12/03/2001 at 01:00 AM EST
For most of her adult life, says Helena Bonham Carter, she had a bad case of Peter Pan Syndrome. After all, she was 30 before she moved out of her parents' London home. That changed last May, when she turned 35. "I had 35-itis panic," says Bonham Carter, who plays a con artist who seduces a dentist (Steve Martin) in the comic thriller Novocaine. "All my friends are having babies, and I'm left behind. I feel more of an impulse to settle down."
First step: meeting Tim Burton, 43, who directed her in last summer's Planet of the Apes. They started dating in October after he broke up with his longtime girlfriend Lisa Marie, 33. It was hardly love at first sight, since in the film Bonham Carter wore a latex simian suit and huge false teeth. The actress's smile didn't win anyone over on the set of Novocaine either. To get into character, she arrived at the shoot wearing gnarly fake choppers. (She used more subtle dentures in the movie.) "I was not a fan of the funny teeth," says Martin. "They were frightening. Everybody started [singing], I Am the Walrus.' "