Helena Bonham Carter: “There’s a lot made of acting, when ultimately the essential thing is you’re playing”


Helena Bonham Carter doesn’t have any false pretenses that her acting will save the world one day.  Although she was being honored as the British Entertainer of the Year at the 19th Annual Britannia Awards on November 30, Carter made sure to acknowledge that she knows her work is simply entertainment.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter at the BAFTA-sponsored awards in Los Angeles, Carter says, “You’re paid a lot of money just to play, and you’ve got to be responsible and take it seriously, but, at the same time, Jesus, it’s not a Nobel Prize endeavor.”

Despite Carter’s humbleness, she should still be recognized as a major contributor to the film industry.  She came onto the scene in the early 90s playing the part of the English ingénue in movies like Hamlet, Howard’s End, and Twelfth Night. However, Carter says, “My confidence came to me very late in life.  I felt distinctly unworthy because I had such an instant success.”

In 1998, Carter was nominated for an Oscar for her role in Wings of the Dove, and although she never had formal acting training, Carter since learned to set aside her self-criticism. “Because, you know, acting is just pretending, after all,” she said. “In our society, there’s a lot made of acting, when ultimately the essential thing is you’re playing.”

Carter initially found her niche in period films.  She says the “parts were really satisfying to do because they came from the world of the novel–and they were all so complex.  And I love time travel.”

But Carter is pleased she is no longer typecast in the roles of the beautiful, but tragic maiden.  Carter notes that the parts she plays now are less determined by her looks.  She says, “It’s a relief to me now to be given parts not to do at all really with my exterior.  I’m always attracted to more character parts and to doing something different.”

Audiences have been thrilled with some of the riskier roles she’s taken on in recent years, mostly under the tutelage of her longtime partner, Tim Burton.  Her turns as the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland and as the villainous Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter series have introduced her to a wider audience who are also beginning to fall in love with her quirky, devious humor.  Carter admits she now has an up-for-anything attitude towards the roles she chooses.  “We never want to be predictable in life–well, I don’t.”

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