As she prepared for her role on The Crown’s upcoming third season, Helena Bonham Carter went above and beyond—the grave, that is. In the new season, which finds Olivia Colman taking over the role of Queen Elizabeth II, Bonham Carter will play her sister, Princess Margaret. To prepare for her role, Bonham Carter recently said that she consulted the usual suspects—friends, family, ladies-in-waiting—but also cited a few sources one might call a little more unorthodox. Among them? A psychic who put her in touch with Princess Margaret’s eternal spirit.
The Guardian reports that speaking at the Cheltenham literature festival, Bonham Carter referenced her conversation with Princess Margaret’s ghost. “She said, apparently, she was glad it was me,” Bonham Carter said. “My main thing when you play someone who is real, you kind of want their blessing because you have a responsibility. So I asked her: ‘Are you okay with me playing you?’ and she said: ‘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.”
It was that observation that convinced Bonham Carter that the psychic she’d consulted was the real deal, and that Princess Margaret’s soul really was present—“because that is a classic Margaret thing to say,” she said. “She was really good at complimenting you and putting you down at the same time.”
Bonham Carter is not the first actor to claim spiritual assistance as part of her process this year; in May, Lily Collins also said that as she prepared for her role in the Ted Bundy film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, she received visits from some of the serial killer’s victims. (“I started being woken up by flashes of images, like the aftermath of a struggle,” Collins said at the time. “I discovered that 3 a.m. is the time when the veil between the realms is the thinnest and one can be visited.”) At least Bonham Carter’s anecdote isn’t quite so dark.
The Crown season three is due out on November 17, and promises to be chock-full of intrigue. Colman and Bonham Carter are just two members of a sizable group of new performers, including Ben Daniels as Lord Snowdon, photographer and husband to Princess Margaret; Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Elizabeth II’s husband; and Erin Doherty as Princess Anne, Elizabeth II’s only daughter.
From the sounds of it, Bonham Carter went to great lengths to make sure she got Princess Margaret down pat. In addition to the psychic and Margaret’s loved ones, the Guardian reports Bonham Carter also said she consulted an astrologer and a graphologist in her quest to get to know her character as well as possible. Via the psychic Princess Margaret apparently told Bonham Carter, “[Y]ou’re going to have to brush up and be more groomed and neater.” The second helpful suggestion? “Get the smoking right.”
“‘I smoked in a very particular way,’” Bonham Carter quoted. “‘Remember that—this is a big note—the cigarette holder was as much a weapon for expression as it was for smoking.’”
More Great Stories from Vanity Fair
— Apple learns from one of Netflix’s biggest mistakes
— What the real-life inspiration for Hustlers thinks of J. Lo’s performance
— Remembering Shawshank Redemption, 25 years after its debut
— A sprinkle of Meghan magic in Cape Town
— Impeachment fervor is causing a ruckus at Fox News
— From the Archive: The drama behind Rebel Without a Cause and a young star’s death
Looking for more? Sign up for our daily Hollywood newsletter and never miss a story.