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Helena Bonham Carter Interview

Actress Helena Bonham Carter plays the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland, directed by her partner Tim Burton, alongside Anne Hathaway’s White Queen and Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter. They were recently in London to talk about the film, where Helena spoke about shrinking pills, giant heads and being laughed at by Johnny Depp.

How did you first feel when you read Alice in Wonderland?
Helena Bonham Carter (HBC): You know what? I can't remember. I really can't. But, since I'm here, I'm going to make something up, so my made-up answer is, I felt pretty good. [laughter]

How do you think your children will react to the film, because it's slightly darker than the books?
HBC: We have two children. We have a two-year-old, and she's up for anything. And today she was watching her daddy do breakfast television, and she wasn't that interested in seeing daddy, she just really wanted to see the monsters again. She said 'Alith! Monthters!' - she's got a lisp. And I said she'd have to wait for the DVD to come out. Billy is going to see it tonight. It could be a disaster! He's six, and it could be, because he's sensitive. To be honest, he saw it being made, so he knows it's pretend. But if you see a kid running from the cinema tonight, that's Billy Burton.

Could you live in Wonderland?
HBC: Well, not if I had to go back as the Red Queen, no. Actually, I would love to have a pill that made me smaller and, you know, the cake. I would like to shrink.

Tim made you look pretty strange in the film. Did you and Johnny agree who looked the weirdest?
HBC: Well, I definitely remember Johnny laughing at me when I walked on set. It often happens like that, it's like, 'Oh, so that's what he's made you look like. What have you come as?' But I think we both kind of like it. I mean, I know I like it. I like being disfigured. I like being employed not to look like what I naturally come as. I think Tim just always thought my head was too small. But, no, I feel really honoured. I feel really honoured that he still wants to work with me and that I still feature in his imagination, even though he kind of knows me back to front, as it were. I don't mean literally [laughs].

How did you prepare for your role as the Red Queen?
HBC: Well, Tim gave me a couple of pointers which were 'Watch The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex,' so it's basically Elizabeth I. We established that and then we thought, okay, Bette Davis playing her, then Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest. And then I asked the scriptwriter to tell me about the big head, because it's a really good idea and it does make complete sense – she chops off other people's heads because she feels jealous of their normal-sized heads.

And then I thought, well, she's a toddler – because she's got this big head – she's a tyrant, a toddler-tyrant. Toddlers are tyrants. So she's got no sympathy for any other living creature – that's our toddler, in fact. No empathy, just commands. She just bosses us around - dictatorship. No please, no thank you. 'Mummy come here.' 'Mummy go.' 'Mummy! Watch telly.' And another toddler quality - it's all about me, it's all about her, never considers us, ask, ask, ask. So the toddler thing was a big inspiration.

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Content updated: 21/03/2019 14:07

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