Helena Bonham Carter Talks “Toast,” Perfumes, and Hypnotizing Johnny Depp

Helena Bonham Carter Talks “Toast,” Perfumes, and Hypnotizing Johnny Depp (photo)

Posted by on

Despite the fact that Helena Bonham Carter is currently in England filming Tim Burton’s reimagining of the ’60s TV series “Dark Shadows,” she’s sending her best to America. And she isn’t alone. As the digital distributor Emerging Pictures did last fall for a selection of Australian hits that wouldn’t have made it to U.S. theaters otherwise, the company is teaming up with the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the UK Film Council to bring a group of six acclaimed British films Stateside, kicking off with “Toast,” a ’60s set coming-of-age story based on food writer Nigel Slater’s memoir with Freddie Highmore as his teen surrogate who must compete for the attention of his gruff father against a cleaning woman (Bonham Carter) whose heavenly lemon meringue pie masks the tartness she demonstrates upon becoming the boy’s stepmother.

However, that’s nearly the only thing about the series dubbed “From Britain With Love” that isn’t sweet, considering that after a run at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s brand new Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center in New York beginning on June 11th, “Toast” and a collection of other British gems including Peter Mullan’s “NEDs” (the blackly comic Scottish delinquent comedy I heartily approve), the comedy “A Boy Called Dad,” the drama “Third Star” with up-and-comer Benedict Cumberbatch (“War Horse”), the post-traumatic stress disorder character study “In Our Name,” and the rambunctious soccer travelogue “Africa United” will be in theaters from Bay Harbor, Maine to Los Angeles. For the occasion, Bonham Carter got on the phone to discuss her delightful turn as the devilish Mrs. Potter and the unique distribution of “Toast,” as well as her newfound appreciation for cleaning products, how perfumes are integral to finding her characters and how she’s channeling a family member for her latest part.

“Toast” is taking an interesting distribution path to the States and apparently, it did in England as well. Do you like to keep tabs on your films after you’re done filming?

As usual, I pray that they’re just going to get seen somehow. [laughs] But this is definitely back to front because when we made it, it was a BBC film, [so] it was going to be made for television then released theatrically after and I just thought, goodness, how’s that going to work? But I’m fine with it being on television because at least with television, you know you’re going to get an audience, [and] I’m glad that the American audience might come to see it. I saw it being played in a cinema and it played just as well as on television, interestingly enough.

You’ve really shown a commitment to these smaller-scale homegrown films like this and “Sixty-Six.” Has that been harder to do these days?

I’m always attracted to lower budget, not because it’s lower budget, but because they tend to be better scripts. It’s the scripts that tend to be the small arthouse film [that] tend to be more actor-led and character driven. Those are the stories that seem to fall within my taste range. But it’s often been the case, I’ve done so many countless small, independent films that really 3.2 people have seen, so you never know. You do it for the joy of the part and not necessarily expect anyone to see the final product.

HelenaBonhamCarterFreddieHighmoreToast_06102011.jpgWhat drew you to “Toast”?

I was always conscious of Nigel [Slater]. I just loved the story and the character. I’ve played lots of queens lately — The Red Queen [in “Alice in Wonderland”] and Elizabeth in “King’s Speech” — so I thought, “Oh, time to play a cleaner!” Seems a natural progression, or just to be at the other end and do something completely different. And actually, [Mrs. Potter] just seemed like such a mix and obviously somewhat mentally ill. I’m always attracted to people who’ve got a good level of insanity because it’s fascinating to me how on earth people ended up behaving like that. And I loved [director] S.J. [Clarkson]’s vision of it, the kind of “Amelie”-esque kind of style and you just have an intuitive feeling with a character like, Oh, I feel comfortable with wanting to bring many, many different colors to her.

You actually got a sample of the real Mrs. Potter’s perfume made up to get into character. How do details like that help and do you usually go to such lengths to get to the truth of who you’re playing?

I usually do, actually. My son, one of his friends’ mothers is a perfumer and for a few characters now, we discuss the character and she makes up a perfume. It really does help. Obviously, you can’t smell it offscreen — it’s not a scratch-and-sniff performance. But for me it helps because it brings a whole atmosphere. [Recently] I did “Enid” on television [a biopic of the British children’s author during the ’40s and ’50s], which I had sort of this white powder essence and it was such a period smell of its time. Then [for “Toast”], Topaz is this really cheap 1960s perfume that Nigel’s stepmom wore, which bizarrely I wore at lunch once with Nigel and he really was in shock. I could see him go pale because he just thought it was a ghost appearing, in fact it was just the smell.

