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Orlando's Magic, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN (US), August 3, 2004
By John Beifuss and Matthew Craig

"The Lord of the Rings" actor Orlando Bloom (green shirt) was on South Main on Monday for a day of shooting for the film "Elizabethtown," directed by Cameron Crowe.

A Memphis visit by one of People magazine's "Hottest Bachelors" and one of Hollywood's most respected filmmakers added further heat Monday to a Mid-South summer already radiating star power.

Movie heartthrob Orlando Bloom, star of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and "Pirates of the Caribbean," and Oscar-winning filmmaker Cameron Crowe, director of "Almost Famous" and "Jerry Maguire," slipped into town Monday for a single day of shooting for their new movie, "Elizabethtown."

"This is the first time we've ever had three feature films shooting at the same time, two of which are studio pictures," said Linn Sitler of the Memphis & Shelby County Film andTelevision Commission, referring to Paramount's "Elizabethtown," 20th Century Fox's Johnny Cash biopic "Walk the Line," and the independent John Singleton production "Hustle & Flow."

Although most news media outlets were unaware of Bloom's visit to Memphis, the British actor - currently onscreen in the epic "Troy" and best-known as the elfin archer Legolas in the "Rings" trilogy - wasn't able to elude the young female fans whose devotion ensured his placement on this year's People magazine lists for "Hottest Bachelors" and "50 Most Beautiful People."

"He's hot," said Katherine Gosney, 16, of Cordova, who watched Bloom act in scenes shot at downtown's Arcade Restaurant. "He was nice. His ego wasn't blown up or anything."

"He's real nice and sweet," said Alexa Padios, 12, who posed Monday for a photograph with Bloom. Alexa and friend Alison Reber, 12, snapped their pictures "real fast, when the bodyguard with the oval glasses wasn't looking."

Bloom, 27, signed autographs for Alexa, Alison and many other girls in the rare moments when he was outdoors Monday. Rather than just scrawling his name, he wrote personal messages - "Alison, nice meeting you in Memphis" was one example - and drew a Valentine's heart over his signature.

Sitler said all movie projects are secret, "but the fact they only had one day here meant they really wanted to keep it under wraps. They had to get their shots without the fans slowing down production. The fans that did find out about it and show up, he (Bloom) was very gracious."

Most of the girls who came to see Bloom had been tipped off by relatives with businesses downtown. Katherine, for instance, is the niece of Arcade owner Harry Zepatos, who knew about the project for several months but didn't learn until Sunday that Bloom and Crowe planned to shoot at his restaurant on Monday.

In an example of typecasting, waitress Julia Flowers, 22, was chosen to serve Bloom his bowl of chili in the Arcade sequence, an action that required close to 15 takes. She said she was paid $7.50 an hour. "They only used my arm, because if they used my face, they would have to pay me more."

"The reason we wanted to come to Memphis is that music is very important to Cameron, and Memphis is where a lot of the music he loves has its origins," said Chris Baugh, location manager for "Elizabethtown."

Crowe, 47, was a rock writer for Rolling Stone before he began writing and directing movies with "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" in 1982. He won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar in 2000 for the semi-autobiographical "Almost Famous."

Part of "Elizabethtown" chronicles the picaresque cross-country journey of a young man (Bloom) returning home after funeral services for his father in rural Elizabethtown, Ky. Memphis is among the places he visits while following a map of must-see locations given to him by a quirky flight attendant (Kirsten Dunst).

In real life, the production is basically tracing the life-changing journey of the story's lead character, with Crowe and his relatively small crew moving from location to location like a caravan.

Baugh said he visited more than 50 cities while scouting locations for the film's road trip. He said he first visited Memphis in October, and returned five or six times in preparation for Monday's shooting, which took place in the South Main District at the Arcade, Earnestine & Hazel's nightspot and the National Civil Rights Museum. The area also was featured in "Walk the Line" this summer and in "21 Grams" last year. A Loretta Lynn-Jack White music video was shot at Earnestine's on July 25.

Said Sitler: "That corner of G.E. Patterson and Main Street is easily the most popular filming corner in the state of Tennessee, and probably in the South this summer."

"Elizabethtown" - produced by Tom Cruise and his production partner, Paula Wagner - began shooting July 12 and is expected to wrap in October. The movie is scheduled for release in the summer of 2005.