Freddie Highmore Talks 'Toast,' Working With Helena Bonham Carter And Growing Up
In "Toast," a film adaption of famed cook Nigel Slater's memoir, Nigel -- played by Freddie Highmore -- has been bewitched with food since childhood. After losing his rather cooking-challenged mother, his father hires a house keeper, Mrs. Potter, (Helena Bonham Carter), and she quickly takes her place in the home -- and his father's heart.
As Nigel ages, his love of cooking emerges from under the covers and it's a full-fledged war between step-son and step-mother. However, Highmore himself has grown tremendously since his 2005 debut in Tim Burton's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."
Hollywood has the reputation of ruining its child stars, yet the 19-year-old British star has managed to avoid that dangerous path, and he's remained relatively unfazed by celebrity culture.
In an interview with The Huffington Post, Highmore talks becoming Nigel Slater for "Toast," having his first on screen gay kiss and growing up Hollywood.
Now, because you're playing a famed chef Nigel Slater in the film, I have to ask: Are you a good cook?
I wish I could say yes, like, 'Oh, I'm a really good cook, and I made all of that on set,' but I'm really not that good at all. I think doing this film has made me realize how difficult it is to cook something fantastic. I always figured that you could follow the recipe and be fine, but there seems to be a certain amount of skill there. You have to feel the cooking, that's what they say. I tried to follow the recipe for one of the lemon meringue pies. Helena and I had a mock cook-off before we started filming to try and get into character, but I just found it really tricky. I followed all of the directions, measured everything out and it didn't quite work. Every recipe was like, add a pinch of this or a dash of that. What does that mean? You just have to feel it, but I don't have that skill, I'm afraid.
This isn't your first time working with Helena Bonham Carter. In fact, she tends to play your mom quite a lot! What was it like working with her again?
It was brilliant! She's one of the people who I look to as a mother-figure on set. She made sure everything was okay for me, so I always enjoy getting to work with her. This time, it was quite fun to be her enemy as well [laughs]. When you have such a great relationship with someone, it's quite sun to go on to set and pretend that's not the case. It was all good fun, and she's such a fantastic actress, that it made everything a lot easier.
For the first time in your career, you play a gay character, and your character has his first gay kiss in the film, and it was this moment of clarity for him. What was that experience like?
It's always slightly different than how it looks on camera. We were surrounded by cameras and people watching, and half of the time, you're worried about being on the right mark, so it's never as intimate as it appears. You kind of just get on with it and throw yourself into the character. As always, with acting, you can't be too self-conscious. You shouldn't care about what people are thinking about you at the time because they're not caring about you, they're caring about the character.
You've sort of grown up in front of our eyes. You got your big break at 13, and now you're at university, right?
Yes, I started my first term last October, and I just started my second term, and then I have three years left. It allows me to put off my final decision of what I want to do with my life [laughs]. I'm not entirely sure what I want to do for the rest of my life.
Would you want to continue acting?
I'd love to carry on at the moment. I think it would be fantastic if I was able to keep doing movies, but at the same time, it's nice to know that when I graduate from Cambridge that I'll have the opportunity to do whatever I want to. That's always been something that is very important to me, not making the decision to act too early and to carry on with my education. I always try to keep acting relatively separate from going to school. That's worked quite well for me. It's important to have a bit of a break from acting.
What are you studying at the moment?
I'm studying Arabic and Spanish, so that's going all right [laughs]. I knew that I wanted to carry on with languages, and I had studied Spanish before. I decided that I wanted to try and learn a new one that might be different type of challenge, so I went with Arabic. It's been really rewarding for me. It's completely different than what people expect.
You've managed to make a smooth transition from child star to leading man. What advice would you give to a young actor?
Definitely have an open mind. It's important to keep your options open, and to not take things too personally. And at the same time, remember that a lot of it is down to luck. I've been really fortunate to work with some fantastic actors, but if you don't get that opportunity or you didn't get that breakout role, it's not your fault. Something will come your way. It's important to be persistant, but at the same time, to keep your options open. Don't get too set on becoming an actor at an early age. I think that's where some people get into trouble. Acting becomes their life. I don't want that.
You've played a lot of endearing teenagers, but what would be a dream role for you? If you could choose anything, what would you want to play?
I think a killer would be a fun one to play. It would be something completely opposite of a sweet, little kid. In some ways, I think that it would work quite well. If you didn't know, you wouldn't quite expect me to be that person who ended up killing everyone in the end [laughs]. So that could be a very different role for me, but who knows what will come up. We'll have to see.
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