I think smells like sounds can be so much immediately affecting. I tend to do a smell for each part, really. I’m playing an alcoholic now, so I’m just smelling of bourbon and cigarettes. But I could do a line of perfumes of all my characters. “Harry Potter” was just a mixture of poisonous plants – Belladonna, poison ivy, grass, a sort of wet grass – it’s a horrible smell, but it really does help.

Although the real Mrs. Potter is no longer with us, was it daunting to have Nigel on set and portraying someone from his life?

Because he’s a writer and has written about her, Nigel’s just a fount of detail, so anything I wanted to know, like what kind of magazine or cigarette or lighter [she used], he remembered everything immaculately. Really, I was sort of channeling all the details he sent me. I knew anyway right from the start because I didn’t look anything at all like the real Mrs. P, she wasn’t actually called Mrs. Potter, and it’s not autobiographical – this isn’t a documentary. I said to Nigel, I’m [not] going to be able to play his stepmom because I didn’t look like her and I was going to make different choices. It’s an amalgam of Nigel’s memory of her, but from a child’s point of view and a somewhat biased child’s point of view, [so] what I put into her [was] a seed of the real Mrs. P, but it’s a drama ultimately, so you make the choices that are going to suit the drama and just try and make it more entertaining than feeling you have to be obliged to recreating the truth.

HelenaBonhamCarterToastOpeningCredits_06102011.jpgDid you get to keep the cool box prop with your name on it in the opening credits?

Yeah, I did! [laughs] Wasn’t it great? I love it, particularly because if anyone knows me personally, they know domestic cleaning has never been my strong point, so it’s very ironic — I thought triumphant. And the part did actually introduce me to the joys of Cillit Bang — I don’t know, do you get Cillit Bang there?

No, but I’ve heard you sing its praises before. What is it?

The man who owns Cillit Bang, he’s a multi-billionaire. I think he’s the most wealthy man, practically. It’s a fantastic detergent- literally, it’ll clear anything. It’s so satisfying because I hadn’t really appreciated how therapeutic cleaning was until I was practicing as Mrs. P and using my different detergents. The cause and effect – the instant effect of the clean hall or a kitchen surface, there’s just a sense of well-being. Hmm…and the smells. [laughs as she coos] It was a whole new pleasure for me, a whole new world.

You’re on the set of “Dark Shadows” now, How’s that been going?

It’s only just started. We’re gently getting into it and that’s the ’70s, I just suddenly thought I know this period and funny enough, the woman who made all the film for “Toast” and how to do a lemon meringue pie is doing all the food on “Dark Shadows.” In fact, she taught me how to do pies on “Sweeney Todd,” so Katherine Tidy is responsible for all my cooking in every single film. She was cooking the breakfast because we have a few dinner scenes in this.

I’ve read that your mother, who’s a psychotherapist, often reads your scripts before you decide to take a role. What were her thoughts on playing a psychiatrist in “Dark Shadows”?

Well, I have other problems. [laughs] But no, I’m definitely borrowing from her, seething into the psychiatrist that I’m playing. But [the character’s] got other problems. My mom being a psychotherapist, I’ve been brought up with that whole psychoanalytical terrain. But I’m not sure my mom will feel flattered to know that I’m basing the alcoholic psychiatrist on her, but we’ll see.

Was it Dustin Hoffman who said you always end up playing some member of the family? And it is true. As I get older, I keep recognizing bits of either my mom or my aunt or my granny [in my performances]. As everyone, you do end up becoming your mother, but also as you’re acting, I find out you become every member of your family, bits come out without you really wanting them to come out. My great-grandmother definitely came out of Enid [Blyton in “Enid”]. My mother said, “oh my God, this is unmistakable.” We’ll see with Dr. Hoffman, but it’s fun being a doctor. I get to hypnotize Johnny [Depp] and do all sorts of things to him.

“Toast” will open the “From Britain With Love” series in theaters around the country between June 11th and July 9th, beginning with a run at New York’s Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center starting June 11th. A full schedule covering dates for all the films around the country can be found here.

Documentary Now Dronez

Fred Roasts Vice

Fred Armisen Roasted Vice CEO as His ‘Dronez’ Character From Documentary Now!

Documentary Now! returns in 2016.

