You know when you’re getting old? When the young kiddie stars who set Hollywood aflame over the past decade or so start to hit college age. Nicholas Hoult has gone from “About a Boy” to “X-Men: First Class.” Dakota Fanning went from “War of the Worlds” to “The Twilight Saga.” Even little Josh Hutcherson has jumped from “Zathura” to “The Hunger Games.” And guess who has joined the graduating class? Freddie Highmore.
Now a grand old 19-years-old, Highmore is best known for his breakout role in “Finding Neverland” and traversing around with Johnny Depp in Tim Burton’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” As he’s grown older, the London-born Highmore hasn’t had a chance to really graduate to more serious roles. That’s changed with “Homework,” er, “The Art of Getting By.”*
*Note: The dradmedy debuted at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival as “Homework,” but Fox Searchlight, who acquired the film, smartly decided “The Art of Getting By” was a more appropriate title.
Officially enrolled at Cambridge University since October studying Arabic and Spanish, it’s likely Highmore is in the middle of his yearly exams while you read this. In fact, that’s one of the reasons he came to Los Angeles in April to do early press for “Art.”
Set in the Upper West Side of New York City, “Art” finds Highmore playing George, a misunderstood senior who has really never done any work in his high school career. As his teachers put pressure on him to show he learned anything to graduate, he befriends Sally (Emma Roberts), a schoolmate who plays with his heart.
Highmore says he actually became attached to the indie at the age of 15 or 16 after receiving the script from writer/director Gavin Wiesen. He recalls that when he first read it the story was “something I definitely identified with and something that I wanted to do. And it sort of came at a perfect time where I”d be exactly the right age and I was in the last year of high school as the film was being made, so it”s worked out perfectly.”
Two years later, Highmore’s commitment found him in the middle of a frantic twentysomething day shoot, but he’s very proud of how the picture eventually turned out. Especially compared to the typical teenage dramas Hollywood usually dumps in theaters.
“They seem to present a more stylized version of how growing up is and it”s a world of emotion when actually I think ‘The Art of Getting By’ actually isn”t how kids are really being able to relate to it and I certainly did when I read the script,” Highmore says. “You know, you think, ‘Wow, that is what your first loves about,’ you know? Those problems at home and the problems at school are maybe not dealt with in the same way that George deals with them. But they”re definitely felt and experienced by most people.”
Still somewhat shy and absolutely humble after all his years in the industry, Highmore isn’t desperate to work at this point of his life. He’s clearly making school a much bigger priority. Highmore says regarding new gigs, “I think it”s definitely got to be something that I really want to do, you know? Otherwise I”d be carrying on back at school and there”s no reason. It”s not like I need a job. In that way I”m pretty lucky to be able to choose to do things that I guess I really feel I can add something to. And hopefully just carry on combining the two and I mean holidays are so long at Cambridge-7 weeks at Christmas and…”
Yes, that’s keeping the door open to anyone looking for a talented 19-year-old Brit for a short shoot. Still, Highmore admits he still hasn’t decided if he wants to act full time after he graduates from Cambridge.
“I”m not sure,” Highmore admits. “Hopefully I won”t have to decide until you know a good three years when I finish the degree, then there will be a moment when, you know, actually think ‘What do I want to do?’ But until then I hope to just carry on doing them both and see what happens, yeah.”
“The Art of Getting By” opens in limited release on Friday.
For year round entertainment commentary follow Gregory Ellwood on twitter @HitFixGregory