At 57 years old, Helena Bonham Carter has this physical status:
Bonham Carter, who has no formal acting training, entered the field winning a national writing contest (1979) and used the money to pay for her entry into the actors' Spotlight directory. She made her professional acting debut at the age of 16 in a television commercial. She also had a minor part in the 1983 TV film A Pattern of Roses.
Bonham Carter's first lead film role was as Lady Jane Grey in Lady Jane (1986), which was given mixed reviews by critics. Her breakthrough role was Lucy Honeychurch in A Room with a View (1985), an adaptation of E. M. Forster's 1908 novel, which was filmed after Lady Jane but released two months earlier. She also appeared in episodes of Miami Vice as Don Johnson's love interest during the 1986–87 season and then, in 1987 with Dirk Bogarde in The Vision, Stewart Granger in A Hazard of Hearts and John Gielgud in Getting It Right. Bonham Carter was originally cast in the role of Bess McNeill in Breaking the Waves, but backed out during production owing to "the character's painful psychic and physical exposure", according to Roger Ebert. The role went to Emily Watson, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance.
Her early films led to her being typecast as a "corset queen" and "English rose", playing pre- and early 20th century characters, particularly in Merchant Ivory films. Uncomfortable with this image, she states: "I looked, as someone said, like a bloated chipmunk". In 1994, Bonham Carter appeared in a dream sequence during the second series of the British sitcom Absolutely Fabulous, as Edina Monsoon's daughter Saffron, who was normally played by Julia Sawalha. Throughout the series, references were made to Saffron's resemblance to Bonham Carter.
Bonham Carter, who speaks French fluently, starred in a 1996 French film titled Portraits chinois. That same year, she played Olivia in Trevor Nunn's film version of Twelfth Night. One of the high points of her early career was her performance as the scheming Kate Croy in the 1997 film adaption of The Wings of the Dove, which was highly acclaimed internationally and saw her receive her first Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations. Then followed Fight Club in 1999, in which she played Marla Singer, a role for which she won the 2000 Empire Award for Best British Actress.
In August 2001, she was featured in Maxim. She played her second Queen of England when she was cast as Anne Boleyn in the ITV1 mini-series Henry VIII; however, her role was restricted, as she was pregnant with her first child at the time of filming. In 2005, she voiced Lady Tottingham, a wealthy aristocratic spinster in the 2005 stop-motion animated comedy Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Starring alongside Ralph Fiennes and Peter Sallis, the film serves as part of the Wallace and Gromit series.
She was a member of the 2006 Cannes Film Festival jury that unanimously selected The Wind That Shakes the Barley as best film. In May 2006, Bonham Carter launched her own fashion line, "The Pantaloonies", with swimwear designer Samantha Sage. Their first collection, called Bloomin' Bloomers, is a Victorian style selection of camisoles, mob caps, and bloomers. The duo worked on Pantaloonies customised jeans, which Bonham Carter describes as "a kind of scrapbook on the bum".
Bonham Carter played the psychopathic and homicidal dark witch Bellatrix Lestrange in the final four Harry Potter films (2007–2011). While filming Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, she accidentally perforated the eardrum of Matthew Lewis (playing Neville Longbottom) when she stuck her wand into his ear canal. Bonham Carter received positive reviews as Bellatrix, described as a "shining but underused talent". She played Mrs. Lovett, Sweeney Todd's (Johnny Depp) amorous accomplice, in the film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's Broadway musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, directed by Burton. Bonham Carter received a nomination for the Golden Globe for Best Actress for her performance. She won the Best Actress award in the 2007 Evening Standard British Film Awards for her performances in Sweeney Todd and Conversations With Other Women, along with another Best Actress award at the 2009 Empire Awards. Bonham Carter also appeared in the fourth Terminator film, entitled Terminator Salvation, playing a small but pivotal role as a personification of Skynet.
In 2009, Bonham Carter was the mother squirrel narrator in the 30 minute animated film adaptation of the best-selling children's book The Gruffalo, which was broadcast on BBC One on 25 December 2009. Bonham Carter joined the cast of Tim Burton's 2010 film, Alice in Wonderland, as the Red Queen. She appears alongside Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska, Crispin Glover and Harry Potter co-star Alan Rickman. Her role was an amalgamation of the Queen of Hearts and the Red Queen. In early 2009, Bonham Carter was named one of The Times's top 10 British Actresses of all time, along with fellow actresses Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith, Julie Andrews, and Audrey Hepburn.
In 2010, Bonham Carter played Queen Elizabeth in the film The King's Speech. As of January 2011, she had received numerous plaudits and praise for her performance, including nominations for the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She won her first BAFTA Award, but lost the Academy Award to Melissa Leo for The Fighter.
Bonham Carter signed to play author Enid Blyton in the BBC Four television biopic, Enid. It was the first depiction of Blyton's life on the screen; she starred with Matthew Macfadyen and Denis Lawson. She received her first Television BAFTA Nomination for Best Actress, for Enid. In 2010, she starred with Freddie Highmore in the Nigel Slater biopic Toast, which was filmed in the West Midlands and received a gala at the 2011 Berlin International Film Festival. She received the Britannia Award for British Artist of the Year from BAFTA LA in 2011.
In 2012, she appeared as the eccentric, jilted bride Miss Havisham—one of the most potent figures in Victorian gothic fiction—in Mike Newell's adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations. In April 2012, she appeared in Rufus Wainwright's music video for his single "Out of the Game", featured on the album of the same name. She co-starred in a film adaptation of the musical Les Misérables, released in 2012. She played the role of Madame Thénardier.
On 17 May 2012, it was announced that Bonham Carter would be appearing in the 2013 adaptation (entitled The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet) of Reif Larsen's book The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet. Her casting was announced alongside that of Kathy Bates, Kyle Catlett and Callum Keith Rennie, with Jean-Pierre Jeunet directing. She also appeared in a short film directed by Roman Polanski for the clothing brand Prada. The short was entitled A Therapy and she appeared as a patient of Ben Kingsley's therapist.
In 2013, she played Red Harrington, a peg-legged brothel madam, who assists Reid and Tonto in locating Cavendish, in the movie The Lone Ranger. Also that year, Bonham Carter narrated poetry for The Love Book App, an interactive anthology of love literature developed by Allie Byrne Esiri. Also in 2013, Bonham Carter appeared as Elizabeth Taylor, alongside Dominic West as Richard Burton, in BBC4's Burton & Taylor, which premiered at the 2013 Hamptons International Film Festival. She played the Fairy Godmother in the 2015 live-action re-imagining of Walt Disney's Cinderella.
In 2016, Bonham Carter reprised her role of the Red Queen in Alice Through the Looking Glass. In June 2018, she starred in a spin-off of the Ocean's Eleven Trilogy, titled Ocean's 8, alongside Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, and Sarah Paulson. She plays an older Princess Margaret—whom Bonham Carter knew in person through her uncle Mark—for the Netflix series The Crown, replacing Vanessa Kirby who played a younger version for the first two seasons. In 2020, Bonham Carter starred as Eudoria Holmes in the Netflix film Enola Holmes, which is based on the Sherlock Holmes-adaptation, The Enola Holmes Mysteries.