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Freddie Highmore, 12

Film: Finding Neverland

Why: His raw, emotional portrayal of Peter Davies, the inspiration for J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, has drawn critical attention, as has his ability to hold his own with Johnny Depp.

Quote: While British soccer team Arsenal’s broken 49-game winning streak is the most upsetting thing to Highmore, that game wasn’t the motivation behind the scenes that required a depth of emotion challenging for adult actors and virtually unseen in child thesps. “If you think about it, if your mum’s dying and your dad’s dead it is quite upsetting,” he says, very matter-of-factly. Indeed, he found the planes continuously flying overheard during outdoor scenes to be more trying than having to produce tears.

Describing when he got to throw temper tantrums for the camera, Highmore betrays his age: “It was really fun smashing up the playhouse. In the end they said, ‘Oh, we’ve got to do it again, and I’m thinking, ‘Yes! I get to smash it up again!’ ”

When Highmore raves about being suspended on wires from the ceiling, walking the plank on the pirate ship and the practical jokes Depp played on the set, it seems that being a child actor is as much play as it is work.

Highmore, who next plays alongside Depp as Charlie in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” admits he’s not sure what he wants to be when he grows up. For now, he says, “I hope that I’m sort of a normal boy.”

What’s next: Charlie in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” reteaming with Depp

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