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Elf Portrait, Arena (UK), January 2003
Interview Mike Hodgkinson, Photography by Jake Chessum
typed by Kerry of Orlando Obsession

Orlando Bloom is living the boy's own dream. Not only has he notched up all-action roles as a soldier, outlaw and the bow-wielding super-elf Legolas Greenleaf in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but off-set he's found time to master a few extreme sports. Not bad for a 25-year-old from Kent.

"I'm not constantly throwing myself out of aeroplanes," insists 25-year-old, Canterbury-born Orlando Bloom, attempting to put the record straight. "But I like to snowboard and I've always been into motorbikes. I guess I'm a bit of an adrenalin junkie and New Zealand is the place where they invented the bungee - I love that shit." The reason for accusations of speed freakery being levelled at Bloom stem from his time spent in New Zealand filming The Lord of the Rings trilogy. While fellow cast members relaxed sedately between having their furry feet applied, Bloom was busy launching himself off bridges.
"There was a memo that was sent round during filming saying, 'We're going down to Queenstown, it's the adventure capital of New Zealand, so please don't do anything stupid,' and I sort of ignored it," he confesses during a break from his next epic action fantasy, Pirates of the Caribbean, which he's filming on the Disney lot in Burbank, Los Angeles. "Within two hours I had thrown myself off the first bungee jump in the town and I was on my own, which is scary because you haven't got your mates goading you on and giving you the large one to make you do it."
These are the words of a man who, in 1999, after a three story fall from a drainpipe, faced the prospect of life in a wheelchair. He was saved from that fate by an operation which, miraculously, enabled him to walk out of hospital only 12 days after the accident.
"I was told I might not walk again. So, for about four days, I was contemplating that as a serious part of reality," he says. "Don't get me wrong. I'm terrified of standing on a ledge and jumping off, but you confront that fear and get over it and it empowers you in some way. When you're standing in front of a 150-ft drop with a piece of cord tied to your ankles, it's scary. I knew it was something that I would be afraid of but I really wanted to try it. I went mad for it."
Bloom also used spare time on the epic LOTR shoot for his debut attempts at surfing, sky-diving, white-water rafting on "some little board thing" and a rare form of stunt-based masochism called fly-by-wire. "I don't think of myself as an action kind of person," he maintains. "I know it comes across that I'm this mad kid who's into throwing himself off buildings but there's a little more going on that just that."

When you're christened with a name like Orlando Bloom (it's taken from Virginia Woolf's novel 'Orlando: A Biography') there's few professions where your moniker will sit comfortably without having the piss ripped out of you by your colleagues. From the playground to the office you would expect the sort of ribbing usually reserved for the fat kid or someone with a stutter. Which, perhaps, is why he chose a profession where such a memorable, stand-out title is foppishly applauded.
Bloom schooled at the National Youth Theatre and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, appearing in stage performances of Richard III and The Seagull. His first taste of acting on camera was on the wards of shock-gore-doctor-love-in Casualty.
"That was my first-ever job, playing a self-mutilator - a guy who cuts himself for attention. It gave me a bit of experience. I remember shooting it in Bristol, having a right laugh." Then came a one-liner cameo in the biopic Wilde. "I said something like, 'Are you looking for someone?' playing a rent boy and giving Stephen Fry the eye."
On Ridley Scott's controversial 2002 gunfire-riddled knees-up Black Hawk Down, Bloom earned his big-production spurs and, naturally enough, found he did not have to look too hard for an adrenalin fix. "I remember taking helicopter rides in the Black Hawk, those machines are so powerful, and we did this zero-gravity thing where they drop the helicopter in mid-flight. You freefall, and for a few seconds you're floating. There are no doors on these things, your feet are dangling out of the side and you're weightless. It's the most freaky thing ever - close to walking on the moon, probably. Talk about exhilarating," says Bloom, whose character Private Blackburn falls out of a helicopter, and in a bizarre life-imitating-art incident, breaks his back. "I had mentioned that had happened to me when I was up for the part. Who knows why one actor gets a job and another doesn't? I think it was just good timing that I happened to be there and I had had the experience - I mean, I was lucky."

