Helena Bonham Carter

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Helena Bonham Carter

Helena Bonham Carter 2011 AA.jpg
Bonham Carter at the 83rd Academy Awards in 2011
Born (1966-05-26) 26 May 1966 (age 54)
Islington, London, England
Education South Hampstead High School
Westminster School
Years active1983–present
Partner(s) Kenneth Branagh (1994–1999)
Tim Burton (2001–2014)
Rye Dag Holmboe (2018–present)
Parent(s) Raymond Bonham Carter
Elena Propper de Callejón
Family Bonham Carter
Awards Full list

Helena Bonham Carter CBE (born 26 May 1966) is an English actress. She is known for her roles in both low-budget independent art films and large-scale blockbusters. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as Kate Croy in The Wings of the Dove (1997) and for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Queen Elizabeth in The King's Speech (2010). She also won the 2010 International Emmy Award for Best Actress for her role as author Enid Blyton in the television film Enid (2009).


Bonham Carter began her film career playing Lucy Honeychurch in A Room with a View (1985) and the title character in Lady Jane (1986). Her other films include Hamlet (1990), Howards End (1992), Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994), Woody Allen's Mighty Aphrodite (1995), The Wings of the Dove (1997), Fight Club (1999), Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter series (2007–11), Miss Havisham in Great Expectations (2012), Madame Thénardier in Les Misérables (2012), the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella (2015), and Rose Weil in Ocean's 8 (2018). Her frequent collaborations with director Tim Burton include Planet of the Apes (2001), Big Fish (2003), Corpse Bride (2005), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Dark Shadows (2012). Her television films include A Pattern of Roses (1983), Fatal Deception: Mrs. Lee Harvey Oswald (1993), Live from Baghdad (2002), Toast (2010), and Burton & Taylor (2013). In 2018, she was confirmed to play Princess Margaret on seasons three and four of The Crown .

Bonham Carter was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2012 New Year Honours list for services to drama, [1] and Prime Minister David Cameron announced that she had been appointed to Britain's new national Holocaust Commission in January 2014. [2]

Early life

Bonham Carter was born in Islington, London. [3] Her father, Raymond Bonham Carter, who came from a prominent British political family, was a merchant banker and served as the alternative British director representing the Bank of England at the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C., during the 1960s. [4] [5] [6] Her mother, Elena (née Propper de Callejón), is a psychotherapist who is of Spanish and Jewish background, and whose own parents were diplomat Eduardo Propper de Callejón from Spain and painter Baroness Hélène Fould-Springer. [4] [7] Bonham Carter's paternal grandmother was politician and feminist Violet Bonham Carter, daughter of H. H. Asquith, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the first half of the First World War. [8]

Bonham Carter is the youngest of three children, with two brothers, Edward and Thomas. They were brought up in Golders Green and she was educated at South Hampstead High School, and completed her A-levels at Westminster School. Bonham Carter was denied admission to King's College, Cambridge, because the college officials were afraid that she would leave during the course to pursue her acting career. [9]

When Bonham Carter was five, her mother had a serious nervous breakdown, which took three years for recovery. Soon afterwards, her mother's experience in therapy led her to become a psychotherapist herself—Bonham Carter has since paid her to read her scripts and deliver opinions on the characters' psychological motivations. [10] Five years after her mother's recovery, her father was diagnosed with acoustic neuroma. He suffered complications during an operation to remove the tumour that led to a stroke that left him half-paralysed and using a wheelchair. [11] With her brothers at college, Bonham Carter was left to help her mother cope. She later studied her father's movements and mannerisms for her role in The Theory of Flight . [12] He died in January 2004. [13]


