Brilliant barnets of Helena Bonham Carter

When it comes to hair, is bigger better? Is madder better? Depends on the person. Maybe you have to be part of the Tim Burton inner circle to pull off increasingly insane hairstyles.

Whatever the case may be, watching Les Miserables recently I was impressed by how Helena Bonham Carter’s hair keeps getting bigger, brasher and – let’s face it – better.  Is she having a hair-off with Johnny Depp? Whose filmography boasts the most outrageous styles?

It’s not locks alone though, I love her take on characters, the hair is just the icing on that coiffured cake. Here’s my pick of her standout hairstyles and performances:

Marla SingerFight Club (1999)

FightClub_162PyxurzKicking off her hair-defining period with jet black locks sticking out in all directions: her character, Marla Singer, was sublimely scuzzy and sleazy, yet seductive and somewhat vulnerable – the perfect link between Norton’s tightly-wound narrator and Pitt’s rebellious Tyler Durden.

Bellatrix LestrangeHarry Potter (2007-2011)

bellatrixWith manic eyes and a suitably demented, witch-y beehive all piled up, she effectively stole most scenes, screaming abuse at the filthy mudbloods, god bless her. Out of all the cast, she seemed most at home as a crazy witch – was she even acting?

Mrs LovettSweeney Todd (2007)

sweeney toddJohnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter – has there ever been a more beautifully matched pair of quirky, goofy, gothic weirdos to grace the screen? This marked the third time they’d worked together with Tim Burton (they are now up to five) – a fabulously offbeat partnership, long may it continue.

Red QueenAlice in Wonderland (2010)

ALICE IN WONDERLANDDoes this count as a hairstyle or headstyle? Sporting an oversized cranium with off-the-scale eyebrows, her Red Queen delivered in aces and spades. In her hair-off with Depp the Mad Hatter takes this one, but Bonham Carter’s queen was something special. Deranged, unhinged and perfect.

Dr. HoffmanDark Shadows (2012)

hoffmandarkshadowsThe most toned-down barnet in the list? Maybe, but another Depp, Burton, Bonham Carter team-up, so more than makes the grade. Her hair: a dowdy, buttoned-down 70s home-maker style in lurid orange. Most strange yet most fitting, easily beating Depp’s plastered down vampire style.

Madame ThenardierLes Miserables (2012)

Representing the culmination of 15 years of carefully crafted hairstyles, this mad thatch is as good as it gets. Brilliantly deployed in the ‘Master of the House’ scene with Sacha Baron Cohen, it almost has a life of its own – welcome comic relief in an epic, but emotionally draining film.
bonhamcarter les miserables

Who are the top 20 most intense actors of recent times?

charlie bronson

I do like an intense character and performance when I’m watching a film. Someone who literally rivets and welds you to the screen, look away at your peril. Some people probably like their films bright and breezy. I don’t mind those too, but there’s something about intensity that leaves a lasting impression. You remember those performances.

As such I thought I’d offer a couple of lists of actors and actresses that have had me mesmerised, entranced and – at times – a little frightened. I’ve most likely left off a lot of vintage performances and characters, but this is MY list so I’m allowed. Let me know your thoughts. Who would you have liked to have seen included?

In these lists I’ve put links to clips from some performances you might not have seen before, or maybe just want to revisit. Remember though, best not watch alone though, these lot are intense!

The guys

  1. charlie bronsonDaniel Day Lewis (Bill ‘the Butcher’ Cutting, Gangs of New York; Daniel Plainview, There will be Blood)
  2. Heath Ledger (The Joker, The Dark Knight)
  3. Tom Hardy (Charles Bronson, Bronson)
  4. Christian Bale (Patrick Bateman, American Psycho; Batman, The Batman Trilogy)
  5. Kevin Spacey (John Doe, Seven)
  6. Christopher Walken (Vicenzo Carcotti, True Romance; Frank White, King of New York)
  7. Javier Bardem (Anton Chigurh, No Country for Old Men)
  8. Christopher Waltz (Col. Hans Landa, Inglourious Basterds)
  9. Vincent Cassel (Jacques Mesrine, Mesrine)
  10. Liam Neeson (Bryan Mills, Taken)
  11. Jeremy Renner (Sergeant William James, The Hurt Locker; Jem Coughlin, The Town)
  12. Gary Oldman (Drexel, True Romance)

