraits chinois. Director Martine Dugowson told the Independent that Carter “almost didn’t speak French at all. She had the language in her, but she didn’t practice.”
Despite the language difficulties, Dugowson believed that Carter could do it based on her stellar script readings. Carter went through language courses, but those didn’t help when it came to the slang. She told the Independent that it was especially tough when they improvised scenes, but Carter made it work!
She Is A Commander Of The Order Of The British Empire
The Commander of the Order of the British Empire, or CBE, is a title awarded to those who have shown remarkable contributions in their life work. It is part of the British order of chivalry, which acknowledges those involved in the arts, sciences, charitable and welfare organizations, and public services.
Helena Bonham Carter was made a CBE in the 2012 New Year Honours list for services to drama. Two years later, she was also appointed to Britain’s new national Holocaust Commission, which would aim to ensure that the country has fitting memorial and educational resources.
Her Performance In The King’s Speech Won 6 Awards!
Helen Bonham Carter may not have won the Academy Award or Golden Globe for her performance in The King’s Speech, but she did take home plenty of other awards for it.
The role garnered her a BAFTA Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a British Independent Film Award, an Italian Online Movie Award, a Hollywood Film Festival Award, and a Santa Barbara International Film Festival Award. Another acclaimed role Carter had was as Kate Croy in The Wings of the Dove, for which she won 11 awards!
She Dated Co-star Kenneth Branagh For 5 Years
Helena Bonham Carter and Kenneth Branagh met while filming the 1994 film Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. At the time, Branagh was married to fellow actor Emma Thompson. Still, Carter and Branagh began a romantic relationship, and he and Thompson divorced the following year.
Carter and Branagh went on to star in The Theory of Flight together but broke up after five years of dating. When asked about the ordeal, Emma Thompson remarked that it was all “blood under the bridge” and asserted that Carter is “a wonderful woman.” Interestingly, Carter, Branagh, and Thompson all went on to portray professors in the Harry Potter films.
She Contributes To The Charity Action Duchenne
In 2008, Helen Bonham Carter became a patron of Action Duchenne, a charity that supports those affected by Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The disorder is caused by a gene mutation that impacts the protein dystrophin.
As a result, those impacted have weakened muscles that can make it gradually more and more difficult to stand and function. Medications can help slow down the progression, but the disorder still results in a shorter lifespan. Action Duchenne helps support not only those suffering from such a condition but also their parents.
She Has Done Voice Acting
Helena Bonham Carter isn’t just an amazing actress on-screen, but also through animation. One of her more well-known voiceover roles is as Emily in Corpse Bride, a Tim Burton film that also stars Johnny Depp. However, her first voiceover role was back in 1991 when she played White Bear in the film Brown Bear’s Wedding.
Carter went on to narrate The Petticoat Expeditions and to voice characters in Carnivale, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, The Gruffalo, Poles Apart, Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero, Dragonheart: Vengeance, and The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.
She Had Her Theatre Breakthrough After Debuting In Film
Helena Bonham Carter got her start in acting at the age of sixteen when she began appearing in commercials. After establishing herself in film with roles in A Room with a View and Lady Jane, she started exploring the world of theatre in addition to on-screen roles.
In 1987, Carter snagged the role of Miranda in Oxford Playhouse’s rendition of The Tempest. The following year, she was Laura Fairlie in The Woman in White at Greenwich Theatre in London. She continued to be in a play each year until 1992 when she was in two plays before leaving the stage for good.
She Lost Four Relatives While Filming Terminator Salvation
In 2008, Helena Bonham Carter was performing as Serena Korgen in the film Terminator Salvation when tragedy struck. She received news that four of her relatives had passed in a safari bus accident in South Africa.
Understandably, Carter had to leave the set to take some time for mourning. She was given indefinite leave, but she returned later on to finish her performance. Filming took place in New Mexico and only lasted for two and a half months. The movie hit theaters the following year and grossed more than $371 million.
She Performs Thorough Research For Her Roles
Some of the real-life individuals Helena Bonham Carter has portrayed are Queen Elizabeth in The King’s Speech, Princess Margaret in The Crown, and children’s author Enid Blyton in Enid. With such widely-known characters, accuracy is everything.
To nail down the persona, Carter does a ton of research. She not only studies the person but watches interviews of people who knew them. This way, she can get an unbiased look into how they came off to those around them.
She’s Had More Than 120 Roles!
Over her decades-long career, Helena Bonham Carter has had more than 120 roles in total! These include 69 film roles, 20 television appearances, 16 radio gigs, 6 theatre performances, 2 music video appearances, and 2 video game roles.
Being that she’s been in multiple productions almost every year since her career began, we’d guess that Carter will break the 200 role mark by the time she’s ready to retire. After all, she’s showing no signs of slowing down.