Helena Bonham Carter- Biography

Also Credited As:

Helena Bonham-Carter

About Helena Bonham Carter

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.

Partners

Companion

Tim Burton. Met when Burton directed Bonham Carter in "Planet of the Apes" (2001); began dating in October 2001

Companion

Kenneth Branagh. Began dating in 1994; co-starred in "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" (1994) and "The Theory of Flight" (1998); split in 1999

Family

Brother

Edward Bonham Carter. Older

Brother

Thomas Bonham Carter. Older

Daughter

Nell Burton. Born Dec. 15, 2007; father, Tim Burton

Father

Raymond Bonham Carter. Was alternate U.K. director representing the Bank of England at the International Monetary Fund in Washington, DC for two years in the 1960s; became ill when Bonham Carter was around 10 years old; suffered a stroke while undergoing an operation to remove a benign brain tumor; subsequently confined to a wheelchair; died Jan 18, 2004 at the age of 74

Grandfather

Eduardo Propper de Callejon. Maternal grandfather; Spanish diplomat and former Minister-Counsellor at the Spanish Embassy in Washington, DC

Grandmother

Helene Fould-Springer. Jewish maternal grandmother; converted to Catholicism at marriage

Grandmother

Violet Bonham Carter. Paternal grandmother

Mother

Elena Bonham Carter. Reportedly had a nervous breakdown when Bonham Carter was five years old

Son

Billy Raymond Burton. Born Oct. 4, 2003; father, Tim Burton

Education

South Hampstead High School

Westminster School, London , England

Career Milestones

2012

Played the villainous Madame Thénardier in feature adaptation of popular musical drama "Les Misérables," directed by Tom Hooper

2012

Once againg co-starred with Depp in Burton's remake of the gothic soap opera "Dark Shadows"

2011

Nominated for the 2011 Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

2011

Nominated for the 2011 Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

2011

Nominated for the 2011 Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

2011

Nominated for the 2011 Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role ("The King's Speech")

2011

Nominated for the 2011 Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture ("The King's Speech")

2010

Portrayed the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother in "The King's Speech"

2010

Reprised role of Bellatrix Lestrange for the seventh and final installment of the series directed by David Yates "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"; film released in two parts, Part 1 in November 2010 and Part 2 in July 2011

2010

Re-teamed with director Burton and co-star Depp to play the Red Queen in "Alice in Wonderland"

2009

Reprised role of Bellatrix Lestrange for "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"

2009

Played the lead villain of "Terminator Salvation," starring Christian Bale as John Connor

2007

Played cannibalistic pie-maker Mrs. Lovett opposite Johnny Depp in Burton's film adaptation of "Sweeney Todd"; earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy

2007

Cast as mad witch Bellatrix Lestrange in "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"

2005

Voiced Lady Tottington in the British Academy Award-winning stop-motion animated film "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit"

2005

Voiced the title role of Emily in the animated feature "Tim Burton's Corpse Bride"

2005

Cast as Charlie's mother in Burton's adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic tale "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," starring Depp as Willy Wonka

2003

Co-starred with Ewan McGregor and Alison Lohman in Burton's "Big Fish"

2003

Played Anne Boleyn in "Henry VIII," a two part ITV drama based on the life of Henry VIII of England

2002

Portrayed CNN producer Ingrid Formanek in the HBO feature "Live From Baghdad"; earned Golden Globe and Emmy nominations for Best Actress in a TV Movie

2001

Starred opposite Steve Martin in the thriller "Novocaine"

2001

Played Ari, the ape daughter of a powerful politician in Tim Burton's adaptation of "Planet of the Apes"

1999

Was the female lead opposite Brad Pitt and Edward Norton in "Fight Club"

1999

Co-starred in the Toronto Film Festival screened "Women Talking Dirty"

1998

Played a wheelchair-bound woman in "Theory of Flight"

1998

Cast as Morgan Le Fey in the NBC miniseries "Merlin"

1997

Garnered critical attention and accolades for her performance as the manipulative Kate Croy in "The Wings of the Dove"; nominated for a Best Actress Oscar

1996

Returned to Shakespeare to play Olivia in Trevor Nunn's "Twelfth Night"

1995

Played a foul-mouthed miner's daughter in the Canadian film "Margaret's Museum"

1995

Appeared as Woody Allen's American wife in "Mighty Aphrodite"

1994

Made a comic cameo as a dream version of Julia Sawalha's Saffron on the BBC comedy "Absolutely Fabulous"

1994

Portrayed Victor Frankenstein's lover in Kenneth Branagh's film adaptation of "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein"

1993

Played Marina Oswald in the NBC TV-movie "Fatal Deception: Mrs. Lee Harvey Oswald"

1992

Cast as Emma Thompson's sister in the Merchant-Ivory production "Howards End"

1990

Co-starred as Ophelia opposite Mel Gibson's "Hamlet"

1988

London stage debut, "The Woman in White"

1987

Made U.S. TV-movie debut in "A Hazard of Hearts" (CBS)

1987

Played Don Johnson's girlfriend on two episodes of "Miami Vice" (NBC)

1986

First collaboration with director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant, "A Room with a View"

1985

Feature film debut, "Lady Jane" directed by Trevor Nunn

1983

Acting debut in British telefilm, "A Pattern of Roses"

1982

Professional acting debut, a commercial at age 16

1979

At age 13, won a national writing contest and used the money won to pay for her entry into the actor's directory Spotlight