17 year old McPhee, brother of Sianoa Smit-McPhee, starred in Nightmares and Dreamscapes in 2006 as a child performer.
“Dad got me into it, so I was experimenting and having some fun. So I guess I’m here now,” he tells TV Tonight.
“I got three episodes but I couldn’t be in the third because I had already been in two.
“My sister is living with us in LA. My father Andy McPhee is an actor, but my mum isn’t, so she keeps us all sane. And I have a little brother.
“I have a love not only for acting but expression itself and I would love to make the transition into Directing one day, and writing, shooting, making music –I just love Arts!
“I never went to acting school it was just (learning from) my dad, and to tell the truth he’s the best actor I know. He taught me everything, so I’m really grateful.
“But now he lets me do my own thing which is cool, taking it and making my own.”
He has already racked up an impressive list of credits including Let Me In, The King, Romulus My Father, Dead Europe, Romeo and Juliet, Maya the Bee Movie and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was a big studio film, shot in Vancouver and mostly New Orleans. It was the biggest thing I have worked on and definitely a different experience to this or an indie film.
“I guess you could call it a love story, given that it’s family”
In Nine’s Gallipoli miniseries Smit-McPhee plays the central character, teenager Tolly Johnson -a role which required preliminary military training.
“He’s one of the many stories of the kids you hear about who was underage and sneaks into the army, in this case to be with his brother. I guess you could call it a love story, given that it’s family, but seeing what they went through and what was unexpected,” he explains.
“At boot camp we were trying to sponge up a lot of information from the generals, and I did a lot of online research about young boys in the army. I think the important thing is to get the ‘little things’ in a TV series that people who know about Gallipoli will pick up. So hopefully we pull it off.
“Most of my scenes are with Sammy, playing my brother Bevan. It’s about our relationship together and how they hold themselves together. It’s also about the young group of Bevan, Tolly, Cliff, Dave, Chook, 2 Bob.”
But he admits to not watching Peter Weir’s 1981 film of the same name, in order to avoid including any similarities in his performance.
“I think it’s smart to hold off and keep the mind fresh, creatively. But I think we’re doing some very special and unique for Australia.”
Gallipoli continues 9pm Monday on Nine.