Bonham Carter joins attack on Hollywood's bias against the old

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Helena Bonham Carter has joined a growing number of actresses to bemoan Hollywood's obsession with youth and beauty.

Bonham Carter 40, the mother of a three-year-old boy, described the film industry's preoccupation with youth as ridiculous."We're all going to age, and we have to start learning to accept it," she said.

Known for her flawless complexion and classic looks, the actress who made her name in period dramas has never been afraid to branch out into more unconventional roles.

"I've never really liked the way I look, so it's never consciously dictated the roles I've chosen. I've always been more interested in the role itself - is it a real, believable woman or a character I can have fun with?" said the actress, pointing out she had played an ape as well as several witches in her time.

In her most recent film Sixty Six, she portrays the mother of a boy about to go through his Bar Mitzvah as England was consumed with 1966 World Cup fever.

"I recently made a film called Conversations with Other Women and I loved my character, she was a genuinely three-dimensional woman who was allowed to be in her late-30s, which is so refreshing in a world where everyone consistently tries to be younger. We aren't all 20, so why should we play parts where we're trying to look it? There are actual 20-year-olds to do that," she said in an interview with Easy Living magazine.

Bonham Carter, who conceded that becoming a mother had made her less ambitious and work-obsessed, added: "When I turned 40 this year, I thought it was going to be a dramatic turning point, but on the day I realised that the world hadn't exploded. I prefer being 40 to 20 - I think most women do; you're far more comfortable in your skin than you were at 20."

Her complaint follows a series of similar remarks by leading actresses. In 2002,Rosanna Arquette, now 47, complained that roles "all but dry up" once women get a few wrinkles and their bodies lose their "perkiness". The star of Desperately Seeking Susan made a film exploring exactly what her fellow actresses thought about being sidelined.

The documentary called Searching for Debra Winger (a tribute to the star of An Officer and a Gentleman who bowed out temporarily from the business in her early-40s) featured candid interviews with 25 leading actresses including Jane Fonda, 69, Whoopi Goldberg, 50, Sharon Stone, 48, and Vanessa Redgrave, 70.

Goldberg was philosophical about ageing, saying: "I'm being stalked by my ass - it's gotten bigger since I hit 45 and there's nothing I can do about it - no amount of exercise will change it." She laughed as she said plastic surgery was not for her, adding: "If bits of my body went from down there to up here people would notice immediately - it would look ridiculous."

Stone joked about being regarded as an archaeological relic and said it was vital for actresses to support each other.