Emma Roberts and Freddie Highmore on Their New Film, Summer Reading, and Teen Lushes

emma_freddie_aogb630.jpgIn their new film The Art of Getting By (nee Homework, an alum of this year's Sundance film Festival), Freddie Highmore and Emma Roberts play George and Sally, a pair of New York City high-schoolers brought together by George's prodigious senior-year slacking and Sally's... well, she's not sure. Their attempts to figure each other out result in a cascade of revelations, misunderstandings, an especially drunken New Year's Eve, awkward sleepovers, love triangles and will-they-or-won't-they scenarios anchored in George's endangered graduation plans. Roberts and Highmore spoke with Movieline this week about all of it, plus Roberts's summer reading regimen to date and what adults apparently don't know about modern teen drinking.

Let's start at the beginning: How did you two wind up working together?

ER: Freddie was already attached when I read it. He was the only one attached. I found the idea very intriguing because obviously I've seen his work from when he was younger. So I thought, "That's cool." And then I read it and loved it; I thought it a real script. I felt it wasn't contrived, even though it's a coming-of-age story and we've all seen coming-of-age stories. I just thought it was really original.

FH: I spoke to Gavin [Wiesen, the film's writer-director] -- I guess it was a couple years before we started shooting. I'd read the script, and even then you could easily identify with it. I think, for me, it was the chance to work with somebody on something that really represents what growing up is about. There are so many high school romance films that have all this teenaged, heightened emotion. That's not how it happens. I think this portrays life as a teenager.

It portrays life as a very specific kind of teenager: A teenager growing up in New York City in this modern-ish era. How did you, being European, adjust to and refine that extra level of sensibility?

FH: You know, it's interesting. New York is like another character, almost. But at the same time, those core issues that George and Sally have to deal with common in the whole world: The feeling of being in love, or feeling unloved at times, how you become an active person as you get older and start to make decisions -- instead of being passive and letting the world go by. It's choosing who you want to be. I guess that's a worldwide issue that everyone deals with. This is just a very specific context that I found interesting.

The two of you didn't have conventional educations or upbringings, either. To the extent actors draw from personal experience, how did that inform these characters -- if at all?

ER: I think as far as the coming-of-age aspect of it -- you're getting to an age where you're coming into yourself and finding out who you are and you begin to realize you need to figure out who you are for yourself, not for your friends or your family or your teachers. You kind of need to figure that out for you. That I found really interesting. I think everyone's been through that. I know I've been through that.

FH: Yeah, there are those times you've been through the conflicts that George has to deal with, so you kind of tend to react perhaps in the same way he does. You can easily imagine yourself in that situation.

And these kids are in a pretty sophisticated, independent-minded, adult headspace, too -- which I'd also think you'd relate to, considering your careers and backgrounds.

ER: I think as you get older, you tend to think of teenagers as really young. In this movie they're portrayed as they actually are, which is, "Hey, we're people." As much as you're a kid in some ways, you worry about the same things that you worry about as you get older. You see things in a way that you realize the adults see the same. They're dealing with just as many issues as the kids are. So I like that the younger cast is portrayed as mature, because I feel that's how most kids are at that age. Or they're becoming that way, at least.

But what New York is this? These kids hang out at bars go to a club for New Year's Eve.

ER: Did you grow up in New York?

I didn't.

ER: That's why you... [Laughs]

Oh, please. I have 30-year-old friends who are carded everywhere they go. Are we talking about a great fake-ID culture, or is this like some parallel-universe New York, or...

ER: No. It's totally accurate.


ER: Definitely.

How so? What's your experience?

ER: I'm not sharing anything. I'm just saying! As a movie, it's completely accurate. At least to my generation of kids in New York.

FH: I'd say it's slightly different in the UK just because you can drink at 18. But definitely at 16, people are drinking. I imagine it's like that in the US as well. Not everybody waits until they turn 21.

Of course. It's this New York, though.

FH: At the same time, [the director] doesn't try to glamorize it. He doesn't say, "It's great to drink!" He says, "This is what happens." And again, that's a real interpretation of kids growing up -- which I think people will like -- as opposed to saying, "Oh, we'll pretend none of this actually happened."

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