The gals

  1. helena bonham carter harry potterHelena Bonham Carter (Red Queen, Alice in Wonderland; Bellatrix Lestrange, Harry Potter)
  2. Cate Blanchett (Galadriel, Lord of the Rings)
  3. Marion Cotillard (Mal, Inception)
  4. Angelina Jolie (Lisa Rowe, Girl, Interrupted)
  5. Melanie Laurent (Shosanna Dreyfus, Inglourious Basterds)
  6. Charlize Theron (Aileen Wuornos, Monster)
  7. Famke Janssen (Xena Onotopp, Goldeneye; Jean Grey, Xmen: The Last Stand)
  8. Noomi Rapace (Lisbeth Salander, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

So, there’s my list. You’ll notice there’s more men than women, I’m not sure why. I think, perhaps, there’s a tendency – particularly in Hollywood – for studios to shy away from films with intense, female leads. I wonder if they are more of a risk commercially? I don’t think that’s the case. I think it’s more to do with a lack of decent scripts for women, ones that don’t play to stereotypes.

One thing I’ve noticed is how top actors portray intensity – for me – it’s in the eyes. I think it’s what separates great actors and actresses from the rest. If you allow yourself to be drawn into their gaze, there’s so much depth there. Depending on the character they’re playing, it can be equally exciting, captivating and terrifying. Watch Pacino in The Godfather, making the decision to kill with his eyes. A lesson in intensity.

Right, I need to go watch some comedy now to level out. It’s all got too much. I’ll finish with artwork of Marion Cotillard, not because it’s intense, but because it’s simply beautiful – and that’s all the reason you need.

Marion Cotillard artwork

The wonderful weirdness of Johnny Depp

fear and loathing in las vegas

I was thinking about the Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill remake of 21 Jump Street recently – incidentally a really good film, Tatum is much funnier than I expected – and it reminded me of Johnny Depp’s cameo near the end. A complete scene-stealing, unexpected moment that lasts less than 2 minutes. It’s brilliant. Check it out.

This got me thinking about Depp’s career and his forthcoming role as Tonto in the remake of The Lone Ranger. What I love about Depp is the choices he has made. In terms of character, he’s carved out a career embracing the weird, wacky, offbeat, fantastical, macabre and deranged.

tonto johnny depp 2013It wasn’t always like this. Returning to 21 Jump Street for a second, Depp’s appearance in the remake was a nod to the fact he appeared in the original series (1987-90). That final year he made his film breakthrough in Edward Scissorhands (1990). With one of his strangest characters, he’d kick-started his career. However he didn’t return to the weird and wonderful again for 8 years, appearing in Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998). A film you can probably only truly appreciate if you’ve taken a hell of a lot of drugs.

fear and loathing in las vegasFor me, Fear and Loathing was the start of his wacky period which saw him give us fabulously strange characters in films such as: Sleepy Hollow, From Hell, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, Pirates of the Caribbean, Sweeney Todd, Alice in Wonderland, The Rum Diary, and Dark Shadows.

So, from what we can see, his output for the weird, wacky and fantastical in on the up. Some say he’s sold out. I don’t entirely buy that. Like many successful actors, he has said he just wants to have fun and embrace new challenges that come his way. If that happens to be five (yes five!) Pirates of the Caribbean films then so be it. Being part of a franchise that’s grossed nearly $3 billion probably gives you a bit of room to express yourself.

alice in wonderlandThere are some that say he’s sold out whilst still managing to play quirky edgy characters. This may be true, but where’s the harm in that? If it means Depp can give us his version of The Mad Hatter, Tonto or Barnabas Collins, then I’m all for it.

As Hatter says to Alice, ‘You used to be much more “muchier” You’ve lost your muchness.’ Well I think Johnny Depp has begun to find his muchness in recent years, long may it continue!