'Harry Potter's' Helena Bonham Carter on Acting: 'You're Paid a Lot of Money Just to Play'

3:31 PM PST 11/30/2011 by Scott Feinberg
Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros.

The actress will be feted Wednesday night at BAFTA Los Angeles’ Britannia Awards along with Ben Stiller, Warren Beatty, "Harry Potter" director David Yates and John Lasseter.

The 19th annual Britannia Awards -- the highest accolades bestowed by BAFTA Los Angeles, the largest stateside branch of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts -- on Nov. 30 will celebrate Helena Bonham Carter (British Artist of the Year), David Yates (John Schlesinger Award for Excellence in Directing), Walt Disney Animation-Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter (Albert R. Broccoli Award for Worldwide Contribution to Filmed Entertainment), Ben Stiller (Charlie Chaplin Award for Excellence in Comedy) and Warren Beatty (Stanley Kubrick Award for Excellence in Film).

The five will be feted during a gala dinner ceremony at the Beverly Hilton hosted by Tony Award winner Alan Cumming to raise funds for arts education, scholarship, community outreach and archival projects, with the event airing Dec. 4 on the TV Guide Network.

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THR awards blogger and analyst Scott Feinberg spoke with three of the honorees about their craft.

HELENA BONHAM CARTER

On the evolution of her feelings about acting: My confidence came to me very late in life. I felt distinctly unworthy because I had such an instant success. I was quite exposed, and I never went to drama school. I didn't feel very good -- and I'm pretty self-critical now. But I've started to get off my own back, because, you know, acting is just pretending, after all. In our society, there's a lot made of acting, when ultimately the essential thing is you're playing -- you're paid a lot of money just to play, and you've got to be responsible and take it seriously, but, at the same time, Jesus, it's not a Nobel Prize endeavor.

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On breaking away from the period-piece romances that dominated the early part of her career: On the whole, I'm probably happier as I'm getting older, rather than in the sort of ingenue part of my life, where you're really defined by what you look like. It's a relief to me now to be given parts not to do at all really with my exterior. I'm always attracted to more character parts and to doing something different. But the period parts were really satisfying to do because they came from the world of the novel -- and they were all so complex. And I love time travel. But we never want to be predictable in life -- well, I don't.

On working with longtime life partner Tim Burton, who has directed her in seven films: We've got very similar senses of humor. We've both got a very healthy inner child, we're both quite playful. But we've always had an intuitive understanding of each other. We've learned how to do it. Basically, I've just got to not talk too much and obey. But, you know, if Tim Burton asks you to do a film, I don't care if you're with him or without him, you don't say no.

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BEN STILLER

On the only true measure of comedy success: I don't think comedic people really take themselves seriously. And I think you have to have that attitude if you do comedy. Yes, we love to get critical praise and awards and all that stuff, but at the end of the day, when you're making a comedy, people in the theater are either laughing or they're not laughing. That's the gauge that you have to go by. I learned that, really, on Tropic Thunder. No matter how great the production value is, how big the explosions are, no matter what, if they know they're coming to a comedy, they want to laugh.

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On the notion of adding a comedy category to the Oscars like the Golden Globes: In terms of the Oscars, it's just too bad that comedies don't get recognized. It just seems like there's this huge hole there where there's no recognition for people who over the years -- and this is for years and years, you know -- have been doing such great work. So I don't know if the solution is a new category or not. It's great for comedies that the Globes exist in that way -- that there's more of an opening to see them get recognized. Though I don't know if everybody feels like the musical and comedy category always should go together, I think it's better than not having any recognition whatsoever for these people who really deserve it. It's worth looking at, because there's so many people doing so much good work.

DAVID YATES

On directing the final four films in the Harry Potter franchise: It has been an incredible journey. There was huge expectation and anticipation and an enormous amount of pressure, because this material and these books mean so much to so many people around the world -- and we carried that responsibility around with us. We did a DVD launch recently in Orlando, and we met many of these young fans, and they were all really wonderful. The thing they kept saying to us was, "Thank you," which was really, really touching.

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