At 14, Aussie Kodi Smit-McPhee’s career is fast gaining momentum. His latest role Let Me In is further proof of his potential.

His name doesn’t so much trip off the tongue as cause you to stumble over it. But we better get used to hearing about Kodi Smit-McPhee.

The 14-year-old from Melbourne is arguably on his way to becoming, if not the biggest, then certainly one of the most respected teen stars of his day. Having held his own alongside Eric Bana in Romulus, My Father and Viggo Mortensen in The Road, he now returns for the much-anticipated vampire tale, Let Me In.

Watch the Let Me In trailer here.

With his pale skin and widely set eyes lending him an almost otherworldly quality, you could be forgiven for thinking Smit-McPhee plays one of the vampires. In fact, he stars as Owen, a lonely New Mexico boy who gets his ass kicked by a trio of school bullies on a daily basis. Fortunately for him, Kick-Ass star Chloe Mortez is on hand to fight his corner. She plays Abby, an equally lonely teen who happens to be a bloodsucker.

After they meet in their local housing project, inevitably there’s a bit of puppy love – despite Abby warning Owen to stay away. “It’s like Romeo And Juliet!” the actor laughs. “But on the outside, it’s just them coping with their lives.”

Directed by Cloverfield’s Matt Reeves, Let Me In is a tale of adolescent growing pains, “with vampires thrown in,” according to Smit-McPhee. “They’re both lonely. They end up becoming friends, and she helps him with his life, and the other way around as well.”

If the plot sounds familiar, that’s because it’s a US remake of the stunning 2008 film from Sweden, Let The Right One In, which Smit-McPhee watched only after filming was complete. “It’s very intense,” he admits. “Our film is the same. It definitely has the same feeling.”

Indeed, Twilight this is not. Smit-McPhee reckons while the fans of the mega-hit franchise might plump to see Let Me In because of the vampire connection, “they’ll walk out” in their droves. “Ours is a bit more realistic. In Let Me In, it’s miserable being a vampire!”

To his credit, Smit-McPhee does not hide the fact that he’s become a ‘Twi-Hard’ himself. “I always used to say it was a girl thing and I didn’t like it. I was kinda judging a book by its cover. Then I went and saw it and I really liked it.” In truth, given all the adult-oriented projects he’s found himself in, it’s a relief to hear that he’s just like every other teenager.

Twilight aside, interests include riding his BMX, graffiti art and watching the movies of the suitably adolescent Will Ferrell.

Still, Hollywood is littered with child stars who have fallen by the wayside – everyone from Macaulay Culkin to Haley Joel Osment and Jake Lloyd – so it’s heartening to hear that Smit-McPhee has kept his feet firmly on the ground.

Partly, this comes from the fact his school friends seem unaffected by his sudden rise to fame. “It’s really funny. They don’t really care! I just go back and they’re like ‘Kodi, when did you get back?’ Which is good I guess.”

Then there’s the fact that he’s grown up in the business. While his older sister Sianoa is currently starring in HBO show Hung, his father Andy is also an actor, though devotes much of his time to helping his son evaluate scripts and roles.

“He’s with me all the time, and if not, we can go on Skype and talk,” he says. Not that it sounds like he needs him. Smit-McPhee turned down a small part opposite Hugh Jackman in Wolverine to make The Road. “I thought ‘That’s a whole shoot I could be in or just 15 minutes of Wolverine’.”

Smart lad. 

» Let Me In opens on November 5.

Related: Let Me In – review and trailer

– James Mottram