Interview: Helena Bonham Carter on Real Heroes, ‘One Life’

Interview: Helena Bonham Carter on Real Heroes, ‘One Life’ March 15, 2024

In the new drama “One Life,” releasing March 15 from Bleecker Street, Academy Award-nominated actress Helena Bonham Carter (“The King’s Speech,” “Les Misérables,” “Harry Potter”) portrays Babette Winton, mother of real-life hero Sir Nicholas Winton (played by Anthony Hopkins and Johnny Flynn). The story follows their efforts to move children from the war-torn Czechoslovakia to safety in London. As a result of a very heroic and selfless life, Nicholas was dubbed the “British Schindler” because of the lives he saved.

Helena Bonham Carter stars as Babette Winton in ‘One Life.’ Photo courtesy of Bleecker Street.

In this exclusive interview with DeWayne Hamby, Bonham Carter discusses her thoughts on the rare but true heroism of Nicholas Winton, his mother Babi’s motivations, and how she hopes viewers will be inspired by what Winton’s daughter called “active kindness.”


This is such a beautiful film, and I love your character in it. I was just talking to director James Hawkes about how there’s such an understated drama to it. It’s not really loud, but it’s saving the world. Even your character is pretty low key, but she just sets out on the mission to do it. When you read the script, what went through your mind? 

It’s the story. I thought it’s very rare when you get asked to do something that has a point, and has something that could possibly make a difference, and a good message. And the hero of Winton is such a great man. We should have many more Wintons. You know, he’s such a great role model. We’re short on heroes these days. And certainly, in in a position of authority. I think worldwide. I’m not very knowledgeable. I watch the governments and I go, “Isn’t there anybody else who couldn’t run?” I think we’re impoverished for heroes, and Winton is a great hero. And he’s also an everyman and shows that every person, we can all be a great (hero). The story of him is that we can all contribute in our way. And also the idea of active goodness, I learned a lot by reading this book. Often I’ll do things not necessarily for the end product, but then also the experience of hanging around with those people, because research and all the time means that you get to know those people. So I had the luck to steep myself in Winton as it were. And he has his daughter who sadly died during the film. So she never got to see the film. But she wrote this book on which the film was based and really wouldn’t have been without her. And she wrote that there was a key thing with him that “Winton saw there was a difference between passive goodness and active goodness,” which is so true. “And that, in my opinion, the giving of one’s time and energy in the alleviation of pain and suffering.” He’s an example of that.


There is a quote in the movie that, “I cannot unsee this. And the fact that I cannot then see this, I have to do something about it.” I would hope that this movie inspires heroes, it inspires people to make a difference.

Yeah, and action. Make a difference and do things I think that’s the thing, okay, and finding the Winton in ourselves. And, also makes us a bit more hopeful and more aware that there is a lot of humanity and goodness in the world and a lot of love and kindness. Alongside this, at the moment, there’s so much hate there’s so much intolerance, there’s so much just revenge almost or hatred of an inability to (relate), sort of an entrenchment.


What I love about your character is that in the beginning, she’s a little reluctant, just like anyone would be, but she just quickly jumps on board to support her son. Is that how she was in real life as far as your research goes?

I think she was very quick to help her son. When she was reluctant—like any of us are—when she was worried about her own son’s welfare, I think often comes down to is that your own safety and how much you’re going to risk. But I think when she hears that he is so set in it, I think there’s a huge amount of pride that she feels that this man feels that she wants to do it. And she made the son. That was my position. I thought, “Well, I’m the mother of this man.” So what is in the mother that she gave to her son? Winton himself in his modesty is also saying it was a team of people. He didn’t do it on his own. With what Martin and Trevor and the mother. It’s rare to have a mother son relationship like that, having said that.


“One Life,” directed by James Hawes and starring Anthony Hopkins, Johnny Flynn, Helena Bonham Carter, Lena Olin, Romola Garai, and Jonathan Pryce, releases March 15 in theaters from Bleecker Street. Watch the video interview with DeWayne Hamby and Helena Bonham Carter below.

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