Helena Bonham Carter, daughter of Raymond Bonham Carter, a merchant banker, and Elena Bonham Carter (née Propper de Callejón), a psychotherapist, was born in Golders Green, London, England on May 26, 1966 and is the youngest of three children. She is the great-granddaughter of former Prime Minister Herbert H. Asquith and her blue-blooded family tree also contains Barons and Baronesses, diplomats, and a director, Bonham Carter's great-uncle Anthony Asquith, who made Pygmalion (1938) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1952), among others. Cousin Crispin Bonham-Carter is also an actor.
After experiencing family dramas that included her father's stroke-which left him wheelchair-bound-and attending South Hampstead High School and Westminster School in London, Bonham Carter devoted herself to an acting career. That trajectory actually began in 1979 when, at age 13, she entered a national poetry writing competition and used her second place winnings to place her photo in the casting directory "Spotlight." She soon had her first agent and her first acting job, in a commercial, at age 16. She then landed a role in the made-for-TV movie A Pattern of Roses (1983) (TV), which subsequently led to her casting in the Merchant Ivory films A Room with a View (1985) and Lady Jane (1986), which was her first leading role.
Often referred to as the "corset queen" or "English rose" because of her early work, Bonham Carter has continued to surprise audiences with magnificent performances in a variety of roles from her more traditional corset-clad character in The Wings of the Dove (1997) and Shakespearian damsels to the dark and neurotic anti-heroines of Fight Club (1999) and many of Tim Burton's films. Though consistently a versatile and engaging actress, Bonham Carter has never won a major American film award. However, she has received a number of critical awards and has been nominated for five Golden Globes, an Oscar, a SAG Award, and two Emmys.
Bonham Carter was nominated for a Golden Globe for the fifth time for her role in partner Tim Burton's film adaptation of the Steven Sondheim musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), for which Burton and co-star Johnny Depp were also nominated. Since their meeting while filming Planet of the Apes (2001), Bonham Carter and Burton have made four movies together. They live in adjoining residences in London, sharing a connecting hallway, and have two children: Billy Ray Burton, 4, and Nell Burton, who was born December 15, 2007. Ironically, a mutual love of Sweeney Todd was part of the initial attraction for the pair. Despite that, Bonham Carter has said in numerous interviews that her audition process for the role of Mrs. Lovett was the most grueling of her career and that, ultimately, it was Sondheim who she had to convince that she was right for the role.