Early career

Bonham Carter, who has no formal acting training, [14] entered the field winning a national writing contest (1979) and used the money to pay for her entry into the actors' Spotlight directory. 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 lead film role was as Lady Jane Grey in Lady Jane (1986), which was given mixed reviews by critics. Her breakthrough role was Lucy Honeychurch in A Room with a View (1985), which was filmed after Lady Jane but released two months earlier. Bonham Carter also appeared in episodes of Miami Vice as Don Johnson's love interest during the 1986–87 season and then, in 1987 with Dirk Bogarde in The Vision , Stewart Granger in A Hazard of Hearts and John Gielgud in Getting It Right . Bonham Carter was originally cast in the role of Bess McNeill in Breaking the Waves , but backed out during production owing to "the character's painful psychic and physical exposure", according to Roger Ebert. [15] The role went to Emily Watson, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance. [16]

In 1994, Bonham Carter appeared in a dream sequence during the second series of the British sitcom Absolutely Fabulous , as Edina Monsoon's daughter Saffron, who was normally played by Julia Sawalha. Throughout the series, references were made to Saffron's resemblance to Bonham Carter. [17]

Her 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 played Olivia in Trevor Nunn's film version of Twelfth Night in 1996. One of the high points of her early career was her performance as the scheming Kate Croy in the 1997 film adaption of The Wings of the Dove which was highly acclaimed internationally and netted her first Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations. She has since expanded her range, [14] with her more recent films being Fight Club , Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit , and her then-partner Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory , Corpse Bride , Big Fish , Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street , and Alice in Wonderland .

Later career

Bonham Carter at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival, promoting Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit Helena Bonham Carter 2005.jpg
Bonham Carter at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival, promoting Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Bonham Carter speaks French fluently, and starred 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. [18] Bonham Carter was a member of the 2006 Cannes Film Festival jury that unanimously selected The Wind That Shakes the Barley as best film. [19]

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, mob caps, and bloomers. The duo worked on Pantaloonies customised jeans, which Bonham Carter describes as "a kind of scrapbook on the bum". [20]

Bonham Carter played Bellatrix Lestrange in the final four Harry Potter films (2007–2011). While filming Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix , she accidentally ruptured the eardrum of Matthew Lewis (playing Neville Longbottom) when she stuck her wand in his ear. [21] Bonham Carter received positive reviews as Bellatrix, described as a "shining but underused talent". [22] [21] She 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 , directed by Tim Burton. [23] 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. [24]

Bonham Carter joined the cast of Tim Burton's 2010 film, Alice in Wonderland as The Red Queen. [25] She appears alongside Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska, Crispin Glover and Harry Potter co-star Alan Rickman. Her role was an amalgamation of The Queen of Hearts and The Red Queen. [26] [27] [28] In early 2009, Bonham Carter was named one of The Times's top 10 British Actresses of all time. She appeared on the list with fellow actresses Julie Andrews, Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, and Audrey Hepburn. [29]

Bonham Carter and Colin Firth in the 2010 film The King's Speech Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter filming (cropped).jpg
Bonham Carter and Colin Firth in the 2010 film The King's Speech

In 2010, Bonham Carter played Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon/Queen Elizabeth in the film The King's Speech.As of January 2011, she had received numerous plaudits and praise for her performance, including nominations for the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. [30] [31] She won her first BAFTA Award, but lost the Academy Award to Melissa Leo for The Fighter .

Bonham Carter signed to play author Enid Blyton in the BBC Four television biopic, Enid . It was the first depiction of Blyton's life on the screen, and Bonham Carter starred with Matthew Macfadyen and Denis Lawson. [32] She received her first Television BAFTA Nomination for Best Actress, for Enid. In 2010, she starred with Freddie Highmore in the Nigel Slater biopic Toast , which was filmed in the West Midlands [33] and received a gala at the 2011 Berlin International Film Festival. [34] [35] She received the Britannia Award for British Artist of the Year from BAFTA LA in 2011. [36]

In 2012, Bonham Carter appeared as Miss Havisham in Mike Newell's adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel, Great Expectations . [37] In April 2012, she appeared in Rufus Wainwright's music video for his single "Out of the Game", featured on the album of the same name. [38] Bonham Carter co-starred in a film adaptation of the musical Les Misérables , released in 2012. She played the role of Madame Thénardier. [39]

