It's never easy, making that leap from Cute Child Star to Proper Adult Actor -- just look at jolly-but-jobless grinning giant Haley Joel Osment. For Freddie Highmore, the perils of steering a career through such choppy, hormonal waters doesn't appear to be all that much of a concern. The 19-year old, who broke through with Finding Neverland (2004) and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory (2005) -- earning himself a friendship with leading man Johnny Depp along the way -- has better things to do. Like three years at London's Emanuel College, where he's studying Arabic and Spanish.
"I just don't feel that life should be about any one passion," he explains. "I love making films, but there's so much more out there. I want to find out what I really want to do with the rest of my life. Maybe I'll just keep on searching. That would be a good way to spend a life ... "
Having achieved a whopping great 10 As in his final exams, chances are Freddie Highmore could do just about anything his fickle little heart and his big, fat brainy head desires.
For now though, he's got another movie, The Art Of Getting By centering on disgruntled, disinterested New York teen George (Highmore), sleepwalking his way through art college while playing the heavy-overcoat/dishevelled-hair rebel without a cause.
Life at home isn't much better, as stepdad (Sam Robards) seems to be in serious denial about the collapse of his business, which is bleeding mum (Kate Capshaw) pretty much dry. The only light on the horizon is cutie loner Sally (Emma Roberts), who becomes an unlikely soulmate to George ...
Beyond the bittersweet script, the presence of Julia Roberts' cute niece and the charms of director Gavin Wiesen, the big attraction here for Highmore is most probably down to his favourite book being Salinger's Catcher In The Rye. George isn't all that far removed from Holden Caufield ...
"Yeah," nods Highmore. "I figured, you know, Catcher In The Rye has always eluded being adapted to film, so, the closest thing I was going to get to playing Holden Caufield was probably this. So, it was good fun to do." Of course, there are plenty of films that have, wittingly or unwittingly, tapped into the disaffected-verging-on-suicidal teen boy core of Catcher In The Rye -- from Harold & Maude to Igby Goes Down and the recent Submarine. Were there certain films Highmore discussed with his director?
"I wouldn't say there were any particular films, as such," he replies, after a pause. "It was more that mindset that we tried to represent in the most realistic way possible. And I think that Gavin and I felt that there were a lot of generic high school films now about that time in life, growing up and becoming a man, and they almost seemed to take the core emotions into a heightened sense of cinema reality, and they don't actually portray things how they really are. So, I think a really key element, in terms of our thinking, was to represent life and represent the truth of those moments, and I think people will hopefully appreciate that."
Gotcha. The fact that George is making that awkward leap into adulthood no doubt hit a nerve with Freddie. It's something the young actor needs to face in real life; might as well give it a dry run on screen. Highmore lets out a laugh.
"The main thing that I always look for with each new role is something different, a character that I haven't played before. It's never been a massive concern, how my career will progress. Luckily, I continued to do school, and now I'm attending university, so, I'm not sitting at home waiting for the next film to come up. I have a normal life outside of the films, which helps."
Having started acting at seven years of age Highmore was a star by his early teens.
Did he ever suffer a little vertigo? Can't always feel normal, being Johnny Depp's buddy ...
"I guess I never got too drawn into the film business," Freddie explains, "and I've managed to keep my normal life to go back to all the time. So, I never felt all that removed from the everyday."
To prove his remove from all that Hollywood glitz and glamour, Highmore has chosen to study languages. Instead of, you know, Red Carpet Etiquette or Dating Neurotic Starlets.
Fellow young egghead actors have had different experiences in college -- Natalie Portman breezed through; Emma Watson dropped out. Is it tough in college being famous?
"I guess everyone knows that you've done films," says Highmore, "but other people have done incredible things growing up. That's the thing that struck me about college -- everyone seems to have more than one string to their bow, and they're not just focused on one thing.
"At the same time, they know you've done films, but after a couple of days, that sinks in, and they treat you like everyone else. And I am like everyone else."
The Art Of Getting By hits cinemas on Friday.