Movie Feature

Dressed to Steal: Helena Bonham Carter talks Ocean's 8

By Jedd JongMovies - 11 June 2018 1:00 PM | Updated 13 June 2018

Dressed to Steal: Helena Bonham Carter talks Ocean's 8

It's been 11 years since Ocean's Thirteen, in which George Clooney's Danny Ocean and his crew last swaggered across the big screen. Ocean's Thirteen was the second sequel to 2001's Ocean's Eleven, itself a remake of the 1960 Rat Pack vehicle Ocean's 11.

In the spinoff Ocean's 8, we meet Danny's estranged sister Debbie, played by Sandra Bullock. As the tagline goes, "every con has its pros" - Debbie assembles a team of women with specialised skills to mount a daring heist at the Met Gala, the annual glitzy charity ball held at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

One of the women integral to the scheme is Rose, a fashion designer played by two time Oscar-nominee Helena Bonham Carter. The starry cast also includes Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Rihanna, Nora 'Awkwafina' Lum, Sarah Paulson, Richard Armitage and James Corden. 

From Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter series to her roles in many of former partner Tim Burton's films, Bonham Carter is known for playing a variety of eccentric characters, most of whom dress in eye-catching ensembles. That trend continues in Ocean's 8, in which Rose wears her own outlandish yet stylish creations.

Rose designs a dress for actress Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway), who is Debbie's mark - the plot revolves around stealing a priceless necklace worn by Daphne to the Met Gala. In this interview, Bonham Carter discusses the research she undertook to play the character, being on the set of the film's recreation of the Met Gala, and the enduring appeal of the heist movie genre. 


QUESTION: What drew you to Ocean’s 8?

HELENA BONHAM CARTER: I like to do things that I haven’t done before, and I’d never done a heist film. My castmates were another attraction because they’re so extraordinary. It’s not easy to find a film with one female lead, let alone eight, so it’s about time we had this kind of ensemble.


QUESTION: Your character, Rose, is a fashion designer. What did you learn about the world of fashion during the making of Ocean’s 8?

HELENA BONHAM CARTER: In the story, Rose makes an amazing frock for Anne Hathaway’s character, so I [got] some wonderful lessons about how to cut a frock. [American fashion designer] Gary Graham helped me, as did [Irish fashion designer] Simone Rocha, and the production’s costume department, led by Sarah Edwards. That education I received allowed me see the world from their point of view. It was a lot of fun.

When the cast saw each other in our frocks, it was amazing. Each character had a distinctive look.  

QUESTION: Who designed your costume for the scenes set at the Met Gala?

HELENA BONHAM CARTER: [Vogue editor-in-chief] Anna Wintour “married” each of us with our respective designers – and she thought I should be dressed by Dolce and Gabbana, which was the perfect choice. I traveled to Milan, and later I saw this little 1950’s white frock hand-decorated with flowers. And I said, “That’s Rose,” because the rose is her signature symbol, and the gown was covered in them. I looked like a garden. I also loved it because it made Rose even more conspicuous [laughs].


QUESTION: What was it like filming those scenes at The Met?

HELENA BONHAM CARTER: Being a part of a recreation of the Gala felt like Christmas because it was exciting to shoot there at night and meet people like Anna Wintour and [This American Life host] Ira Glass. It was exciting to film there and throughout New York, at all these amazing locations. At the same time, the amount of paparazzi around us was insane, especially with Rihanna.

QUESTION: Did you immediately bond with your castmates?

HELENA BONHAM CARTER: Everyone was very supportive of each other. And we never missed an opportunity to chat with one another.


QUESTION: What makes heist movies so popular?

HELENA BONHAM CARTER: I haven’t seen that many heist films, but I think they’re popular because they’re so much fun. Usually in these films, nothing is what it appears to be, and you wonder how the characters are going to pull it off. People respond to the films’ humor, fantasy and wish fulfillment elements. We need that escapism. The cast and filmmakers want to give people an hour and a half holiday from their everyday lives. It’s also a wink to the audience, who are co-conspirators with us. They’re on the side of the film’s characters and together we’re going to pull this off.

I think audiences also respond to the camaraderie between the characters.   Some of them, including Rose, are lonely, and the bonds she develops with the other seven women are the perfect antidote for that.

Transcript provided by Warner Bros. Pictures