…admits she’s sleeping with the director
(Marie Claire, December 2007)
TIM BURTON DIDN’T SEE Helena Bonham Carter’s 1985 breakout, A Room With a View, until after he cast her in Planet of the Apes and subsequently fell for her. Bonham Carter, lying in her London bedroom — and pregnant with their second child (due this month) — still laughs about the Merchant Ivory filmfest she put Burton through. Afterward, she recalls, “He said, ‘I can’t believe it. I must be in love.'”
We get it. Bonham Carter is our kind of girl: searingly smart and nuttier than a Mars bar beneath the porcelain-gorgeous surface. This month, she puts her gifts to good use, singing (and slinging one hell of a rolling pin) as Mrs. Lovett, the mystery-meat-pie maker in the film version of Stephen Sondheim’s blood-soaked musical Sweeney Todd.
“When Tim said he was going to direct it, I thought, Damn, there’s no way I’m going to sit and not have a try at this,” says Bonham Carter, a confessed Sondheim junkie. “One of my friends said, ‘Of course you’ll get the part. We called you Mrs. Lovett when you were 13 — you walked around with her horned hairdo for a year.'”
But landing the role was no piece of meat pie. “We were pared down and down,” says Bonham Carter. “I’m sure the others felt I was picked because I was sleeping with the director, but Stephen Sondheim chose me — and I definitely didn’t sleep with him.”
That said, Bonham Carter and Burton, a unit for six years now, aren’t exactly “sleeping together,” eighter — they occupy separate bedrooms. And, well, houses. Their adjacent homes are connected by a single hallway. but the arrangement works, despite their differences: She’s English upper crust, while he hails from suburban Burbank. She’s the costume-drama poster girl; he reveres Vincent Price. And yet, Bonham Carter insists, they’re fundamentally compatible. “I was a very late developer — practically retarded. I lived with my parents until I was 30,” she says. “Tim and I are both pretty childlike. Which is good for Billy” — their son, now 4 — “until he overtakes us.”
Occasionally, the couple’s childishness made its way to the set. “I talked too much, and Tim didn’t have a huge amount of patience for me,” explains Bonham Carter, who says costar Johnny Depp often acted as mediator: “But it helped that I got pregnant halfway through.”
Of course, pregnancy added a peculiar on-the-job hazard: “It was hard feeling morning sickness and having to look at all those human guts.” Somehow, we think HBC was just the right girl for the job.
p.s. HBC is nominated for best supporting actress in The King’s Speech