Just like it is with Elijah and Sir Ian, Orlando has yet to see how his second portrayal of the lightning quick elf with the preposterous name, Legolas Greenleaf, "Prince of Mirkwood", appears on screen. After the first film's success, Bloom was singled out for praise, winning the MTV award for Breakthrough Male and chosen by the hormone-dripping girls of Teen People magazine as one of its "25 Hottest Stars Under 25". And he's confident his marksmanship with the bow in The Two Towers will ensure a whole new slate of admirers.
"I haven't seen it yet, actually, but the great thing about The Two Towers is that the major characters - and there are a lot of them - are now established", says Orlando, who originally auditioned for the part of Faramir, who appears in the second movie. "At the end of the first movie we all split so I go off on my own adventure with Aragorn at the helm, and Gimli. We're trying to save the lives of two hobbits and rescue them from the Uruk-Hai, who have taken them. There's a sequence where I slide down these stairs on a shield. They wired me up and I'm firing arrows as I slide down. I had a shield strapped to my feet and I had to kick it off at the bottom and leap into action."
"I become Action Elf on this movie. The bow was my signature weapon, but there's also some close combat stuff where I've got these two white knives and I get them wet, you know. Stunt coordinator Bob Anderson honed my fighting skills and I had a great stunt double called Morgan. He taught me most of my routines - showed me some really flashy moves. Most of those stunt people were amazing: black belts in everything."
For the extensive horseback sequences in The Two Towers, Bloom drew on his childhood experiences as a drifter on the not-so-high plains of Kent. "I've always loved riding and I used to hack around Canterbury as a kid. It wasn't really pony club - we'd just go out on horses. So I picked it up again in New Zealand and added a bit more of the style and the posture and the correct riding position. I learned to ride on around 30 different horses, and what you get from that is an understanding that each individual animal has to be treated with sensitivity so you have a mutual respect thing going."
There was at least one beast, though, which didn't appear to know the meaning of the word respect and during filming left Bloom on the deck with a broken rib. His more reliable companions were the hobbits. "I got on well with all of them," he says. "But I would normally be doing stuff with their doubles because of the height difference. We had this fantastic group of small actors. They'd get sprayed and masked up and double for the hobbits."
Weighing up the entire LOTR experience in the light of its massive popularity, Bloom is convinced that the genius of director Peter Jackson will fully emerge once the final episode has been seen and the entire vision digested. "Now that I've seen the pressure of time and money and everything else that goes into making a film, the more amazed and baffled I am at what Peter achieved. It was the way he held it together, his commitment to each and every character and his way of communicating to everyone. The fact that he didn't lose his mind is unbelievable. And he's still working on it. I've been off the film now for nearly two years and Peter is still in the cutting room."
Bloom's pointed ears are now in permanent storage and he will be seen without them in a handful of imminent releases. The first of these looks likely to be The Kelly Gang - about the life and criminal career of Australian-Irish outlaw Ned Kelly. "I play his best mate, Joe Byrne, the most educated of the gang and Ned's right hand man. He tries to keep a lid on Ned (played by Heath Ledger) who is fiery and impulsive. Again, I was riding horses and shooting guns."
Bloom will follow that with a comedy, The Calcium Kid, which was filmed in and around London. "It's a real working man's hero piece. I play a milkman who's a boxer. By a freak accident he gets a shot at the world title and he's got six days to prepare, but his harebrained manager gives him all the wrong advice. I did the boxing training when I was working on The Kelly Gang in Australia. Then I had a few weeks to get really buff and fit."
With Arena's shoot over, Bloom returns to the set to film more sequences for Pirates of the Caribbean, a swashbuckler based on the famous Disney ride about good versus evil pirates. It's directed by The Mexican's helmer Gore Verbinski and stars Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush and Kiera Knightly.
"Geoffrey mentioned this project to me when we were in Australia doing The Kelly Gang. It's a big action adventure with a lot of swordplay, scars and long hair. And I've been teamed up with Bob Anderson again, who was the sword master on Lord of the Rings. He's been teaching me fencing on this picture. You know, when I look at my career so far, on paper, it's amazing. I've got all these skills - horse riding, archery, sword fighting and to get the opportunity to play an elf, a soldier, a boxer and now a pirate - it's every boy's dream. Unbelievable."