Now, she plays the delightfully-eccentric Fairy Godmother in Walt Disney Pictures’ live-action fantasy adventure, “Cinderella.”
“This was a fantastic opportunity to get to reinvent the wheel, because there really isn’t a consistent image of who the Fairy Godmother is,” Bonham Carter says. “It was great fun to think about things like how she got to where she is. I’m supposed to be a designer in a way because I’m creating things to help prepare Cinderella for the ball, so I make her dress, I design her shoes, I design the footmen and I get the transport ready.”
She continues, “As for why she chose a pumpkin for the carriage, I started thinking that maybe the pumpkin was an accident and she had actually intended for the carriage to come from something else, like a watermelon. The possibilities are endless, and as an actor I love thinking up back-stories for my characters.”
Screenwriter Chris Weitz welcomed the chance to expand the scope of her part in the script, which meant the addition of a new character, a beggar woman (also played by Bonham Carter), who first approaches Ella and is treated with kindness before transforming into the Fairy Godmother. He tried to come up with lines and moments that would fit into her particular cadence, and says, “Helena wanted to pursue a version of the character that was very much in sync with the Fairy Godmother that people remember from the animated film, but also had a particular spin from the way she performs comedy.”
“I thought it would be interesting if she wasn’t always the best at everything, that perhaps she was highly-stressed because of the time restraints placed upon her so she would occasionally make mistakes,” says Bonham Carter. “They are late for the ball and she’s incredibly old and not quite with it mentally, and that just makes her all the more likable.”
Adds director Kenneth Branagh, “I read something interesting about the original Fairy Godmother in which the phrase ‘benign befuddlement’ was used. There is a befuddled quality about the Fairy Godmother in the original film, and what Helena brings is an extension, or an elaboration, of that.”
He concludes, “She’s very passionate, very witty, but not always in complete control of her magic. She’s utterly devoted to Cinderella. Clearly, there’s a maternal feeling for her. She is indeed her godmother or albeit, Fairy Godmother, so you feel that sort of familial care and concern.”
A live-action feature inspired by the classic fairy tale, “Cinderella” brings to life the timeless images from Disney’s 1950 animated masterpiece as fully-realized characters in a visually-dazzling spectacle for a whole new generation.
The story of “Cinderella” follows the fortunes of young Ella (Lily James) whose merchant father remarries following the death of her mother. Eager to support her loving father, Ella welcomes her new stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and her daughters Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drisella (Sophie McShera) into the family home. But, when Ella’s father unexpectedly passes away, she finds herself at the mercy of a jealous and cruel new family. Finally relegated to nothing more than a servant girl covered in ashes, and spitefully renamed Cinderella, Ella could easily begin to lose hope. Yet, despite the cruelty inflicted upon her, Ella is determined to honor her mother’s dying words and to “have courage and be kind.” She will not give in to despair nor despise those who mistreat her.
And then there is the dashing stranger she meets in the woods. Unaware that he is really a prince, not merely an apprentice at the Palace, Ella finally feels she has met a kindred soul. It appears her fortunes may be about to change when the Palace sends out an open invitation for all maidens to attend a ball, raising Ella’s hopes of once again encountering the charming Kit (Richard Madden). Alas, her stepmother forbids her to attend and callously rips apart her dress. But, as in all good fairy tales, help is at hand, and a kindly beggar woman (Helena Bonham Carter) steps forward and, armed with a pumpkin and a few mice, changes Cinderella’s life forever.
“Cinderella” will be released in the Philippines on March 12, through Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International.