NEW YORK — When Freddie Highmore had to learn how to convincingly play guitar like a child prodigy holding the instrument for the first time in "August Rush,” he studied the work of a groundbreaking Oklahoma guitarist.
"There was this guy called Michael Hedges, actually, that we looked at a bit,” said Highmore, 14. "He played in that style, that sort of slapping style.”
Hedges, a native of Enid who died in a car accident in 1997, was renowned for his use of alternate tunings and his percussive slapping of strings to create unusual bell tones from his steel-string guitar. Highmore, who previously appeared in "Finding Neverland” and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” was inspired by Hedges' melodic, non-traditional style.
"And we thought it would be interesting to use that for August,” he said. "Because, realistically speaking, if there's a guy that doesn't really know how to play a guitar and he's a musical genius, he wouldn't be able to know, ‘This is G and this is E' immediately, that he would be able to get some sound out of it in his unique way.”
"August Rush” is fantasy about a young orphan's quest to find the parents he lost as an infant and the discovery of his extraordinary inherited musical talent. The role required the British actor to master an American accent, but he also had to display proficiency in several musical disciplines. He said he wanted his movements and techniques to look genuine — the experts would know if he didn't get it right.
"It was funny,” Highmore said. "The conducting was probably the hardest thing that I had to do, because it seems like it would be easy, just waving your hand around and it wouldn't make much difference either way, whether you moved it left or right.