In Alice, anyway, why Tim Burton likes his lady ugly

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2012, 4:09 PM EST

Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter are Hollywood's ultimate eccentric couple: They are significant others, have the same wild hair and fashion and have worked together in every Burton film since 2001's Planet of the Apes. Yet in each one, Burton finds a way to make Bonham Carter look weird, and in his upcoming Alice in Wonderland, he cast her as the Red Queen with a giant, computer-enhanced head.

"He likes to put makeup on me," Bonham Carter said in a press conference last weekend in Hollywood. "He likes to deform me. I love it that he likes to. I always like looking as different as I can."

The versatile actress from Harry Potter and Terminator Salvation is totally complicit, because it gives her better roles anyway. "Because I'm older, I only really get [offered] villains at the moment," she said. "Look, whatever is well written and has somebody behind the camera that knows what they're doing and is a really good storyteller, I'll act anything."

Even with computer help, the Red Queen still required some makeup. It wasn't quite as bad as the four-hour transformation she underwent to become a chimpanzee in Apes, so it seemed luxurious to Bonham Carter. "It was only two and a half hours," she said. "They had to get rid of my hairline, so you put a bald cap on. That takes about two and a half, and then they have to paint it, and then they put my beauty makeup on. That took some time. And my huge wig."

The enlarging of the forehead happened in post-production. "They didn't blow my head up every morning," Bonham Carter said. "They did that on the camera. I had this one camera. There are two cameras in the world that do this, and they just blow your head up. That's all it does. I had this huge camera dedicated to me, which was fine by me."

The head sort of steals the spotlight, but there was more digital work on the Red Queen. Her tiny little waist was also a computer effect, so she didn't have to suck in the gut or wear a girdle. "Did anyone notice that?" Bonham Carter asked. "Because they go on about my head, but my waist is digitalized. He told me that right at the beginning, he said, 'Don't worry. Don't go for the full pull-in with the corset every morning.' So I didn't. Then, halfway through, he said, 'You know, the waist is going to cost too much.' So halfway through, suddenly I went for the pull. Luckily, at the end somebody just told me, 'No, we did. We could do the waist.'"

Bonham Carter is still recognizable under the makeup and visual effects. In fact, her kids couldn't even tell the difference. "Well, my little daughter, who was only 1, just went, 'Mommy!'" Bonham Carter said. "That's what I look like at home. My son is slightly frailer or sensitive. He just didn't want to look at me."

Alice in Wonderland opens Friday.

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