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Kodi Smit-McPhee gets a close-up look at his character from the animation Paranorman.

Sixteen year-old Aussie actor Kodi Smit-McPhee is anything but a babe in the Holly-woods.

He debuted at 10 playing the son of Eric Bana's suicidal father in Romulus, My Father. At 12, he survived a cannibal-infested post-apocalypse as Viggo Mortensen's son in The Road. At 14, he played a boy dying of cancer in Matching Jack and he fell for a teenage vampire in Let Me In.

After so many heavy roles and such adult subject matter, the polite, confident and happy-go- lucky lad sees the humour in his voice breaking while voicing the lead character in the animated comedy ParaNorman - his first PG-rated film.

"It was hilarious and embarrassing," Smit-McPhee laughs from Los Angeles, where he moved five years ago with his father. The rest of his family joined them three years ago.

"I was having such a great time and then my voice started to turn. Halfway through I got my braces off and my voice started to drop. It was kind of a challenge, but I struggled through."

In ParaNorman, the second stop-motion 3-D animation from the LAIKA studio after Coraline, Smit-McPhee voices Norman, a lonely 11-year-old boy who speaks to ghosts in his spooky town. When a centuries-old witch's curse is about to come true, only he can stop a zombie plague from rising from the dead.

Despite the challenge of his warbling voice, the likable lad got to work with Anna Kendrick, John Goodman and Casey Affleck. Yet that seems to be one of the only challenges the gifted boy wonder has faced - and met - in a young career.

The son of journeyman Australian actor Andy McPhee (who now stars in hit US series Sons of Anarchy), Kodi was literally born into acting.

"One day, Dad asked me if I wanted to do a short film. I really liked doing that and I started moving up the scales a bit."

While he never went to acting school, he was coached by his father and the rest came naturally. He has a personal tutor on every set and another tutor at home.

Sounding like a confident but still excitable young man, he admits the experience of working on such adult-themed films at a young age has caused him to mature quicker than most.

"It may sound cocky but I definitely think so," he muses. "I grew up in this dramatic world of acting and smoke and cameras. Getting into it at such a young age, I'm very used to it."

While filming The Road, for instance, he was fully aware of the concepts of rape, torture and cannibalism - even the possibility of shooting his father.

With his real-life father as his mentor and guide, Smit-McPhee dealt with it maturely and openly.

"It was gruelling but it was such a great experience working with Viggo. I was completely aware of everything going on. I was acting and I was doing what I love to do. I was very grateful."

While just watching those films may give most kids nightmares, Smit-McPhee says none of his characters affected him in any negative ways.

"It can be hard but none of them haunts me. I work hard on every character, so each one is special to me in a different way. I can't wait to see what is down the road."

What is down the road are four more films. He plays a boy genius in The Wilderness of James (with Virginia Madsen) and a young bird lover in A Birder's Guide to Everything (with Ben Kingsley).

He learnt to ride a horse, sword fight and "dance old school" while filming Romeo and Juliet (with Hailee Steinfeld), but still has a hard time explaining the concept of the sci-fi epic The Congress (with Robin Wright).

Apart from that, the talented, happy-go-lucky teenager enjoys "the normal things".

"Just chilling with friends, skateboarding, riding bikes. I have got into a bike world called Fixed Gears. I do a ride every month with 3000 people, so that's something I really look forward to.

"I'm just taking it one step at a time. Now that I am older, Dad is letting me have more control of doing my own things, so it's cool having a bit more freedom."

'I was having such a great time and then my voice started to turn. Halfway through I got my braces off and my voice started to drop.'