Harry Potter Star Helena Bonham Carter Back On Screen this Summer

The bewitching actress is back on the screen this summer as the evil Bellatrix in the final Harry Potter movie. In this Web-exclusive extended interview, she talks magic wands, the event that led her to pursue a film career and why Johnny Depp makes a great godfather

By David Hutchings
helena bonham carter photo
Photograph: Bryan Adams/Trunk Archive

Magic moment Being in the Harry Potter movies was like living with a wonderful family, and it was fun playing a mean witch. I did sneak off with one of the wands. I keep it in the kitchen, and now and then I wave it around and all of a sudden people pay attention to me!

Costume queen What I love about clothes is the same thing I love about acting: It’s a chance to dress up and become another person.

Making it real When I was five, my mother had a breakdown. She recovered and is now a psychotherapist, but when I was 13, my dad became paralyzed. I lived at home until I was 30, helping out as much as I could.

Love at first sight? Hardly. I met [director] Tim Burton when I was cast in Planet of the Apes. I was dressed in an ape costume. We met again 13 months later, and now we live in three attached cottages in London with our kids Billy, seven, and Nell, three.

Living life backwards [When] my dad became paralyzed, that's when I decided to be an actress. I probably wanted to do something that I felt I could control. When I look back at it, I had what you would call an arrested childhood. I was born old, and I feel like I’m experiencing my childhood in many of the roles I’ve played as an adult. Basically, I’m living my life backwards.

Mum’s the word I love being a parent, and it’s obviously the most serious thing I have ever done. The kids [Billy, seven, and Nell, three] often come to film sets with me, but Billy is quite shy, so having 100 strange people around him all the time isn’t always the best way for him to spend his day. I must say he does have the perfect godfather, though: Johnny Depp.  What makes Johnny so perfect is that he does what you really want a godfather to do—he sends the most extraordinary presents! And he doesn’t just send them to the kids, he also sends them to Tim [Burton] and myself! He even threw a pirate party for Billy and everyone came in costume.  

And the winner is ... It’s nice to be nominated for awards and get recognized for your work, but when you do win, it’s not like you’ve discovered the meaning of life or anything. The best part of winning the BAFTA [for her work in The King’s Speech] was that I finally got to thank my mother, who has been with me through every little thing I have ever done in my life.  

Favorite role I don’t watch most of my films. It’s just too depressing to watch myself and see all my bad tendencies right there on the screen. I must say my most rewarding experience was playing Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd. Getting to sing [Stephen] Sondheim was amazing. It was also the hardest work I’ve ever done. For four months, I worked on singing and learning how to breathe and figuring out how to sing while baking. Of course, I’ve never seen the film, but I loved doing it.

Up next I will be playing an alcoholic psychiatrist in Dark Shadows [based on the popular TV series and directed by Burton]. As for what I’m going to do with that part, it’s still in gestation. I’m sure I’ll talk to my mother [a psychotherapist] to get her thoughts on psychological motivation.

Want MORE great celeb interviews? Check out our sit-down with rock icon Stevie Nicks.

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First Published Tue, 2011-05-31 10:13

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