Helena Bonham Carter is at the opening of Universal Orlando’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley to talk MTV about being bad. But for her upcoming role as The Fairy Godmother in Disney’s live-action re-imagining of Cinderella, she’s channeling something completely different than the Harry Potter movie’s evil second-in-command, Bellatrix Lestrange.
“Yeah, she’s good!” Carter said, laughing, as she told MTV News about the Cinderella role. “She has a wand, she has teeth, but they’re perfect.”
Carter is well known for her out there — and in recent years, evil — characters like Lestrange, which she played over four Harry Potter movies, as well for scenes filmed for the new ride Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts, which opens on July 8. But when she graces screens in 2015, it’s for a part about as far from Lestrange as you can get.
Still, according to Carter, being pure good doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges.
“It’s an icon, it’s a tricky one because a fairy godmother, everyone has an idea of a fairy godmother,” Carter continued, as she sat right outside a replica of the Harry Potter films’ evil Knockturn Alley. “And also it’s kind of difficult to believe yourself as a fairy godmother, because it’s like a myth. You try and reinvent it, try to really believe having the thought of turning a pumpkin [into a carriage].”
That all said, lest you think Carter won’t bring the same quirkiness she brought to Lestrange, or other bizarre turns like Mrs. Lovett from Sweeney Todd, or the bigheaded Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland for the role of Fairy Godmother, think again.
“Why would she choose a pumpkin to be a transport?” Carter mused rhetorically. “It could have been anything! But why would it be a vegetable? You have to work out, does she only transmute vegetables, or can it be fruit? Is she going for the shape?”
These, we found, are the kinds of questions Carter asks of herself on nearly every role. In order to return to playing Lestrange for the new ride, after several years away from the role, Carter turned to her copious notes and files on the character.
“That’s part of the fun for me, analyzing, breaking somebody down,” Carter noted on the two days she spent filming green screen scenes for Escape From Gringotts.
“I have files and files,” Carter continued, laughing. “But that’s what I love doing. And then you have to be open to everything else, and learning your lines. And then you root it in physical stuff like costume, teeth and makeup.”
Similarly, Carter took a deep approach to the Fairy Godmother, one that means she’ll have a character far more lived in on screen than the one animated audiences are used to from the classic film of decades past.
“She’s a kind of designer,” Carter said. “She may not be a great designer, but things can go wrong. There’s lots of things that go slightly wrong. And if there’s someone who is an inventor, they’re often someone who is slightly vague. There’s a vagueness to her because [she’s] always thinking of something else.”
But don’t worry, Carter fans: the actress will be turning to the dark side soon enough when she returns to the role of Red Queen for Through the Looking Glass, the sequel to Alice in Wonderland.
“My head is getting even bigger, I think,” Carter joked about returning as the Red Queen, laughing again. “I just went for my first costume fitting, and it was nice to see Colleen [Atwood], it’ll be nice to see everybody.”
That everybody includes co-stars Johnny Depp and Mia Wasikowska, but not Tim Burton, who directed the first movie. Even with her creative — and life — partner’s absence from the film, Carter has no concerns about returning to Wonderland.
“No, none whatsoever,” Carter said when asked if she was worried about Burton’s nonappearance. “[Director] James Bobin seems to be really interesting, and fired up and excited. Tim’s producing it, and we just felt like, he’s done it. You can’t spend two years of your life doing something unless you’re one hundred percent enthusiastic about it.”
Guess it’s time to take those Red Queen files out of storage.