On 17 May 2012, it was announced that Bonham Carter would be appearing in the 2013 adaptation of Reif Larsen's book The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet , entitled The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet . [40] Her casting was announced alongside that of Kathy Bates, Kyle Catlett and Callum Keith Rennie, with Jean-Pierre Jeunet directing. [41] She also appeared in a short film directed by Roman Polanski for the clothing brand Prada. The short was entitled A Therapy and she appeared as a therapy patient to Ben Kingsley's therapist. [42]

In 2013, she played Red Harrington, a peg-legged brothel madam, who assists Reid and Tonto in locating Cavendish, in the movie The Lone Ranger . Also that year, Bonham Carter narrated poetry for The Love Book App, an interactive anthology of love literature developed by Allie Byrne Esiri. [43] Also in 2013, Bonham Carter appeared as Elizabeth Taylor, alongside Dominic West as Richard Burton, in BBC4's Burton & Taylor which premiered at the 2013 Hamptons International Film Festival. [44] She played the Fairy Godmother in the 2015 live-action re-imagining of Walt Disney's Cinderella . [45]

In 2016, Bonham Carter reprised her role of the Red Queen in Alice Through the Looking Glass . In June 2018, Bonham Carter starred in a spin-off of the Ocean's Eleven Trilogy , titled Ocean's 8 , alongside Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, and Sarah Paulson. [46] She plays an older Princess Margaret for the Netflix series The Crown , replacing Vanessa Kirby who played a younger version for the first two seasons. During an interview on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert , she claims to have met Margaret and that her uncle dated Margaret.

Personal life

Bonham Carter at the 26th Santa Barbara International Film Festival in 2011 Helena Bonham Carter SBIFF Rush 2011.jpg
Bonham Carter at the 26th Santa Barbara International Film Festival in 2011

In August 2008, four of her relatives were killed in a safari bus crash in South Africa, [47] and she was given indefinite leave from filming Terminator Salvation , returning later to complete filming. [48]

In early October 2008, it was reported 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. [49]

In August 2014, Bonham Carter was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September's referendum on that issue. [50] In 2016, Bonham Carter said she was keen on the UK remaining in the European Union in regard to the referendum on that issue. [51]


In 1994, Bonham Carter and Kenneth Branagh met while filming Mary Shelley's Frankenstein . They began an affair while Branagh was still married to Emma Thompson, whom he had met in 1987 while filming the BBC Series Fortunes of War and married in 1989. [52] At the time, Thompson's career was soaring, while Branagh was struggling to make a success of his first big-budget film (Mary Shelley's Frankenstein). [52] Following his affair with Bonham Carter, Branagh and Thompson divorced in 1995. [53] However, in 1999, after five years together, Bonham Carter and Branagh also separated. [54]

Thompson has gone on to have "no hard feelings" towards Bonham Carter, calling the past "blood under the bridge." [55] She explained, "You can't hold on to anything like that. It's pointless. I haven't got the energy for it. Helena and I made our peace years and years ago. She's a wonderful woman." [55] Thompson, Branagh, and Bonham Carter all later went on to star together in the Harry Potter series, albeit in different films.

Bonham Carter at the premiere of Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Premier (30402126) (2).jpg
Bonham Carter at the premiere of Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 2005

In 2001, Bonham Carter began a relationship with American director Tim Burton, whom she met while filming Planet of the Apes . Burton subsequently took to casting her in his films, including Big Fish , Corpse Bride , Charlie and the Chocolate Factory , Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street , Alice in Wonderland and Dark Shadows . After their separation, Bonham Carter mentioned, "It might be easier to work together without being together any more. He always only cast me with great embarrassment." [56]

Bonham Carter and Burton lived in adjoining houses in Belsize Park, London. Bonham Carter owned one of the houses; Burton later bought the other and they connected the two. In 2006, they bought the Mill House in Sutton Courtenay. It was previously leased by her grandmother, Violet Bonham Carter, and owned by her great-grandfather H. H. Asquith. [57] [58]

