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Elf-made Man, canada.com, December 15, 2003
By Barrett Hooper, National Post

Everything Orlando Bloom knows about filmmaking he learned during the three years he spent playing Legolas. 'It was, like, Here, have a career'

A rather suspect pair of bright yellow boxer shorts are sprouting above the waistband of Orlando Bloom's blue jeans. Is this the undergarment of choice for Hollywood's new favourite buckler of swashes?

There's little about Bloom to suggest his meteoric rise from The Lord of the Rings' pointy-eared pretty boy to Hollywood's leading actor-at-arms was any more thought out than today's wardrobe.

Because while his name may mean "famous through the land," as his mother told him, it's a moniker more inclined toward gracing a perfume bottle than a movie marquee. His face, framed by dark curls and handsome in the Byronic sense, seems better suited to a Gap ad. And he's a rather tender-looking 5-feet-9 -- tall by Hollywood standards but not quite the stature of Errol Flynn, the devilish Tasmanian in whose footsteps Bloom appears to be following. Although he is desperately trying to pack on about 20 pounds of muscle for his starring role in the Crusades epic Kingdom of Heaven. "I just gotta eat loads because I haven't got the right metabolism," he says.

Indeed, in person Bloom hardly seems capable of the heart-swooning feats of derring-do performed by his on-screen alter egos.

Slouched in his chair at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons, Bloom speaks in a slightly scuffed English accent with flickers of his new-found So-Cal success -- he stretches a few extra syllables out of "cool," for example. A self-professed adrenalin junkie, he gets a much greater rush from surfboards and bungee cords than broadswords and bows and arrows, and he has the scars to prove it. "I've broken my nose, both legs, my wrist, fingers, toes, some ribs when I fell off a horse during filming in New Zealand, cracked my skull three times, and I broke my back once in a fall and they thought I wouldn't walk again," he says, ticking his injuries off on his fingers with gleeful matter-of-factness.

Nevertheless, if there's a dragon that requires vanquishing, Bloom's your knight in celluloid armour.

Since making his film debut in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring two years ago, the 26-year-old played a worthy second fiddle to Johnny Depp in this summer's box-office winner Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. And he has more historical adventures on the way: Kingdom of Heaven, which goes into production next month; a Pirates of the Caribbean sequel; and Troy, based on Homer's Iliad. In it Bloom plays Paris, the prince of Troy, who steals the beautiful Helen away from her husband, the king of Sparta. Brad Pitt plays Achilles, leading a thousand ships to bring her back.

"I love history, stepping back to inhabit a different time, and I really love the costumes that are involved in acting; they're a really great aid, whether a suit of armour or a robe, a bow and arrow, it all informs what you do. They're a useful way of transforming, becoming different characters," says Bloom.

An imaginative child who quickly realized that "I could be Superman or I could be Paul Newman in The Hustler or I could be Daniel Day Lewis's character in The Last of the Mohicans," Bloom knew he wanted to be an actor from an early age.

At 16, he joined the National Youth Theatre in London, which led to his attending London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Two days before graduation, he landed a role future actors will grow up wanting to play -- Legolas Greenleaf, a vaguely androgynous warrior elf (typical dialogue: "There is a fell voice on the air") out to help hobbit Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) save Middle-earth in Peter Jackson's US$400-million adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy novels. "This was three years in front of the camera with a cast and crew that taught me everything there is about making films," says Bloom. "It was, like, 'Here, have a career.' "

In addition to opening doors in Hollywood, the films -- the third and final chapter, The Return of the King, opens Wednesday -- have in turn made Bloom a bit of a fantasy figure himself. He receives a large pile of fan mail every day, is the subject of a growing number of Web shrines, and while the other Rings resident hottie, Viggo Mortensen, lands on the cover of grown-up magazines like Vanity Fair, Bloom is more likely to be found on Teen People. Ironically, Bloom didn't finish reading the Tolkien novels when he was 14 because he got distracted by "girls and sports."

"This whole heartthrob status thing is only recently becoming more apparent to me," says Bloom sheepishly. And he admits the attention makes him a bit nervous. "It's all very flattering. I just hope it won't have an impact on the films I get to make."

As a result, Bloom has found himself turning to his co-stars for guidance.

"It's been great to work with Johnny and Brad and pick their brains about how they dealt with stuff like the fame element," he says, recalling a particular Saturday night off in Malta during filming on Troy when he and Pitt hit the town. "That was an experience, to see someone get properly mobbed. The whole town came apart. He was so impeccable with his manner, the way he carried himself. He was very gracious with everyone."

But in the end, Bloom sees it all as a rite of passage that will lead to more freedom in his career.

"You don't really have choices until you get to a point where there's enough people who are behind you and you have enough of an audience who are interested to watch you, to have choices," Bloom explains. "If I've got the choice, I would start to downscale a bit and do more human, dramatic, character-driven pieces where you get to see less of a show and more of an actor."

Bloom has already made a couple of "mad choices," as he calls them, including playing Heath Ledger's sidekick in Ned Kelly, about the Australian outlaw-turned-folk hero, and a boxing milkman in the comedy The Calcium Kid. He's also just wrapped the drama Haven, about a tax scandal in the Cayman Islands.

But he admits he's got "all my life to do contemporary work," as the discussion returns to the swords-and-sandals epic Troy, due out next year.

"Putting on those togas and the short armoured skirts, you feel like you're fighting for the fair Helen," he says with a hint of melodrama. And what kind of underwear does a Trojan soldier wear? Bloom bats his eyes and deadpans, "A nice tight pair of panties."