Life"s a real lucky dip for Les Miserables star Helena Bonham Carter

Life's a real lucky dip for Helena Bonham Carter in Les Miserables



21:35 GMT, 25 October 2012

Helena Bonham Carter has revealed she has a hidden, quite startling, talent.

'Not quite a talent . . . maybe a sideline,' she said, as she looked me over, casting furtive glances at my pockets.

'I can tell what's in there,' she said, pointing to my tuxedo breast pocket. Whatever was in the pocket was obscured by a red silk square. 'It's the bulge,' she said drily.

'A real bad sort': Helena Bonham Carter has learnt to pickpocket after playing Madame Thenardier, pictured, in a new film of Les Miserables

'A real bad sort': Helena Bonham Carter has learnt to pickpocket after playing Madame Thenardier, pictured, in a new film of Les Miserables

She then proceeded to correctly identify the make of mobile phone I had in the pocket, and where exactly I had placed my wallet and BlackBerry elsewhere on my person.

'How did you know' I asked, flabbergasted. 'It's all down to Les Miserables,' she said. 'I'm playing Madame Thenardier. She's a bad sort and I learned how to pickpocket. I'm pretty good at it.'

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Sacha Baron Cohen plays Helena's hubby Monsieur Thenardier in director Tom Hooper's screen version of the acclaimed stage musical written by Claude-Michel Schonberg, Alain Boublil and Herbert Kretzmer.

Helena and I were chatting at the BFI London Film Festival Awards, sponsored by American Express, that were being presented at Banqueting House, Whitehall, last Saturday.

Helena and her real-life partner Tim Burton were honoured with BFI Fellowships. Awards also went to Benh Zeitlin's glorious must-see movie Beasts Of The Southern Wild, which won the best first feature competition.

Helena said she took the role in Les Miz because she likes to sing in places other than the bath. When I visited the set several months ago, she and Sacha were belting out the Master Of The House number. Les Miserables is now being scored at Abbey Road studios in St John's Wood.

At the Skyfall after party this week, I bumped into Cameron Mackintosh, who's producing Les Miserables along with Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan of Working Title, and Debra Hayward. And he told me that because the cast sang live during filming, the music was being added to match the sung vocals.

'It's painstaking, but we'll be finished soon,' he promised.

The picture is expected to feature big time in the forthcoming awards season, and voters from Bafta, Oscar, Screen Actors Guild, the Hollywood Foreign Press's Golden Globes and all the film trade guilds need to see it within the next month or so.

Time is of the essence, because the Academy Award nominations are being announced on January 10.

Will the force be with Hayley

Thin blue line: Hayley Atwell will star as a policewoman in a new drama

Thin blue line: Hayley Atwell will star as a policewoman in a new drama

Hayley Atwell is all set to catch a killer. The actress, who starred in the films Captain America and Brideshead Revisited, and TV series such as The Line Of Beauty and Any Human Heart, has been cast in a scorching new drama where she will play a London policewoman who tracks the murderer of a teenage girl over three decades.

Hayley returned to London yesterday from Los Angeles to prepare to shoot the three-part series Life Of Crime for ITV.

‘We had to find an actress who could age from 25 to over 50, and there’s a very, very small list,’ said Douglas Rae of Ecosse Films, the production company making Life Of Crime for ITV’s drama commissioning group.

Rae told me he has wanted to work with Hayley since he cast her five years ago as Julia Flyte for the cinema version of Brideshead Revisited.

In Life Of Crime, Hayley plays Denise Woods, a nurse who is brutally assaulted. She joins the police and, when a young girl is found dead in an alley in Brixton, becomes obsessed with the case. ‘She dedicates the next 30 years to finding the killer, rising through the ranks on the way,’ said Rae.

The piece, written by Declan Croghan (who wrote Waking The Dead and Taggart), also explores the sexism within the police and how Hayley’s character Denise deals with it.

Director Jim Loach will shoot on locations in Brixton and Dublin, starting in two weeks. The action will jump from the Eighties to 1997 and finally 2013.

Wanamaker comedy Yes please, says Zoe

Zoe Wanamaker will star in a rare revival of Peter Nichols’s lacerating black comedy Passion Play, about a 25-year marriage being ripped apart.

The award-winning actress will work with one of her favourite collaborators, David Leveaux, who directed her in Electra at the Donmar.

Passion Play will begin previews at the Duke Of York’s Theatre from May 1. Producer Tali Pelman said she was drawn to Nichols because he gets to the heart of what goes on in a marriage.

Comedy queen: Zoe Wanamaker will star in a new production of the black comedy Passion Play

Comedy queen: Zoe Wanamaker will star in a new production of the black comedy Passion Play

The drama was first staged three decades ago, but Pelman believes (as I do) that it ‘feels as if it were written yesterday’. Pelman added that Zoe is ‘funny, sensual and exciting’ — and will be perfect as the wife whose husband takes up with another woman.

Zoe was last on stage at the National in Nicholas Hytner’s production of Much Ado About Nothing. Rehearsals start in March, and Passion Play visits Richmond Theatre (from April 12) and Brighton Theatre Royal (from April 23) before moving into the Duke Of York’s.

Pelman hailed Passion Play as one of the three great British dramas on infidelity — the others being Stoppard’s The Real Thing and Pinter’s Betrayal.

Watch out for…

Ayush Tandon, Suraj Sharma and Irrfan Khan, who play the title character at different ages in Ang Lee’s breathtaking 3D screen version of Yann Martel’s best-selling novel Life Of Pi.

The movie’s a thing of wonder. Believe me, you’ve never seen such a beautiful, captivating piece of cinema.

Working from David Magee’s screenplay, Lee has managed to make Martel’s story about a boy who believes in most of the major religions into a movie about the power of hope and belief.

Picture perfect: Life of Pi is a stunning and captivating piece of cinema

Picture perfect: Life of Pi is a stunning and captivating piece of cinema

To be honest, I had my doubts before I went into the screening room. Did I want to watch a picture about a boy who gets stuck on a lifeboat with a tiger and a bunch of other animals

Well, after it was over, I wanted to see it again. The 3D work is brilliant. It opens here, in 3D and 2D, from December 20.

Everyone will want a slice of this yummy Pi!

Now watch the trailer