Bonham Carter and Burton have two children together: son Billy Raymond Burton [59] and daughter Nell Burton. [60] Bonham Carter has stated that her daughter Nell is named after all the "Helens" in her family. [7] [60] Bonham Carter told The Daily Telegraph of her struggles with infertility and the difficulties she had during her pregnancies. She noted that before the conception of her daughter, she and Burton had been trying for a baby for two years and although they conceived naturally, they were considering in vitro fertilisation. [61]

On 23 December 2014, Bonham Carter and Burton announced that they had "separated amicably" earlier that year. [62] [63] Of the separation, Bonham Carter told Harper's Bazaar : "Everyone always says you have to be strong and have a stiff upper lip, but it's okay to be fragile.... You've got to take very small steps, and sometimes you won't know where to go next because you've lost yourself." She added: "With divorce, you go through massive griefit is a death of a relationship, so it's utterly bewildering. Your identity, everything, changes." [56]

It was reported that Bonham Carter and Norwegian author Rye Dag Holmboe first met at a wedding in the summer of 2018 and began a relationship that October. [64] The couple have kept their relationship very private and made their first red carpet appearance together in October 2019. [65]

In the media

Bonham Carter is known for her unconventional and eccentric sense of fashion. [66] [67] Vanity Fair named her on its 2010 Best-Dressed List [68] and she was selected by Marc Jacobs to be the face of his autumn/winter 2011 advertising campaign. [69] She has cited Vivienne Westwood and Marie Antoinette as her main style influences. [68]



Bonham Carter's paternal grandparents were British Liberal politicians Sir Maurice Bonham-Carter and Lady Violet Bonham Carter. Helena is descended on her father's side from John Bonham Carter, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth. Helena's paternal great-grandfather was H. H. Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith and Prime Minister of Britain 1908–1916. She is the great-niece of Asquith's son, Anthony Asquith, English director of such films as Carrington V.C. and The Importance of Being Earnest , and a first cousin of the economist Adam Ridley [70] and of politician Jane Bonham Carter.

Bonham Carter is a distant cousin of actor Crispin Bonham-Carter. Other prominent distant relatives include Lothian Bonham Carter, who played first-class cricket for Hampshire, his son, Vice Admiral Sir Stuart Bonham Carter, who served in the Royal Navy in both world wars, and pioneering English nurse Florence Nightingale. [71]


Her maternal grandfather, Spanish diplomat Eduardo Propper de Callejón, saved thousands of Jews from the Holocaust during the Second World War, for which he was recognised as Righteous Among the Nations, [72] and posthumously received the Courage to Care Award from the Anti-Defamation League. [73] His own father was a Bohemian Jew, and his wife, Helena's grandmother, was Jewish. [72] He later served as Minister-Counselor at the Spanish Embassy in Washington, D.C. [74]

Her maternal grandmother, Baroness Hélène Fould-Springer, was from an upper class Jewish family; she was the daughter of Baron Eugène Fould-Springer (a French banker descended from the Ephrussi family and the Fould dynasty) and Marie-Cécile von Springer (whose father was Austrian-born industrialist Baron Gustav von Springer, and whose mother was from the de Koenigswarter family). [4] [75] [76] Hélène Fould-Springer converted to Catholicism after the Second World War. [77] [78] Hélène's sister was the French philanthropist Liliane de Rothschild (1916–2003), the wife of Baron Élie de Rothschild, of the prominent Rothschild family (who had also married within the von Springer family in the 19th century); [79] Liliane's other sister, Therese Fould-Springer, was the mother of British writer David Pryce-Jones. [75]


Awards and nominations

Bonham Carter has been the recipient of a BAFTA Award, a Critics' Choice Movie Award, an International Emmy Award and two Screen Actors Guild Awards, as well as receiving further nominations for two Academy Awards, eight Golden Globe Awards and three Primetime Emmy Awards. She has received other prestigious awards such as a Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award and two National Board of Review awards. [30]

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