Finding a definitive answer to this question is impossible, both actors brought a bit of charm to the role and managed to make it their own. Also it is not fair to judge the actors on the differences on their performances as the character that Freddie Highmore plays is a younger version of the character Perkins played, there is also the fact that Bates Motel is set a long time after the film Psycho so Norman is being raised in a different time period which is arguably more difficult to get away with murders.
To effectively answer this question we have to consider two separate factors: the psychotic phases of their personalities and the relationship they appear to have with their mother. The film version of Bates has passed the stage where medication can prevent his mental illness and his mother has died, other than her personality in him. The television version of Bates is at the beginning if his psychotic phases and lives with his very alive and overbearing mother.
Although in the film Norman’s mother was dead he still has a relationship with her in his head. Due to his multiple personality disorder his head developed a separate personality for his mother, there are some stages in the film where Norman is essentially keeping a conversation going with himself with both personalities talking to each other. It gets to the stage that the mother side of the brain puts a dress and a wig on to look more like a woman. By the end of the film Norman does not exist, the mother part of his personality has managed to take over completely. All of Norman’s psychotic phases in the film are actually the mother side if him.
Anthony Perkins does a fantastic job keeping up the illusion in the film. Because the Norman side of his brain wants so badly to lead a normal life he manages to keep a cool head, even when cleaning up the blood and body from the motel room like he has done it a hundred times before so he could carry on living his life in peace and when an investigator comes to ask about the guest who got killed by his mother he is able to keep calm and not give anything away, when the investigator returns Norman’s mother side of his brain is forced to kill him too and once again Perkins manages to show both the psychotic and calm sides of Norman extremely well.
In the TV show Freddie Highmore manages to portray the teenage stage of Norman Bates life in exactly the way we would imagine Anthony Perkins would have if given the chance. He manages to capture the same balance between calm and psychotic that Perkins did at the same time as making the role his own which is a real talent if you ask me. With his mother there is an unusual sexual tension between the characters that Highmore and Vera Farmiga manage to play so well with out it becoming too awkward for the viewer.
Highmore and Perkins both bring the same creepy, but sweet charm of the character to the screen in almost exactly the same way with out their performances becoming too similar to the other. I can’t choose between the two actors because the truth is they are both as good as each other. My mind may change after another season of Bates Motel but I seriously doubt my mind will be changed at this stage.
What do you think?
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