British Icon of the Week: Helena Bonham Carter, the Classy Actress Who's a Genuine Original
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Helena Bonham Carter is a genuine original: if she didn't exist, you couldn't make her up. Over the years she's carved out a fascinating career that's difficult to categorize – who else would pivot from a period drama to Fight Club? You can catch her in family-friendly mode in Tim Burton's dazzling movie adaptation of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which forms part of AMC's "Best Christmas Ever," a slate of 835 hours of holiday classic films and family favorites airing all day, every day through December 25.
To whet your appetite, we're making Bonham Carter our British Icon of the Week, and rounding up just 10 of the things we love about this versatile performer.
1. She’s known for her unique and quirky dress sense, but isn’t remotely precious about it.
"I promise you, even when I think I’m being normal, somehow it comes out wrong," she told The Guardian in October. "It really does! I later see the photos and think, what was I thinking?"
2. She's super-honest about disliking her early period drama roles in movies like A Room with a View and Howards End.
"It's not false modesty," Bonham Carter told The Observer in 2008. "I hated what I looked like. I did look, as somebody said, like a bloated chipmunk! I had a lot of criticism, and I've always been more aware of the criticism than the praise."
3. When it comes to acting, she's free from vanity.
She told The Times in 2018: “A friend of mine said, ‘You’ve been playing weirdos for so long, you didn’t let yourself be defined by what you looked like.’ I was in prosthetics at 35, pretending to be a chimpanzee, or prosthetics being a witch.”
4. She’s not afraid of delivering a sassy clap-back.
When Bonham Carter starred in a West End production of Pinero's Trelawny of the Wells in 1992, The Independent's theater critic Paul Taylor wrote that she "gives the sort of performance that makes you pine to be in the restricted visibility seating."
She responded rather brilliantly by writing him a letter suggesting that next time he reviewed one of her plays, he should let her know in advance so she could guarantee him a restricted view seat. Go, Helena!
5. She received guidance from a medium about playing Princess Margaret in The Crown.
Bonham Carter shared the weird and wonderful story on The Graham Norton Show last year, revealing that the late British Royal had given her casting her blessing from beyond the grave.
6. She also received a rather backhanded compliment from the Princess when she was alive.
Bonham Carter met Queen Elizabeth II’s sister at a party at Windsor Castle and told Harper’s Bazaar that Margaret said to her: “Oh, Helena, you are getting better, aren’t you, at acting.”
7. She’d make a great, straight-shooting auntie.
Check out this fantastic commercial for dating app Bumble, in which Bonham Carter offers single folks a few tips on how to handle judgmental relatives during the holiday season.
8. She has a terrific tip for staying awake on set.
Namely: drinking lots of soft and hot drinks. She told Vulture in 2019 that she consumes "an amazing amount of liquid" during the working day to stop herself from falling asleep; writer Kathryn VanArendonk added on Twitter: "Over an hour and a half, I watched her drink a coffee, a glass of water, and two juices (one green, one orange, alternating back and forth between them)."
9. After a few drinks, she asked Prince William to be her child's godfather.
Yes, really – Bonham Carter shared the story (and Prince William's) reaction during an appearance on Andy Cohen's chat show.
10. She has no time for the press labeling her partner, Norwegian author Rye Dag Holmboe, a "toy boy" because he's younger than her.
“Toy boy is a really sexist remark. It implies he’s got nothing to offer other than his body — which is also fantastic,” she told The Sunday Times last year. “But along with the body, he’s got a great mind and a great humor and that’s what I’m with more than his envelope. Everybody ages at a different rate. My boyfriend is unbelievably mature. He’s an old soul in a young body, what more could I want? People are slightly frightened of older women, but he isn’t."
"Women can be very powerful when they’re older," she continued. "Why can’t we be sexually and romantically attractive just when our eggs are expired? Actually it’s much more fun because we’re so freed of the terror, there is no consequence, it’s all just for fun.”
Are you a longtime fan of Helena Bonham Carter?