A&E casts ex-child star Freddie Highmore as Norman Bates

Dave Nemetz
Yahoo! TV

Freddie Highmore is the latest big name to check into "Bates Motel." The former child star will take on the iconic role of hotel proprietor (and mama's boy) Norman Bates in A&E's new "Psycho" prequel, set to air next year.

The 20-year-old U.K. native shot to fame on the big screen alongside Johnny Depp in "Finding Neverland" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Here, he joins Oscar nominee Vera Farmiga ("Up in the Air"), who signed on last month to play Norman's mom, Norma. But don't expect a straight remake of Hitchcock's 1960 classic. (Gus Van Sant already tried that, and it was terrible.) "Bates Motel" will be set in present-day and show us Norman's life as a young man living with his dear old mother, who executive producer Carlton Cuse ("Lost") describes as "very hot." (In other words, expect lots of creepy psychosexual tension, a la "American Horror Story.") 

Highmore won a slew of awards for his role as troubled boy Peter in Depp's 2004 drama "Finding Neverland." Depp then personally recommended the young actor to Tim Burton for the lead role in 2005's "Chocolate Factory." Depp was quick to praise his young co-star, telling Empire UK in 2004, "In 'Chocolate Factory,' Freddie brings a real sense of the otherworldly. He's a pure being, and that same innocence comes through in 'Neverland.' What I love about him is he's much more interested in playing football. Freddie really doesn't think in terms of the long haul. That's impressive. I can empathize with that."

And Highmore returns the favor, speaking glowingly of his A-list mentor. "People build up a picture of Johnny Depp as being some sort of weird pirate character," Highmore told The Independent in 2010. "In reality, he's incredibly nice... one of the nicest people I've ever met. We meet up whenever we're in the same country." Hmmm... so they're still in touch. Any chance Highmore can rope Depp into making a cameo as Norman's dad? We'd book a room at the "Motel" to see that.