Date of Birth : Jan 1st 1970
Born in Golders Green, London, England on May 26, 1966, Helen Bonham Carter had achieved success in films early. Before she was 20 years old, she had scored her first lead in director James Ivory’s tasteful adaptation of E.M. Forster’s novel “A Room With a View” (1985), only her second film. She followed up this auspicious debut as a leading player assaying the uncrowned Queen of England, “Lady Jane Grey,” in the eponymous film. In the first part of her career, she became a staple in what can be seen as an annex of the British Heritage industry, starring in more tasteful adaptations of British or anglo-American novels, such as the adaptation of E.M. Forster’s “Maurice” (1987), her second film for James Ivory.
In hindsight, it is no coincidence that “Room,” her first film under the Merchant-Ivory banner (director Ivory, producer Ismail Merchant, and screenwriter Ruth Jabha Prawler’ ), proved to be the brand’s big breakthrough on the big screen, ushering them into the big-time, with a good box office showing and full-blown Oscar recognition. In the two Merchant-Ivory films in which she was a major star, the brand scored their greatest success. Though it was Emma Thompson, her rival for Kenneth Branagh’s affections, who won a Best Actress Oscar for “Howard’s End” (1992), Bonham Carter’s presence in the film clearly was a factor in its great success. It began a three-picture run that climaxed with Merchant-Ivory’s last wholly unqualified success, “Howards End” (1992)
Ironically, it was her turn as the undisputed star of the neo-Merchant-Ivory “Wings of the Dove” that brought her her Oscar nod. She was not only beautiful, she not only could act, but she was courageous. In “Wings,” she arguably had the most explicit nude scene ever to be limned by an Oscar-nominated actress, but lost out to Helen Hunt.
Alas, her subsequent career, while interesting, has failed to deliver on that promise, though she is still young and likely to astound us once again. Her choice of roles can be seen as an attempt to break out of the Merchant-Ivory cottage industry ghetto of Henry James & E.M. Forster adaptations. She was quite memorable in the neo-classic “Fight Club” and seemed to be on the verge of achieving that rare status of someone who is a star with an extraordinary look who can also act while retaining true sexpot status. (On the distaff side, the great Paul Newman comes to mind. Brando was a superstar who could act, but hardly a sexpot. Julie Christie had a chance but turned her back on stardom, while Jane Fonda came close, though her sex-kitten act was a bit forced, but finally chucked it all away after having her breasts unnecessarily augmented for Ted Turner.) Carter’s output since then has evinced an erosion in her status as both star and actress, though her beauty remains undiminished.