Helena Bonham Carter Said Tim Burton Decorated His Christmas Tree With "Dead Babies"

The actress and director collaborated on eight different films throughout their 13-year relationship.

Tim Burton, Helena Bonham Carter
Tim Burton, Helena Bonham Carter. Photo: Ian West/PA Images via Getty Images

Who: Oscar- and Emmy-nominated actress Helena Bonham Carter, 55, and Oscar-nominated director Tim Burton, 63.

How They Met: Burton sought out Bonham Carter to star in his 2001 Planet of the Apes remake. Ever the charmer, the director called the actress and told her, "Don't take this the wrong way, but you are the first person I thought of to play a chimpanzee." Rather than take offense, Bonham Carter felt seen by Burton's question.

"He explained himself," she told The Guardian in 2008. "He said: 'I just got the feeling you like to change what you look like.' And I said: 'You're absolutely right."'

Though Bonham Carter thought the script was "absolutely crap" (audiences and critics agreed), she wanted to work with the acclaimed filmmaker.

When news of Bonham Carter and Burton's coupling made its way to the public a few months after the film's premiere, there was speculation that the relationship had begun on set — while Burton was still dating longtime girlfriend, Lisa Marie.

TBT: Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton
Evan Agostini/ImageDirect

Bonham Carter's rep attempted to dispel the rumor, telling the New York Daily News that their client had been seeing Burton for just two-and-a-half weeks. "It is a baby relationship. They're taking baby steps. It didn't start during Planet of the Apes," they specified.

Bonham Carter has corroborated this account through the years.

"Tim is very shy, and I was dressed as an ape all the time, so we didn't really collide," the actress told The Guardian in a 2006 interview, referring to her on-set relationship with Burton.

Two years after they began dating, the couple welcomed a son named Billy Ray, and four years after that a daughter named Nell.

Why We Loved Them:

Bonham Carter and Burton were delightfully unconventional — but honestly, how could they not be? The couple "never felt the need" to marry (leading Bonham Carter to jokingly describe Burton as the "father of my bastards"), but they did live together … Well, sort of. Instead of the traditional single-family home, Bonham Carter and Burton shared two houses adjoined by a room.

"Everybody seems to make us more interesting than we actually are," Bonham Carter told Graham Norton when speaking of the media hubbub that surrounded their living arrangement. "We have a big house," she explained.

TBT: Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton
Evan Agostini/Getty Images

"You just live like rich people," Norton clarified.

"Exactly," Bonham Carter answered. "Very rich people. Very, very, very rich."

Still, I don't know how many rich people dress their Christmas tree with corpses …

"He decorates it with dead babies and slime balls and things," Bonham Carter said of the Christmas tree in Burton's domain. "It looks lovely and glittery from afar, and then as you get closer, you realize it's rather gory."

The separate (but shared) living areas reflected each inhabitant's respective tastes. While Bonham Carter described her wing as "like Beatrix Potter," she told People that Burton's had "dead Oompa-Loompas around and multicolored fiberglass alien lamps." Sounds about right.

Of course, Bonham Carter and Burton's quirkiness wasn't confined to the home. They became frequent collaborators, with Bonham Carter appearing in eight (!) of Burton's films. That said, the actress didn't get her roles without a fight.

TBT: Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton
Donald Weber / Getty Images

"I really do have to be righter than right before Tim lets me do a part," she told The Guardian ahead of Sweeney Todd's release. "Sexual favours don't get me anything."

When Bonham Carter was cast in Corpse Bride, she was the only voice actor Burton made audition.

"Maybe because I'm with her I was a little harder on her than I would be with somebody else," the director told GamesRadar in 2006. "Nobody else had to audition, that's true. But Helena's cool about it. She's very secure with herself."

Bonham Carter described working with Burton as "inverted favouritism" in an interview with The Guardian. "Or maybe just sadism. Whatever the opposite of favouritism is."

TBT: Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton
Dave Hogan/Getty Images

When They Peaked:

Both parties seemed to view their partner as misunderstood.

In 2005, Bonham Carter told the Orlando Sentinel that Burton wasn't the macabre figure he was made out to be.

"People are always going on about how 'dark' Tim is," she said. "But I always think, at the root of him, is this big child. Both he and [animator Nick Park] have gotten away with not growing up. How great is that?"

The following year, Burton told GamesRadar that his then-girlfriend was "completely misperceived."

"If you read the London papers, she's referred to as one of the worst-dressed people in the history of Britain, or a posh aristocrat," he continued. "It bothers her a little bit but once you get labelled there's really not much you can do about it."

Another common bond? Their shared "lack of hair care." And perhaps they also shared a similar view on PDA?

TBT: Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton
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The Breakup: In October 2013, the New York Post published a grainy photo that it claimed showed Burton kissing a woman who was not Bonham Carter.

The Crown star's rep dismissed the allegation as "absolutely nonsense."

Though it's still unclear whether the rumor held any weight, Bonham Carter and Burton's romantic relationship was pronounced dead just over a year later.

"Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter separated amicably earlier this year and have continued to be friends and co-parent their children," the actress's rep shared in December 2014.

In September 2015, Bonham Carter opened up about the breakup for the first time.

"I could write a thesis on what's happened," she told Red magazine. Still, she was optimistic about the future of her and Burton's relationship. "Our relationship was always somewhat special and I think it'll always remain special."

TBT: Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton
Samir Hussein/Getty Images

"We did find each other," she went on. "And really, the mark of a successful relationship shouldn't be whether you're there forever after. Sometimes you're not meant to be forever together. Sometimes you have to come to terms with the fact that that was it. But that was a gift, a massive gift. We gave each other children and a lot more else."

Though she's refused to publicly discuss precisely why she and Burton went their separate ways, she told The Guardian that she "didn't leave."

"I do think there's a point where people fit for a certain time, sometimes, and if you can, you recognise that you've given what you can, and you're going to stop each other from evolving," she said, adding, "I was reluctant at first, let's say."

And while she's said that the "cruelty of divorce is extraordinary," she's admitted it has its upsides. "At first it's a horrible thing to get used to, not having your children around [when you share custody]," she told The Guardian. "But then you get to a point where you're like, Oh, I get this week off! Some parts are very much to be recommended."

TBT: Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Where They Are Now:

"You break up, you grieve, you get bored of grieving, and then you finally move on," Bonham Carter told Harper's Bazaar. And move on she did, with Norwegian art historian Rye Dag Holmboe in 2018.

The actress has several projects on the horizon, including Not Bloody Likely opposite Pierce Brosnan.

Burton's current relationship status is unknown. Next up for the director is Netflix's Addams Family spin-off series, Wednesday.

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