In Toast, an adaptation by the Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall of Nigel Slater's memoir of family and food in the West Midlands of the 1960s, Highmore plays the future cookery writer from his mid-teens through to catering college.
Slater's enjoyable autobiography is almost Proustian, if you substitute Jammie Dodgers for madeleines; it tells, through the cooking and confectionery of the era, the story of his mother's premature death and the takeover of the family home by the cleaner – and soon-to-be stepmother – the hostile Mrs Potter.
Things became a good deal more serious with Finding Neverland.
The story of JM Barrie's friendship with the family which inspired Peter Pan, it was an international hit, and the 12-year-old Highmore had cinema-goers worldwide blubbing in their seats and award-givers lining up to honour him. It came out two years after we'd filmed it so there was this break, and perhaps that helped as well." In the meantime, young Freddie got on with his schooling – at a primary school in Hampstead Garden Suburb in north London, then at the fee-paying Highgate School.
("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 a not-altogether-lost world of what are now no doubt retro-chic victuals – salad cream, beetroot in vinegar, Angel Delight, Spangles, Sherbet Fountains and bars of Caramac.
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.
Freddie Highmore & Emma Roberts - The Art of Getting By Interview Freddie Highmore and Emma Roberts immediately hit it off when they started working together on their latest film, The Art of Getting By.
Show business is infamously littered with child stars gone bad.
"That was a while back," he says now, as if reviewing a long-distant youth instead of a mere six years ago. "I went to the same [secondary] school all the way though," he says. You spend a few months away every year, but when you go back it would be the same people, rather than having to make new friends.
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.
And they just want you to be able to turn up every day and carry on working.