Helena Bonham Carter (born on
1966) is a
Helena Bonham Carter was born in Golders Green, in
Minister of the United Kingdom, Herbert Henry Asquith, and members
of her family are Life Peers. Her maternal grandfather was a Spanish
ambassador and a Catholic; her maternal grandmother came from a rich
Austrian-based Jewish family, and had converted to Catholicism upon marrying
her ambassador husband. She is a great-niece of the late Baroness Liliane de
Rothschild (1916-2003) of the Rothschild banking family, as her maternal
grandmother's sister married a member of the Rothschild family.
It is a matter of interpretation what her film debut was. Strictly speaking, her first role was in a small part in an obscure film A Pattern of Roses, but this is little remembered. Her first starring role to be filmed was in Lady Jane, which was eventually released to somewhat mixed reviews. Her breakthrough was A Room with a View, which was filmed later but released earlier. These films led to her being typecast as a "corset queen", an "English rose" in costume dramas, but eventually she expanded her range.
For a few years she was in a relationship with Kenneth Branagh (costing Branagh his own marriage to Emma Thompson) and they appeared in a number of films together, but they split up. Since 2001 she has been engaged to Tim Burton whom she met while filming Planet of the Apes. They have one son, Billy-Ray Burton, born on October 4, 2003.
Perhaps the actress most widely identified with corsets and men named Cecil, Helena Bonham Carter was for a long time typecast as an antiquated heroine, no doubt helped by her own brand of Pre-Raphaelite beauty. With a tumble of brown curls (which were, in fact, hair extensions), huge dark eyes, and translucent pale skin, Bonham Carter's looks made her a natural for movies that took place when the sun still shone over the British Empire and the sight of a bare ankle could induce convulsions. However, the actress, once dubbed by critic Richard Corliss "our modern antique goddess," managed to escape from planet Merchant/Ivory and, while still performing in a number of period pieces, eventually became recognized as an actress capable of portraying thoroughly modern characters.
Befitting her double-barreled family name, Bonham Carter is a descendant
of the British aristocracy, both social and cinematic. The
great-granddaughter of P.M. Lord Herbert Asquith and the grandniece of
director Anthony Asquith, she was born to a banker father and a Spanish
psychotherapist mother in
She made her screen debut in 1985, playing the ill-fated title character of Trevor Nunn's Lady Jane. Starring opposite Cary Elwes as her equally ill-fated lover, Bonham Carter made enough of an impression as the 16th century teen queen to catch the attention of director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant, who cast her as the protagonist of their 1986 adaptation of E.M. Forster's A Room With a View. The film proved a great critical success, winning eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. The adulation surrounding it provided its young star with her first real taste of fame, as well as steady work; deciding to concentrate on her acting career, Bonham Carter dropped out of Cambridge University, where she had been enrolled.
Unfortunately, although Helena Bonham Carter did indeed work steadily and was able to enhance her reputation as a talented actress, Bonham Carter also became a study in typecasting, going from one period piece to the next. Despite the quality of many of these films, including Franco Zeffirelli's Hamlet (
Things began to change for Helena Bonham Carter in 1995, when she appeared as Woody Allen's wife in Mighty Aphrodite and then had the title role in Margaret's Museum, in which she gave a powerful performance as a coal miner's wife driven to madness by various tragedies visited upon her. Bonham Carter's work in the film prompted observers to note that she seemed to be moving away from her previous roles, and although she still appeared in corset movies -- such as Trevor Nunn's lush 1996 adaptation of Twelfth Night -- she began to enhance her reputation as a thoroughly modern actress. In 1997, she won acclaim for her performance in Iain Softley's adaptation of The Wings of the Dove, scoring a Best Actress Oscar nomination in the process.
After playing a woman stricken with Lou Gehrig's disease opposite offscreen partner Kenneth Branagh in the poorly received The Theory of Flight (1998) and appearing with Richard E. Grant in A Merry War (1998), Bonham Carter landed one of her most talked-about roles in David Fincher's 1999 Fight Club. As the object of Brad Pitt's and Edward Norton's desires, the actress exchanged hair extensions and English mannerisms for a shock of spiky hair and American dysfunction, prompting some critics to call her one of the most shocking aspects of a shocking movie.
After a brief turn in the romantic comedy Women Talking Dirty in
This Helena Bonham Carter Biography Page is Copyright © 2004 - 2009 Chuck Ayoub