From “Fight Club’s” Marla Singer to “Harry Potter’s” Bellatrix Lestrange, Helena Bonham Carter is no stranger to playing peculiar and off-kilter characters. Now, despite embarking on a somewhat more conservative role for “The Crown,” she has taken her research a kooky step forward, employing a psychic to help her prepare for her role as Queen Elizabeth II’s sister Princess Margaret.
During a talk at Cheltenham Literature Festival on Saturday, The Guardian reported that the actress shared some of the takeaways she got from the psychic while trying to conjure the late Princess, who died in 2002. Bonham Carter called taking on the role that BAFTA winner Vanessa Kirby originated “definitely daunting.”
At Cheltenham, she told the crowd that she asked Princess Margaret, from beyond the grave, “Are you okay with me playing you?” to which the ghost allegedly responded, “You’re better than the other actress… that they were thinking of. They will not admit who it was. It was me and somebody else.”
Bonham Carter explained that when one is cast to play a historical, real-life figure, “you kind of want their blessing because you have a responsibility.” She also said that the Princess’s response to the actress’s question convinced her that the royal spirit was there after all, and apparently the late Princess said she was “glad” that Bonham Carter would play her in the series.
“[Princess Margaret] was really good at complimenting you and putting you down at the same time,” said Bonham Carter of how she knew the ghost was real.
Later, Bonham Carter said that the Princess gave the actress some advice: to remain “groomed and neater.” She also added that there was a particular way that the Princess wanted her to smoke on-screen.
“Then she said: ‘Get the smoking right. I smoked in a very particular way. Remember that. This is a big note, the cigarette holder was as much a weapon for expression as it was for smoking,” Bonham Carter said.
“The Crown” Season 3 hits Netflix Nov. 17.