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Finding Fame In 'Neverland'

It's not often that a young actor comes along and commands the respect of colleagues and critics alike. But at the tender age of 12, Freddie Highmore has done just that.

He co-stars with Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet, in the "Finding Neverland," which is based on the life of J.M. Barrie, creator of "Peter Pan."

"He's a sad child and he's thinking about his dad most of the time," Freddie tells The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler. "He's probably the most important person in his life, even though he isn't around."

Set in early 1900s London, this is the story of how Scottish playwright and author James M. Barrie (Depp) struggled to bring to the stage for the first time a play called "Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up", which was inspired by his friendship with his neighbors, the Davies brothers, George, Jack, Michael and Peter, and their dying mother, Sylvia (Winslet).

As Barrie found himself becoming a surrogate father and role model to the boys, and comfort to his dying neighbor, he was inspired to write a play about a magical place where people never grow up or die or have any worries - a Never-Neverland. (Actor Dustin Hoffman plays American stage producer Charles Frohman, Barrie's best friend and main financial backer.)

"Peter doesn't doesn't like Barrie coming in and taking over that role as father, so he tries to push him out. But, I think, in the end he accepts him as a family member," Freddie explains.

Asked what he thinks of working with Depp and Winslet, Freddie says, "I looked at them as normal people and they treat you just normally. And they don't treat you any differently just because they are who they are. It's fantastic to be able to work with them."

But he did encounter some trouble filming a particular sad scene.

Says Freddie, "I'm not too sad. But it was quite hard doing the last scene on the bench because we were surrounded by all these Johnny Depp fans screaming, 'We love you, Johnny.' I'm trying to sort of get into my character and Johnny, too. And there are all these screaming noises around us. It was very weird."

Freddie says he's handling all of the attention he is getting by staying as much as a normal boy as he can.

"I play soccer with my friends in the park on the weekend," Freddie says. "I've got really good friends, so I'm lucky."

Freddie just finished work with Depp on "Charlie And The Chocolate Factory," which he pronounced "brilliant" and said he enjoyed it because "I got to work with Johnny again."

Next for the young actor is studying. "In a few weeks, I've got my school exams to get into my next school," he says. "It's back to being a kid, I guess."

Freddie Highmore's filmography:

  • 2005, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" - Character: Charlie Bucket
  • 2004, "Five Children and It" - Character: Robert
    "Finding Neverland" - Character: Peter Llewelyn Davies
    "Two Brothers" -Character: Young Raoul
  • 2002, TV - "I Saw You" - Character: Oscar Bingley
  • 2001, TV - "Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story" - Character: Son at Playground
  • 2000, TV - "Happy Birthday Shakespeare" - Character: Steven Green
  • 1999, "Women Talking Dirty" - Character: Sam