Alice in Wonderland has a place in the hearts of Devon and Cornwall cinemaphiles, what with one of the locations being Antony House, Torpoint. For the run up to the DVD release, we got our hands on some Alice in Wonderland interviews. This time Helena Bonham Carter talks about what it is to be the Red Queen.
What was the verdict on Alice In Wonderland from your eight year old son, Billy?
HELENA BONHAM CARTER: I think it was slightly overwhelming but he wasn’t scared. Billy was ok. He had seen bits while it was being made when he sat next to Tim in the director’s chair. He is really into monsters at the moment and he talks about Loch Ness and Bigfoot and the Yeti.
What’s it like working with Tim Burton?
HELENA BONHAM CARTER: He asked me to be in Alice In Wonderland and I was really touched that he still wants to work with me. He is such a brilliant film maker and I love his work. But I really expected not to be in this. I did hideous Baby Jane Alice pictures saying ‘Can I be in it!’ He said that I had to be in it because he had drawn me. And there was this drawing of his huge headed person, with angry eyebrows. It definitely had my eyebrows. It always starts with a sketch. He said to think of Elizabeth 1 and I said that I got that. He said it was Bette Davis in the film of Elizabeth 1, The Privates Lives Of Elizabeth And Essex. So I watched that and then Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest.
Where did you go for the voice of The Red Queen?
HELENA BONHAM CARTER: I talked with Linda Woolverton, the writer, and I said that I thought that The Red Queen had arrested development and that I was pitching her about two years old. And she said absolutely! She’s like a toddler, she has a tantrum all the time. She’s a toddler tyrant -toddlers are tyrants! They’ve got no sympathy for any other living creatures… the toddler thing was a big thing. My two year old daughter -she is quieter now -was retrospective inspiration. Two is kind of the time when you don’t have any empathy for any other living creature. You slap things and it’s all about me. That’s ok in a toddler but not in a grown-up toddler. When Linda Woolverton told me about the big head it made sense that she chops off other people’s heads because she feels jealous of their normal sized heads.
Did you need honey drinks for your voice because you are screaming all the time?
HELENA BONHAM CARTER: I lost my voice. Tim said that I could dub any bits that I wanted later. And I did lots of dubbing because a lot of the time you can hear that my voice is cracked. But I think she would probably be like that because if you scream all the time you are going to have a cracked voice. Tim would sayWhat use are you by lunch time?because I would have lost my voice. And to tell you the truth, after shouting all day I didn’t actually have a voice after lunch, so, I didn’t really speak much, except on set, which was probably what Tim wanted!
How was it working with green screen?
HELENA BONHAM CARTER: It was tiring. I don’t want this to sound like a sob story because it wasn’t like running a marathon. But the green was not a lovely, calm green. It was a bright green and if you have a whole room like that so you had to get out of it after a while.
Was it tough having to talk to tennis balls?
HELENA BONHAM CARTER: Well that’s what we are paid to do. But you can have a bad day when you need some help. I had a bad day with the frogs. A bit of cardboard doesn’t give you much to act off. We did have an actor dressed in green who was giving the lines of the animal.
How do you cope being an actress and a mother?
HELENA BONHAM CARTER: Well I’ve got help. But now both of us have got to take a break. We also have to rebuild certain bits of the house that are falling down.
You were a marvelous Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd. Are you going to get the chance to do another musical?
HELENA BONHAM CARTER: I love singing. But I didn’t have long enough to practice. There is talk of something but it’s too early to talk about it. Singing is exciting and daunting -the more you do it, the more you realize how much hard graft it is. But you know what? I bet you that I got pregnant because I was singing for Sweeney Todd. I was breathing properly because I was singing and it produces happy hormones too. It is very healthy, a great thing to do. Afterwards I said I was going to sing every day and continue to do my exercises and Tim said no, your not! Of course you fall out of the habit but I would love to do another musical.
Do you have a favorite movie costume?
HELENA BONHAM CARTER: I love costumes, I have most of Mrs Lovett’s at home and all my underwear. No-one ever saw that but they had it made for the film and I’ve worn it a lot silk bloomers which were fantastic. And from this I have a lot of reject Alice In Wonderland socks. I wanted the Mad Hatter outfit. It was fantastic. But I didn’t get it of course!
Has anyone suggested you having your own fashion line?
HELENA BONHAM CARTER: I have, I’ve done my own bloomers. Then I did a thing called Pantaloonies which was really for charity. You takes old jeans that people send to me. They fill in a scrapbook questionnaire. Then I chop off the jeans at the knee and put frills in and scrapbook of you on the backside. I did a set for a bride with silk and organza and pictures of her dogs on the backside.
What about working with Johnny Depp?
HELENA BONHAM CARTER: He is a brilliant actor. The Mad Hatter is not the sexiest look though some people might think so. I did laugh when I saw him but then he laughed at me, too. Johnny is also a very good artist. There is not much that he can’t dowhich is very annoying.
Your two-year-old daughter says she wants to see Alice In Wonderland.
HELENA BONHAM CARTER: She does! Yesterday was hilarious because I thought she wanted to see her dad on breakfast TV but she wasn’t interested in Tim, she just saw the clip. Then she thought it was the DVD of Alice In Wonderland and she said DVD, now! She just can’t wait to see it. She loves watching The Gruffalo and we have to watch that every single night.
How do you relax when you are not working?
HELENA BONHAM CARTER: I’m not very good at switching off but I do like cooking. My favorite recipe? I don’t know if I have got a favorite. I just like quick and easy. Tim’s favorite dish is roast chicken and mashed potato.
(image: Helen Bonham Carter as the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland © Disney enterprises)