The actress, who stars in BBC America's Burton and Taylor, says the role cost Tim Burton "a lot of money"

By Simon Perry
Updated October 16, 2013 11:00 AM
Credit: Gustavo Papaleo/The Guardian/Sipa

Playing Elizabeth Taylor had its sparkling perks for Helena Bonham Carter, who stars as the diamond-loving film icon in Burton and Taylor.

And they came from real-life partner Tim Burton.

“I had my birthday during [filming] so I cost him a lot of money,” Bonham Carter said at a recent roundtable event with reporters. “It’s funny how things educate you. I’m not really that interested in jewels. But I got a few jewels off … [my] Elizabeth Taylor phase.”

Bonham Carter, who plays Taylor opposite Dominic West’s Richard Burton in the BBC America film, picked up much more than an appreciation for jewels while portraying one of Hollywood’s most famous women. In fact, she said she sometimes took the role home with her.

“You do [take the role home]. It’s fun. I love pretending to be other people. It’s a holiday,” she said. “But it’s not a holiday for everybody else, it’s really annoying.”

Breaking into an American accent, she playfully added, “I did talk like this a lot, with a lot of squeaks.”

Bonham Carter shared what else she learned about Taylor, who died in 2011.

“She liked her colors – her purples and pinks. She loved her lip-gloss; she loved her Toblerone and her Earl Grey tea bags. She loved eating – mashed potatoes, fried chicken,” she said. “She loved to drink – they drank a lot. She had an amazing constitution. They would have bloody Marys on the shoot, at the start at 11 o’clock.”

The movie, which airs Oct. 16 (9 p.m. ET) on BBC America, concentrates on a short period of time while the on-off-on-off couple (Taylor and Burton were married to each other twice) appeared in Noel Coward’s Private Lives on Broadway.

“We are doing a little section of her life,” Bonham Carter said after showing off a picture on her phone of her and West trying out their matching blue contact lenses for the first time. (“We look like gargoyles,” she said of the photo.)

“There’s a wonderful love story between them,” she said of Taylor and Burton. “There were exceptional characters beneath their celebrity.”