To the Harry Potter generation, Helena Bonham Carter is best known as cackling wicked witch Bellatrix Lestrange, but long before then, she was crowned the "corset queen" for successfully starring in 19th century period dramas. Her next role in The King's Speech might come as a surprise to those used to seeing her star in Tim Burton's eccentric fare, but her past has proved nothing's out of range for this versatile - and unpredictable - actress.
By Lizerne Guiting
The King's Speech (2010)
In her next film, Carter stars as Queen Elizabeth, the caring wife of King George VI, who'll do anything to help her husband overcome his debilitating speech impediment, even higher an unconventional speech therapist. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush co-star in what's becoming an increasingly Oscar-buzzing film.
The Wings of the Dove (1997)
Long before she became known as Bellatrix, Carter was lauded for her Oscar-nominated performance as Kate Croy, a privileged woman who must choose between a life of wealth and her penniless journalist lover. She schemes for both, but things don't go as planned, and the result is her beautiful portrayal of Croy's melancholy existence.
Twelfth Night (1996)
Carter holds her own in this Shakespearian comedy as the lady Olivia, who's pursued by the Count Orsino. The Count sends his confidante Cesario, who's actually a maiden in disguise, to do his wooing. She falls for Cesario, naturally, and complications ensue.
Departing farther from her 19th Century period roots, Carter plays the role of an addict who seduces a dentist (Steve Martin) into prescribing her drugs in this original and offbeat comedy.
Planet of the Apes (2001)
In her first collaboration with Tim Burton (which would lead to many more and a relationship), Carter endured endless hours in the makeup chair. To make her performance even more convincing, she and the cast enrolled in "ape school," where they all learned simian movements from a Cirque du Soleil performer. Carter failed, but eventually learned how to move like a chimp after spending time with real ones.
Fight Club (1999)
Carter's first real attention getter across the pond featured her as the clingy, manic-depressive girlfriend of co-stars Edward Norton and Brad Pitt. Director David Fincher's dark comedy about a man who tries to make a connection in corporate America was the perfect vehicle for Carter's nuances opposite Norton's own nervous tendencies and Pitt's anarchic persona.
Big Fish (2003)
Tim Burton's second film with Carter saw her as two completely different characters – Jenny, an embittered woman living in a swamp, and a fantastical, eye-patched witch. Ewan McGregor's character warms up to Jenny, and we see Carter go through a range of emotions, eventually restoring some likability to her character. The witch never quite totally warms up to audiences, but she does offer an entertaining (one-eyed) vision of death.
The Theory of Flight (1998)
For her first major role outside of her aristocratic, arthouse characters, Carter solidly portrays a woman dying from Lou Gehrig's disease, for which she studied her own father's movements and mannerisms when he became confined to a wheelchair.
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
What's better than the queen of corsets? A Red Queen with an oversized head who spouts lines like "Off with her head!" and "I love a warm pig belly for my aching feet." Only Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter could play off such grand Wonderland wackiness.
Harry Potter (2009)
Known the world over for her psychopathic portrayal of Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange, Carter breathes life into J.K. Rowling's sinister witch with pitch-perfect sadism and bloodlust. Only a deranged fanatic could find Voldemort's no-nose sexy.
Howard's End (1992)
Another of Carter's critically acclaimed performances in 19th Century period films, it finds the actress right at home as a young woman of the enlightened bourgeois class. Scandals leave her pregnant and unmarried, but she doesn't quite suffer an unhappy ending; she and her sister still manage to acquire their much desired home.
Sweeney Todd (2007)
Carter, Burton and Depp joined forces for this movie rendition of the macabre musical. Sweeney Todd opens a shaving parlor, slits the throats of his customers and sends them to Carter's Mrs. Lovett, who owns a bakeshop...meat pie, anyone?
Margaret's Museum (1995)
In another role that allows Carter to go mental in spectacular fashion, the actress plays a young girl who falls in love with a charming man. He, like every other uneducated man in town, takes a job in the coal mine, and dies. Margaret suffers a mental breakdown and creates a museum to commemorate all those who were killed as a result of the horrific mining conditions.
Corpse Bride (2005)
Although she doesn't exactly appear in the film, Carter's voice and otherworldly features were used for the Corpse Bride. Initially, Burton thought the role of Victoria, who plays Victor's (Johnny Depp) love interest, would better suit her. Carter, not wanting to be typecast even as a puppet, preferred the role of the undead and auditioned for it.
Mighty Aphrodite (1995)
Carter had her turn collaborating with Woody Allen in this loosely based satire on the mythological tale of Pygmalion. She plays the career-driven wife of a sportswriter (Allen); the couple adopt a boy, who becomes highly intelligent, causing Allen to seek out the biological mother.
A Room with a View (1985)
It's the early 1900s, and Carter stars as an Englishwoman who travels to Italy and becomes attracted to unsuitable Englishman George. She returns home, becomes engaged to the stoic and proper Cecil, but must decide whether to go through with the marriage or follow her heart when George comes calling for her.
Carter returns to Shakespeare as she takes on the role of Hamlet's beloved Ophelia. She had mastered the prim and proper expression of aristocratic royalty by then to easily portray the playwright's vengeful tragedies.
The actress undergoes a monstrous makeover in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein after her character is brutally murdered. Co-star Kenneth Branaugh brings his love (in real life as well) back to life by roughly stitching her head and hands on another body. Problem is, the creature known as Frankenstein wishes to take her for his bride. Not bad – even with a homely appearance, she's got a man and a monster fighting over her.