Although Dark Shadows is set in the 1970s, Bonham Carter has several upcoming projects that will put her back in her familiar period garb. For starters, she’ll star in an upcoming adaptation of Great Expectations, her Miss Havisham a variation on the macabre jilted-bride type she portrayed in Frankenstein and Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. “Perfect,” one online wag noted of the casting. “Nobody does beauty and bonkers like Bonham Carter.” (“Oh, that’s so sweet!” she cries. “That’s a real compliment!”) And she’ll also be in The Lone Ranger, once again opposite Depp, but this time under his Pirates of the Caribbean director, Gore Verbinski. “I’m playing a peg-legged madame,” she says. “I can practically bring my own costume — I’ve always liked underwear as outerwear. And I love getting into a costume that’s other than my daily-life one — although, frankly, in my daily life I seem to get into costume too.”
Bonham Carter’s eccentric dress sense has long been part of her public image, and for years not in a good way. Though she has been accused of every fashion crime in the book, she insists she holds no hard feelings about the criticism. “I love dressing up,” she declares. “Of course, you think you look quite different from how you actually look to others. Often, if I appear in some magazine, I go, ‘That’s not what I meant at all! You should see me in the mirror — I looked really good in the mirror!’ ”
Few actresses who get their break as beautiful teenagers can expect their career to gain momentum in their mid-40s, but Bonham Carter defies the odds. In addition to scoring the coveted role of Madame Thénardier in the forthcoming movie version of Les Misérables, she was recently made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire — an honor bestowed by the queen — along with Colin Firth, her co-star in The King’s Speech (the film which brought Bonham Carter her second Oscar nomination).
“I’m meant to be put out to pasture at this point, but I’m having a more fertile and exciting time than I’ve ever had,” she says. “But I’m also much better at it. You might look less decorative, but there’s no doubt that you get better as you get older, because the old acting muscle — the heart — gets more bruises and more experience, and it’s all the wealthier for it.”
Bonham Carter gathers herself up from the sofa, runs through a shopping list — steak for dinner — and expresses how lucky she feels to be so in demand at this stage of her career. “But who knows?” she supposes. “The profession’s so fickle, this time next year I might really have to go and invent an app.” But don’t expect a career Boomerang anytime soon. Even if she could, she probably wouldn’t change a thing.