The star of August Rush and The Golden Compass talks about playing twin brothers.
Almost fifty years after Hayley Mills famously portrayed twin siblings in Disney's classic The Parent Trap, Freddie Highmore aims to repeat the feat (albeit with the help of exponentially superior visual effects) this week in The Spiderwick Chronicles, Mark Waters' (Just Like Heaven, Freaky Friday) big screen adaptation of Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black's popular series of children's fantasy novels.
Spiderwick's story, which can best be described as a fairy tale with modern touches, involves a newly single mom who relocates her brood to a decrepit home once owned by their famously eccentric greet-great-uncle. But their new home isn't just some old run-down house, of course; it's a doorway to a fantastical world of ogres, goblins and other mythical creatures.
Highmore plays twin protagonists Jared and Simon Grace. Faced with their parents' recent separation, the two brothers have very different reactions to the split. "Genetically they're the same person, so in a sense it's just interesting to look at how they reacted to different situations as they’ve been growing up," says Highmore. "The way they’ve reacted to their parents’ divorce is key. Simon is perhaps more internal, but still just as hurt."
Simon is thoughtful and introspective, while Jared is bold and rambunctious. Highmore describes his own personality as "somewhere in between" the two characters. "Jared's got perhaps some anger issues which I would hope not to have," he jokes. "I'm not going to smash holes in my kitchen. But you'd like to have that drive that he has, to fight for his family and go for what he believes in."
Still just a teenager (he turns 16 on Valentine's Day, which also happens to be when Spiderwick opens), Highmore has a remarkably diverse resume, having recently appeared in the The Golden Compass, August Rush and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. His next role, however, is perhaps his most challenging yet: high school student. "I'm revising for exams I've got to take in May and June," he declares.
Content to focus on his education for the time being, Highmore currently has no upcoming film projects on his schedule. When he does get back to work, he hopes to explore some darker roles. "It would be kind of boring to play the same ones over and over again," says Highmore. "It would be interesting just to play different things, perhaps play a bad guy one time or someone really, really nasty."
The Spiderwick Chronicles opens nationwide on February 14th.