Helena Bonham Carter Shares Her Imaginative Interests
The period piece Howard’s End has been remastered for rerelease in New York theaters on August 26 and Los Angeles on September 2. The lively and stirring period drama was brought to life in 1992, based off the titular Edwardian classic novel by E.M. Forester. Helena Bonham Carter, who played Helen Schlegel, was the tender age of 25 when she starred in the film. She recently had a phone interview with Architectural Digest where she expanded on her rather endearing love of hats, Edwardian fashion, and imagination.
Not surprisingly, the universal ideas of Howard’s End still resonate with Bonham Carter to this day:
There are things that don’t change in humanity—the lack of tolerance, the class disparity—so the central messages remain true. Of course, the one thing that makes it connect, and that is so fundamental to remember, is that despite any divide, we’re all so fundamentally similar.
Of course, it was not all prim and proper while filming the movie. She describes the time as being wonderful but admits,
I remember there was a lot of rain involved; I spent a lot of the time being wet.
In terms of Bonham Carter’s taste in design ascetic, she’s partial to Georgian architecture. This was the most popular building style between 1714 and 1830, marked by its beautiful symmetry and based loosely on Roman and Greek architecture. She has a love of Edwardian fashion as well. This was the popular fashion between 1890 and 1914. With a name like “La Belle Epoque,” who wouldn’t be enamored by it? The Edwardian era is characterized by its opulence and extravagance.
Bonham Carter describes her home as being “Wonderland,” which makes her role as the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland all the more serendipitous.
I think one thing I’ve taken from acting is that if you have an environment that helps you, it can change your life. It can change your outlook; it can make you happy or make you fantasize. I’ve always felt that because I use my imagination in my work life. As you grow up, you often forget it. But we have to live with imagination. It’s a gift, and I try to teach my children to live with imagination. You don’t have to let go of it just because you’ve grown up.
With that sort of attitude, it’s only fitting that she seems to treasure all of the props that she’s gleaned from her work on the Alice in Wonderland films, as well as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Oddly enough, she was excited to share that her favorite purchase is a tiny set of frog and dog candlesticks in Boston.
They’re the same green that I’ve always loved—they are very Alice. So I’d sort of been living in Alice in Wonderland before I actually ended up having to act it. It was meant to be, I guess—down the rabbit hole!
This is all on top of her overwhelming collection of hats and shoes that she costumes all of her friends with.
Out of all of the insane sets and beautiful productions she’s been a part of, Bonham Carter reveals that she loved stepping into the world of Sweeney Todd most. (Even more than Harry Potter!) Being able to work on the actual set rather than a green/blue screen gave the performance more imagination for her. She was also very fond of the Georgian style sets for Suffragette. She was quick to reference the Dennis Severs House on Folgate Street, which has representations of each era of history on each floor, for being an evocative inspiration.
One of the last stories she shared in her interview was quite telling of her curious, quirky, and charming personality. When asked by Architectural Digest, “Did you keep any props from Howard’s End?” she responded,
No, but I felt that I had my own Howard’s End moment in a sense. About three years after my dad died, when my son was three, this house in Oxfordshire that my grandmother had lived in came up on the market. So Tim and I—we were together then—bought it. As soon as I walked onto the grounds and into the house, it was reassuring. It was the house that my family had lived in, but they had to sell it in 1932. I thought, ‘Oh my God, this house—this is what my father was talking about.’ All these ghosts, but they were happy ghosts.
Happy ghosts, indeed! The delightfully imaginative Bonham Carter has brought dozens of characters to life before our very eyes and surely keeps the happy ghosts of them with her wherever she goes. From the bohemian and fun Helen of Howard’s End to the twisted and beautiful Bellatrix Lestrange of Harry Potter, her performances remain memorable and spectacular.
What are your favorite Helena Bonham Carter characters? Are you just as fond of hats and shoes as our favorite leading lady is? Share your imaginative thoughts in the comments below.