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Make Room for the Class Act Among Teen Movie Queens

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In only a few months two highbrow hits—Lady Jane and A Room With a View—have made Helena Bonham Carter, 19, the newest entry on the movie charts. At first, the shy Briton didn’t want to be there. She was about to apply to Oxford when her pre-Raphaelite beauty was deemed perfect for playing, respectively, a 16th-century queen and an elegant Edwardian. Critics dubbed her a natural.

Bonham Carter feels otherwise. Making movies makes her nervous. Aside from a TV commercial and a small TV role, she had never before acted. “I feel frustrated by my lack of experience,” she says. Offscreen, her garb suggests a suffragette with hypothermia. Big sweaters. Long skirts. Thick socks. Sturdy boots. “I think a glamorous life-style is ultimately unrewarding,” she says.

Her conservatism is inbred. A great-grandfather, Herbert Henry Asquith, was a Prime Minister; a grandmother, Lady Violet Bonham Carter, was a member of the House of Lords. Helena respects that tradition. She doesn’t feel her style cramped by sharing her parents’ eight-bedroom home near Hampstead Heath. Her mother works as a part-time psychotherapist; her father, a former merchant banker, is now confined to a wheelchair after a brain-tumor operation six years ago.

Helena, who has two older brothers, admits that doing two films took time away from finding boyfriends. “I missed out a bit,” she allows. Her new career also has interrupted school friendships and her education. British universities must move aside for acting classes since Helena is now determined “to make a go of it.” She frets, though, about a “meteoric rise” followed by a “bumpy ride down. I don’t want to end up like John Travolta.”