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More common than those sensational downhill trajectories into rehab or prison, however, are the child stars who quietly fade away as adulthood encroaches, fodder for endless "Where are they now?
" articles – the Fred Savages, Mark Lesters and Peter Ostrums. As a lad he played Charlie Bucket in the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, but is now a successful equine vet working in upstate New York.
It was not just about what I wanted to do, because four months away in Montreal, for example, for The Spiderwick Chronicles [the 2008 fantasy in which Highmore played twins], it does affect everyone.
My dad usually comes out with me and my mum usually stays with my brother, so it's quite a long time to split up the family." Indeed, the Highmores are a close-knit family – they share an Arsenal family season ticket – but with the limelight firmly on his older brother, is 15-year-old Bertie Highmore just a tiny bit, well, jealous?
Playing the obsessively house-proud Mrs Potter, polishing and cooking her way into the marital bed, is Helena Bonham Carter – the third time the actress has portrayed Highmore's mother.
"She's my stepmum this time," corrects Highmore, who had filial roles opposite Bonham Carter in his debut film, Women Talking Dirty, aged seven, and again in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Obviously, when you get on so well with someone and then you have to dislike them on set..." Bonham Carter is part of a tight web of associations for Highmore.
That might change a bit now with me leaving home, but before, it would affect the whole family: my brother, my mum and my dad – we'd all discuss it.They didn't really see you differently; it was like you'd gone away on holiday or something." Highmore was a hard-working scholar, unlike the character he plays in his next film, Homework, which was shot earlier this year in New York, where he shared a rented apartment with father.("We had cooked meals instead of room service, which was great," he says, a sentiment I suspect few chaps his age would share.) In this coming-of-age drama co-starring Emma Roberts (Julia's niece), Highmore plays a high-school slacker who strikes up an unlikely friendship with a girl he has admired from afar."It should definitely be different to other things I've done, so I'm excited about that," he says."It's definitely older." He has also been in South Africa filming Master Harold and the Boys, a drama set in the Apartheid era, co-starring Ving Rhames. Highmore did well enough in his A-levels to win a place at Cambridge, and he is currently nearing the end of his first term studying Spanish and Arabic at Emmanuel College.