Posted by on

Normally, receiving a prestigious award and praise from your peers would be a validating affair, but it’s a decidedly different experience when every facet of your personal and professional life is ruthlessly mocked by a dais of roasters. Such was the case for Vice CEO and gonzo journalist Shane Smith who got both barrels from comics and associates in honor of his Frank Stanton Award win for Excellence in Communication.

Along with Johnny Knoxville, HBO CEO Richard Plepler (who referenced Smith’s recent collaboration with President Obama by joking, “The President called Shane to thank him for the interview and the delightful contact high…”), and other media elites, Fred Armisen took Smith to the mat while dressed as Jeremiah, one of the many gonzo journalists who can be seen getting in over their heads in the Documentary Now! episode “Dronez: The Hunt for El Chingon.”

Fred Armisen Dronez

And in case you missed Fred and Bill Hader as the Vice-like reporters of “Dronez,” you can stream the entire episode of Documentary Now! for free right now.


Super Awkward

The 10 Most Hilariously Awkward Sex Comedies

Get racy with Gigi Does It Mondays at 10:30P.

Posted by on

Let’s face it: sex is innately funny. Body parts squishing together is always a recipe for potential awkwardness. So it’s only natural that Hollywood has mined the beast with two backs for comedy since the mid-­1950s. With Gigi getting her groove back on this week’s Gigi Does It, we thought we’d spotlight the 10 most hilariously awkward sex comedies ever lensed, from sci­fi parodies to touching teen romances.

10. Porky’s

Set in the 1950s, Bob Clark’s 1981 hit comedy follows a group of high school kids who want to lose their virginity, and travel to a nightclub in the Florida Everglades to do it. This kicks off a string of comical events that includes a “peeping on the girls locker room” scene that has been endlessly homaged and parodied. Porky’s was a massive critical flop on release, but thanks to VHS and cable airings it became a sweaty ’80s classic.

9. The Virginity Hit

The 2010 comedy The Virginity Hit takes the found­ footage approach from flicks like Paranormal Activity and transplants it into the much scarier world of high school sex and YouTube humiliation. This underrated movie laid the groundwork for a potential “third wave” of sex comedies.

8. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask)

Woody Allen took a best­selling advice book and transformed it into this episodic comedy that cast a baleful eye on sex in the Free Love decade. The stellar cast (Gene Wilder! Burt Reynolds! Lynn Redgrave!) deliver some of the bits that rank among the best in Allen’s career. The rapid­-fire pace lets The Woodman touch on all manner of sexual deviancy, and the movie’s climax — in which the director plays a sperm getting ready to blast off into the throes of orgasm –­ is one of cinema’s most iconic moments.

7. Orgazmo

South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have never shied away from getting explicit, and their NC­-17 sex comedy was an early taste of the duo’s outrageous humor. A young Mormon missionary comes to Los Angeles to try and save souls and winds up getting hired to star in a superhero-­themed porno. When his costar invents a ray gun that gives people orgasms, all Hell (and hilarity) breaks loose.

6. Superbad

This Judd Apatow-produced hit brought teen comedies into the age of the overshare with its mix of teenage awkwardness, uproarious gags and a healthy bromance between leads Michael Cera and Jonah Hill.

5. American Pie

The second great era of sex comedies kicked off in 1999 with this remarkably ribald ensenble flick about a quartet of friends trying to lose their virginity before they graduate high school. American Pie takes its name from the scene where Jason Biggs gets caught in a compromising position with some pastry, but the movie has multiple unforgettable bits, particularly Alyson Hannigan’s reverie about band camp.

4. There’s Something About Mary

The Farrelly Brothers cemented their position as a comedic powerhouse with this still hilarious Ben Stiller/Cameron Diaz rom com. Rarely has a film that involves testicular injury and unfortunate choices in hair gel been so sweet.

3. The 40-Year-Old Virgin

Judd Apatow proved that sex comedies aren’t just for teens with his breakthrough big screen comedy which cast Steve Carell as the titular middle-aged virgin. Although there’s plenty of erotic tomfoolery in this flick, it’s the real sense of heart and emotional consequence that makes it a classic.

2. The Girl Next Door

The normalization of pornography has drastically changed the way we think about sex, and 2004’s The Girl Next Door wrings tons of laughs from what happens when dirty movies hit a little too close to home. Elisha Cuthbert is the not-so-innocent girl next door who helps Emile Hirsch find new purpose in his life. A surprisingly dark and high-­quality outing for a film that was marketed as “American Porn.”

