Freddie Highmore‘s big-screen breakthrough, alongside Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet in the J.M. Barrie biopic Finding Neverland may not have been his first role – he’s been acting since he was seven – but it was the start of a busy few years for the young actor, working with directors Tim Burton, Ridley Scott and Luc Besson and actors Albert Finney, Kenneth Branagh and Mia Farrow. Now, at fifteen, his career shows no sign of slowing down as he get ready to provide his voice to Lyra’s daemon in The Golden Compass and take on the dual role of the Grace brothers in the upcoming big-screen adaptation of The Spiderwick Chronicles. On the eve of the release of his latest, August Rush, alongside Robin Williams and Keri Russell, Rotten Tomatoes caught up with Highmore to find out more.
How did you hear about August Rush?
Freddie Highmore: I think it was about a year beforehand it all started trying to get together. I read the script and thought it was great and in the end it all worked out.
You’ve had a busy few years; is it difficult to schedule in the ones that you want to do?
FH: Kind-of, I mean, it’s not like every day there’s another person asking me to be in something! But I’ve definitely been very lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to get different films that I’ve wanted to get.
What was it about this one that made you want to do it?
FH: For every different role you play it’s nice to have different challenges for each one. So for August Rush it was doing an American accent for the first time and also the whole musical side – learning to conduct, to play the organ and to play guitar.
So you did get to learn to do all of those for real then?
FH: I did, yeah, I learnt them all. I thought it was better to learn them and do them properly. The American accent you obviously had to do, and do it well, but for all the other things I thought it was important not to just mime along and look like you’re doing it but to really do it. So they could use my fingers and it was me the whole time playing and conducting. I think you could tell otherwise if I just stood up and waved my arms around of if I just slapped the guitar any old how. I think it looks better when you do it for real.
Are they things you’d like to pursue? Are we going to see a new career in conducting and guitar playing?
FH: [laughs] No! I mean, I’ve kept the guitar up a little bit, but not the conducting. I haven’t gone out every weekend to conduct some orchestra!
You got to spend a lot of time working with Robin Williams on the film; what’s he like to work with?
FH: He’s great; it’s just like having a conversation when you’re doing a scene with him really. It’s just so relaxed on the set whenever he’s around. Also he’s just always telling jokes; he’s always on. It must be funny for him though because he must think everyone’s brain goes so much slower than his. He’s working overtime on all these different ideas that pop into his head. Everyone else must feel miles behind!
So it’s a bit of a challenge to keep up with him sometimes?
FH: It’s OK whenever you’re doing a scene but I’m sure he just feels I’m really slow and boring when he’s so entertaining!
How did you enjoy shooting on location in New York?
FH: New York was fantastic. We were there for three months or so and we had this apartment near Central Park so we could just go out for walks in the park. Just to be there and soak up the atmosphere of New York was amazing. It’s just a really great, great, great city.
We’re very excited about The Spiderwick Chronicles – what can you tell us about that?
FH: The Spiderwick Chronicles comes out next year, and I get to play twins in it – two characters – so it’s been fun to differentiate between them. If you don’t know, it’s basically about three kids who go into the country and when they’re there they discover this unseen world that surrounds them.
I’m two of the three kids. Just the idea that they started out as the same person and yet they’ve changed and become different has been exciting. And it’s not like one’s really bad and one’s really nice, you know, people support both the twins, so it’s more subtle.
It’d be fun to play a baddie one day though. Just a really nasty person who everyone just hates!
So you’re keeping an eye out for those scripts then!
FH: [laughs] Absolutely! It’d be good fun to do different characters every time.
Is there anything else you’re keeping an eye out for that you’ve not done before?
FH: To be honest, I think there are plenty of things other than acting I’d like to do. Travelling would be fun, and I guess even doing other things in the film business, like directing, would be great. Whatever comes along is the way I think about it; I’d just feel lucky to get to do another film.
Do you think Charlie will ever come back to screen?
FH: I don’t think so. I was thinking about that, but then if it was in an elevator for the whole time it wouldn’t be very interesting, just sort-of floating around in one big glass elevator.
But working with Johnny was brilliant. Everyone I’ve worked with has been first rate, but Johnny particularly has been really inspirational in that he’s so normal and down-to-earth with everyone. He doesn’t think of himself as better. He’s also just a fabulous actor so I’d like to work with him again.