Haley Joel Osment: Fred Prouser/Reuters/NewsCom
Brian Hiatt
September 19, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

He’s played a dead-people-seeing psychic, an unblinking mama’s-boy robot, and a child martyr. But now Oscar-nominated actor Haley Joel Osment is taking on the most challenging role of all: a teenager. With his blond locks grown out into a surfer-boy shag, the 15-year-old already looks older (and has a deeper speaking voice) than he did last year when he filmed his new coming-of-age movie, ”Secondhand Lions.” The precociously polite and sincere Osment tells EW.com about avoiding the fate of Dickie Roberts, working with Robert Duvall and Michael Caine, and not wanting to be a teen idol.

After you did ”A.I.,” did you ever find it difficult to start blinking again?
[laughs] God, I bet there were times when I didn’t blink. It became such an unconscious thing on the set that I really didn’t have to pay attention to it to not blink. But I bet there were some times where I gave people some pretty weird stares, unconsciously.

You live a normal teenager’s life, going to a regular high school — but doesn’t some part of you want to be out partying and dating Hilary Duff or something?
Well, that’s the age right now, so you do get some of that even without being in the business. But I don’t feel like I’m missing too much. I’m not getting out of hand.

You’re not embracing the teen-star thing, either.
There haven’t been a lot of scripts where there have been many characters my age. I’m sure it’d be really fun to do something with an ensemble of people my age. But everyone has their own way of doing things. On the whole star thing — you never want to be just a star. It’s about the acting. All the publicity that comes out of a film is because of a film. So what you focus on is who you want to be as an actor.

How do you plan to avoid the ”Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star” scenario?
You hear the negative stories, so the good that comes out of it is you know how to avoid the bad things that can come out of this profession. You want a strong home base and a good family and good friends and stuff.

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