1. The Graduate

Single­-handedly responsible for introducing the concept of the “MILF” to American culture, Mike Nichols’ 1967 comedy features genre­-defining performances from Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft as a recent college graduate and the older woman he hooks up with. Sex is integral to The Graduate‘s plot and premise — it’s the fulcrum of the emotional conflict, not just thrown in for titillation, making for one of the best comedies of all time.


Balls to the Wall

Meet a Dysfunctional Dodgeball Team on Ball or Nothing

Catch new Comedy Crib episodes every Tuesday.

Posted by on

In the first episode of Comedy Crib‘s Ball or Nothing, Chloe just wants to hit her ex in the face — with a dodgeball. Since her ex really, really deserves such a fate, her teammates are more than happy to have her back on this one.

video player loading . . .

The new series will take you onto the sidelines of an adult dodgeball team, revealing that like on Benders, sometimes real life happens on the sidelines. The show is written and created by Megan Rosati of the hit comedic web series 52 Ways to Break Up and features actress Brea Grant (Heroes, Real Housewives of Horror) as the very intense teammate Chloe.

Also on Comedy Crib this week, the latest episode of Does Dave Know We’re Here? shows how a group of friends kill time in the car while waiting for their pal Dave. If you’ve ever wanted to get into the tuxedo shirt business, this episode is for you.

video player loading . . .
Walking Dead

Zombie Killers

10 Weapons You Definitely Want in the Zombie Apocalypse

Catch Robert Kirkman on Comedy Bang! Bang!

Posted by on

How do you kill that which is already dead? Spectacularly. Zombies aren’t just cannon-fodder — they’re guilt-free target practice for every weapon you can imagine. In celebration of The Walking Dead‘s Robert Kirkman on tonight’s Comedy Bang! Bang!, here are 10 items you definitely want when the inevitable zombie outbreak happens.

10. The Boomstick, Evil Dead franchise


Ash’s trusty sawed-off shotgun, aka the boomstick, is the perfect tool for winning any argument with the undead.

9. Double-Double-Barrelled Sawed-Off Shotguns, Resident Evil: Afterlife

Resident Evil

The only thing better than a double-barrelled shotgun? Double-double-barrelled shotguns! Resident Evil‘s Alice shows off her inhuman ex-human killing powers by loading four barrels with quarters for maximum enemy-shredding effect.

8. Chainsaw Hand, Evil Dead franchise


Ash’s chainsaw enhancement gives new meaning to the phrase “lend a hand.”

7. Machine Gun/Grenade Launcher Combo Leg, Planet Terror

Planet Terror Rose McGowan

When Cherry Darling gets a gun as a replacement left leg she uses it to kick dead ass far harder than any human limb. Especially when she launches the most epic crotch shot of all time.

6. Cricket Bat, Shaun of the Dead

Shaun of the Dead

Shaun of the Dead‘s characters attack incoming zombies with anything at hand, be it a handy cricket bat or a box of old vinyl records.

5. Morgan’s Bo staff, The Walking Dead

You can’t get much lower tech than a stick, making Morgan’s weapon the most easily maintained in any post-apocalyptic situation. It’s also the only weapon with a non-lethal option, enabling Morgan to maintain his respect for all living humans while still beating any of those humans idiotic enough to attack him.

4. Grand Piano, Zombieland

Zombieland has a magnificent musical moment when an old lady baits a zombie into a Looney Tunes-esque death by crushing underneath a grand piano. With Woody Harrelson banjoing another brain-eater into oblivion, the movie is an entire orchestra of undead-enders.

3. Michonne’s Katana, The Walking Dead

Michonne may be the most badass character in fiction. She doesn’t just defeat zombies, she slices them apart with utter contempt and keeps her own nearest and dearest undead on chains to protect her from the hordes. But only after amputating anything which would make them dangerous.

2. Decapitation Arrow Truck!, Juan of the Dead

Juan of the Dead

The decapitation arrow is one of the most glorious weapons we’ve ever seen, combining every benefit of staying alive — planning, teamwork, tool use, and the ability to shout “duck” — into a weapon that can create entire corpse circles.

1. Daryl’s crossbow, The Walking Dead

Shotguns announce your total victory over anything in front of you. They also announce your edible presence to everything in every other direction for miles. Expert hunter Daryl Dixon solves this problem with a badass crossbow. Silent, brutal, and you can even recover the bolts from collapsed corpses. Daryl knows the importance of recycling in the zombie apocalypse.

Powered by ZergNet