Photo By Takashi Seida
Jared Grace (Freddie Highmore) discovers a forbidden manuscript written by his great-great-uncle in "The Spiderwick Chronicles."

NEW YORK — Freddie Highmore is all long limbs and nervous energy — teenage electricity that doesn't quite know where to go. In "The Spiderwick Chronicles," which is based on the popular children's book series and opened Thursday, he puts that energy to good use, starring — and co-starring — as twin brothers, Jared and Simon Grace.

Soft-spoken, polite and oh-so-British, he's been around long enough to be an old pro at press tours. He played the title role in Tim Burton's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," with Johnny Depp. He also performed with Depp, Kate Winslet and Dustin Hoffman in "Finding Neverland," and with Robin Williams in "August Rush."

Throw in French director Luc Besson's "Arthur and the Invisibles," and Jean-Jacques Arnaud's "Two Brothers," shot in Cambodia, and you've got an impressive resume for a 15-year-old.

His father accompanies him on film shoots, while mom, a talent agent, lives at home in London with Freddie's younger brother. The young actor flew into the U.S. on Super Bowl Sunday and sat down with Joseph V. Amodio two days later.

Question: What was harder: doing an American accent, or coming up with two different voices for the twins?

Answer: Both were a challenge. The American accent is something I'd done before in "August Rush." I just tried to talk as much as possible (like that) so it became second nature and I wouldn't have to worry about it. But I also wanted to get a little difference between the twins' voices. One lower, one higher, to reflect their personalities.

Question: Are you more like Jared or Simon?

Answer: Somewhere in the middle. (He smiles.) I wouldn't go running around, smashing holes in walls. (Like Jared) But he's got a good drive to get things done. Simon is more an internal guy.

Question: What do you think of New York? You're here on a big day.

Answer: I was here for three months filming, so it's nice to be back. And the Giants won, so it's all good. We clicked on the TV earlier, when the parade was starting.

Question: As excited as we get here over football, I guess it's only a fraction of how crazy you folks get over soccer.

Answer: (He laughs.) We like our soccer. I support Arsenal, our local team in London. I've got season tickets. Soccer's a good sport. It's funny how we say "football" and you say "soccer." It just seems that your "football" is with your hands, and that always makes me laugh. It should be the other way around.

Question: Do you play soccer at home?

Answer: Whenever I'm not filming I play with friends in the park. Or at school. I think it's important to stay a normal kid whenever I'm not acting. I'm pretty grounded. I've got a good family to support me. So I'm not going to go off the rails or anything. People say. "Oh, you're gonna end up like other child actors." I don't think so.

Question: What are your favorite subjects?

Answer: I like the languages, French, Spanish ... and Latin, but that's not — you can't really go anywhere and converse in Latin. I'm OK at French.

Question: With all the traveling you do for movies, do you ever get to take family vacations?

Answer: We went to CambodiAnswer: (After filming) for two months, we took time off and took a boat ride around these deserted islands, caught fish and cooked them on the beach for days. It was amazing. (One of our guides) gave us these tips, as we're wading through the jungle wilderness. He's like, if you and your mate are being chased by elephants, you should run in zigzags, because that's your best chance of escape. If you keep running in zigzags, the elephant's not sure which way to go and gets confused. But if you end up being chased by a tiger, you should trip your mate — 'cause that's your only chance for escape.

Question: Well, so now you know — that's a good thing.

Answer: Yeah. And now you know, too.

Question: You have a birthday coming up. You'll turn 16 ... on Valentine's Day.

Answer: The day the film comes out. So it's a big day. I'll spend it with my family. ... If there's one bad thing about doing films, it's that you miss your family.

Question: Your dad travels with you on these film shoots, right?

Answer: Yeah. We filmed for four months in Montreal. My mum and younger brother would come out and visit, but it's not the same. Everything else has been great fun. I think if I ever got to a point where I wasn't enjoying myself, I should stop and move over. You know ... thousands of people would want to be in the situation I'm in and take my place. I'm lucky to be here.


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