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In her own words: Helena Bonham Carter

When it comes to style, her golden rule is to break the rules. But what else makes HBC tick?


© Phil Fisk

Helena Bonham Carter does things her own way. And whether she’s giving an interview or deciding what to wear (‘I think of my wardrobe as a dressing-up box’) she does everything with a sense of humour. In fact, we think she might have the filthiest giggle in Hollywood.

Film-wise, the 48-year-old is on a roll. She’s just finished shooting ‘Suffragette’, appearing with Carey Mulligan and Meryl Streep in the story of the movement to get women the vote (it’s out here in January 2015). Before that, in her new film ‘TS Spivet’, from ‘Amélie’ director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, she plays the doctor-mum of a gifted ten-year-old. So what are her rules for getting by?

‘I am bad with costume designers. I’m very stubborn. But it’s my body, I’ve got to feel comfortable. Like with this new film, “TS Spivet”, I thought of her in lots of tea dresses, but they wanted me in beiges. So I put my foot down. I had great fun with Bellatrix on “Harry Potter”. I love costumes!’

‘Meryl is my new girlfriend. On “Suffragette” she was wearing these wonderful shoes and I said I liked them and she said, “Oh yes, these were from ‘Out of Africa’.” And I was like: girl-crush!’

‘My mum tends to be my script consultant when I don’t know whether to do something or not. She’s a brilliant reader. She’s read practically everything that’s ever been written, frankly. Not that I always necessarily obey her!’

‘I get bored of the norm. The suffragettes, they were different, they were eccentric. They did hilarious things, dressed up all the time in disguises. And they were really organised. My character Edith is basically the head of a terrorist cell. She was 4'11'' and taught jujitsu to suffragettes to defend themselves from the police.’

‘I was always quite self-sufficient. I entered a WH Smith poetry competition when I was 13. It wasn’t a brilliant poem, but I did win and get the money. I used it to pay for my page in Spotlight [the casting directory].’

‘I do a lot of prep. I’ll learn the whole thing weeks before. Some actors learn it the morning; I wouldn’t want the stress.’

‘She’s very straightforward, the Queen. I’ve met her a few times. She’s just really warm and chatty. I have a lot of admiration for her amazing stamina. And once we had a sleepover. Well, it’s called a “sleep and dine”. Daniel Craig was there with Rachel [Weisz] and it was bizarre: I just immediately started saluting him as if he was James Bond.’

‘Cannes is brutal. As a jury member you watch maybe three films a day, most of them depressing, I mean really slit-your-wrists miserable. I’d never do it again. I said to the festival director Thierry Frémaux: “What are you trying to do?” They’re all realism. You don’t have to be serious and depressing to be a serious film.’

‘I was playing Elizabeth Taylor [in TV’s ‘Burton and Taylor’] and the jewellery was fake. I couldn’t believe it. I said: “We’re playing one of the richest couples in the world and you’re giving me fakes?” So I got some stuff from mum. And Cartier came on board. You’ve got to have real diamonds.’

Watch the ‘TS Spivet’ trailer

Read more about ‘TS Spivet’

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Film
  • Action and adventure

The story echoes a noble lineage of stories that feature ingenious whizz-kid protagonists with vivid imaginations, stretching from Mark Twain and the ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ comics to Wes Anderson’s ‘Moonrise Kingdom’. But ‘TS Spivet’ has none of their dark humour or bite. Instead, we’re treated to the stock characters and set-pieces of the kid caper movie, all delivered with heaps of twee sentimentality.

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