She’s played the Queen Mother and the Queen Mother’s youngest daughter; she’s narrated the children’s classic The Gruffalo and starred as one of JK Rowling’s most evil villains; she’s done the low-budget indie thing and also starred in some of the biggest films of the past three decades.
After her acclaimed role as the rebellious but troubled Princess Margaret in Netflix’s third season of The Crown, we thought she deserved a Plum Picks round-up of her very own.
Princess Margaret in The Crown S3 (Netflix)
If you thought it was an uncanny coincidence that Helena Bonham Carter played the young Queen Mother in The King’s Speech (filmed in 2010, set in the 1930s) and then in 2019 played the Queen Mother’s youngest daughter Margaret in Netflix’s The Crown, think again. In real life, Helena Bonham Carter’s uncle was once romantically involved with the real-life Princess Margaret – or so she hinted in an interview with Stephen Colbert in November 2019.
To embody the late Countess of Snowden, Bonham Carter consulted a graphologist, an astrologer and a psychic, as well as Margaret’s real-life friends, to get insight into the quirks of her character. She also bought, and wore, Princess Margaret’s perfume.
Set in London in 1912, this is the story of the fight for women’s right to vote, as told through the struggle of Maud, a young working mother, played by Carey Mulligan. Helena Bonham Carter plays Edith Ellyn, a militant activist who Maud meets when she gets involved in the struggle. Though her character wasn’t based on a single real-life person, the actress got inspiration from the story of the real-life Edith Garrud, who taught the suffragettes self-defence against the police.
In another uncanny coincidence, Helena Bonham Carter’s great-grandfather was the British Prime Minister at the time of the suffrage movement. She said, in an interview in Glamour, “My great-grandfather was prime minister at the time of the suffrage movement. I always thought, Oh, he was a Liberal—a goodie. But from a suffrage point of view, he was a complete baddie. I was having this posthumous conversation [with him], going, “Why didn’t you give us the vote?” How did my granny not convince him that women’s suffrage was a priority?”
Marla in Fight Club, 1999 (Prime Video)
Released a little over 20 years ago, David Fincher’s psychological thriller introduced us to the beautiful, troubled, irresistible Marla Singer, played by Helena Bonham Carter. She has some of the craziest lines in the whole film, including her tirade about her thrift-store bridesmaid’s dress being like a Christmas tree – or a sex-crime victim. As Rolling Stone wrote, Marla looks like “the waif from hell” – and then went on to say that Helena Bonham Carter had never been as tough or as terrific as she was as Marla.
All-Maudra in Dark Crystal: The Age of Resistance (Netflix)
In this critically acclaimed prequel series of the 1982 Jim Henson dark fantasy movie, which launched on Netflix earlier this year, Helena Bonham Carter plays the Queen of all goblin queens. She overseas every Gelfling in Thra, and has to work closely with the evil Skeksis lords – peace in Thra depends largely on her.
In this all-female heist film, Helena Bonham Carter plays an Irish fashion designer who helps her compatriots boost a Cartier necklace from the Met Gala as a way to escape her financial troubles. In an interview with the LA Times, she said that she insisted on her hairstyle and her accent for the film, and that she learned to sew for the role. Director Gary Ross said that she had very specific ideas for how to play the down-on-her-luck designer, including the exact pin cushion and style of bifocals she should have. “I embraced almost all of her ideas with the possible exception of large taxidermied animals,” he said.
Madame Thénardier in Les Miserables, 2013 (Prime Video)
To play the pickpocket in Tom Hooper’s acclaimed blockbuster musical, Helena Bonham Carter underwent intense vocal training. It wasn’t her first singing role – she also sang in the 2007 musical film Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. But, as she told The Daily Mail, because none of the star’s vocals were boosted or enhanced at all in Les Mis, she found her own voice disappointing. “I had lots of vocal training for Les Mis but I didn’t improve as much as I thought I would. I watched it and thought… I was going to be so much better, I thought my voice was going to be so much bigger … but the thing with Les Mis is that it was real so that’s what we sounded like. In Sweeney I had people making me sound better than I am but not for this.”
Voice starring alongside her fellow Harry Potter co-stars John Hurt (who voices the Owl) and Robbie Coltrane (the Gruffalo), Helena Bonham Carter is the voice of the Mother Squirrel, the narrator of the story in this adaptation of the Julia Donaldson classic. She returns in the 2011 sequel The Gruffalo’s Child, also on Showmax.