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The Moon and Stars Came Out Tonight, Elle (UK), August 2003
By Zoe Williams
typed by SmileyMiffyAgain, thanks to The Bloom Room

He plays the sexiest arrow-shooting Elf on Middle-Earth, and in real life he's no less lustworthy. Orlando Bloom tells Zoe Williams what it's like being Britain's most fancied boy, dating the USA's foxiest chick.

Orlando Bloom's dressing room in Shepperton Studios is a lot like the office in The Office. Apart from the shoes. It's strewn with footwear from the time of the ancients: pointy yellow silk shoes, embroidered ones, those strappy that Sean Connery seemed to wear for the whole of the 60s. Downstairs in the studio, the year is 1193BC, the film is Troy and 26-year-old Orlando is Paris, Prince of Troy. He will eventually slay Achilles (Brad Pitt), but at the moment he's having screen tests and trying on technicoloured raincoats in a Joseph stylie. The costumes, I reckon, are going to help me in my quest not to fancy this man. Things go badly for me when I fancy an interviewee man - I did Brett Anderson once and forgot to turn the tape recorder on. This time I think I'll be alright - a man in silly footwear is no kind of man, for one. For two, Orlando had to wear a blonde wig and pointy ears for both the defining moments of his so-far short and absurdly successful career (as Legolas in the Lord of the Rings cycle) and, while this melted a lot of people, I am immune to the charms of the Elf kind. Then he arrives, and he doesn't have a shirt on. Not even a vest. He has a perfect, born-with-it tan and an ice-white, generous smile. This is the entrance James Bond might spring on you if you were a lady spy come to pinch his bomb-pen. Suffice it to say, it's not very helpful.

'God,' (me...squeaking). 'You've, er, got a good tan.' He explains he's been filming in hot places. 'Don't you wear sun screen?' (me...desperate). He shrugs. 'I have olive skin, I walk under a light bulb, I get a tan.' Orlando Bloom is, in the minds of the majority of cinema-goers, the sexiest Brit in, er, Britain. He's as fit as a butcher's dog and so successful since Two Towers that, on average, every film released for the next two years is going to have him in it, looking like a million pounds. He is rather bashful about his relatively new-found status as a national heart-throb. 'Well, you know, it's very flattering...' he starts, sinking into his seat as if I might take pity and stop going on about it. I'm not going to. 'But to me, all that stuff's ridiculous,' he continues. 'You know, you compare one person to another, create some kind of competition when, in fact, there's no comparison. I mean, you're the most beautiful women in the world to your boyfriend. It's like comparing one colour to another - everyone has their favourite. But don't get me wrong: I'm very flattered, I appreciate it. And it definately helps when I'm going for another job.'

Having said that, it wasn't Orlando's ethereal beauty that landed him Legolas, the role that started all the adoration. I think it must have been the girlie blonde wig that made him look ethereal. In the flesh, he's much more boy like, a cross between a young Johnny Depp and - weirdly - Michael J Fox, without the comedy shortness and tendency to yelp. Besides, as he points out firmly, 'I don't think I was cast for my "ethereal beauty". I think it was more my elfness.' Orlando has a very responsible attitude towards his fans. He is looking to buy a house in London, and the first reason that springs to his mind for this is so that he can have somewhere permanent for his mail. ‘I’ve been getting loads of fan mail, really intense amounts of it. And I always feel these people have put all this time and effort in so you really want to respond to it in some way, and I’m never in one place long enough to do it.’ God, it’s too ‘ah, bless’ to be true.

Whatever Orlando truly thinks of his leagues of devotees, he’s not about to kill their hopes by talking about his girlfriend. There was talk from a number of sources about his relationship with Kate Bosworth, the up-and-coming stateside hottie who starred in Blue Crush. Not made-up tabloid stuff, either, but real eye-witness reports. When I ask him about her, he is hilariously bashful. ‘How is it with Kate Bosworth?’

‘Who? What?’

‘Well, you should know, she’s your girlfriend.’

‘I know Kate Bosworth, yes.’ He looks at me mysteriously. Either one (or both) of them is very shy, or one (or both) of their publicists has decided that the world is disappointing enough a place already without film stars thieving themselves off the open market. Anyway, he’s still looking at me mysteriously.

‘So, you’re still married to your work, yes?’

A smile, praise be to God. ‘Yes I’m still married to work. I love work.’

Orlando’s next film release is Pirates of the Carribean, in which he stars with Johnny Depp, his screen hero since he was 15. ‘He was always morphing into different characters, never doing the same thing, always turning everything on its head. Well, I look at it like that now, back then he was just a cool guy.’ Depp, in the flesh, is a lovely human being. And so’s Vanessa Paradis, for the record. ‘You know, I haven’t come across anyone at that level who hasn’t been a really cool person. And it makes sense, when you think about it, because if you’ve got the opportunity to work in the industry that you want to work in, doing what you love, and you’re really well-paid for it, why wouldn’t you be a lovely person?’

Orlando’s co-star is Keira Knightley – she gets kidnapped by some bad guy (a pirate in all probability), and he goes off to rescue her. I reckon he’s getting a definite taste for these olden-times morality films. After the pure-hearted altruism of Legolas, in this ‘he’s a man of honour at a time when the there was no honour’, he tells me, with convincing olde-worlde intonation. In Troy (due out next year), I think they’re all pretty noble, but since he’s the one that gets to kill Brad Pitt, he must be the noblest. But having said all that, in Ned Kelly (coming up this September), he’s a full-of-mischief bandit – so in the end, it’s not the righteousness he goes for, it’s the history.

He thinks about this for second… ‘I do love stepping back in time. I love that epic, historical feel that period has. I love the fact it really feels like you’re making a transformation. But really, I’m an actor, I love getting dressed up. Why go contemporary when you might be able to dress up a lot?’

This leaning towards the epic and historical has left Orlando Bloom with a collection of the most bizarre skills imaginable. He’s always had a lightly daredevil reputation among his nearest and dearest, on account of the fact that he got into a lot of accidents as a kid, and then broke his back falling off a balcony (‘I was moving some stuff for a friend,’ he explains. ‘Oh come on,’ I insist, ‘you must have been drunk, nobody falls off a balcony sober.’ ‘No!’ he says. ‘I wish I had been drunk. Then at least I’d have an excuse.’) Thanks to Lord of the Rings, Ned Kelly and Troy, he can ride a horse, use a bow and arrow, shoot guns while riding a horse and ride a horse with a chariot attached. He can do anything you might need to pursue a lifetime of crime in any century but this one, basically, and he can also do it on a horse. ‘I’ve got all these skills with chariots and stuff, none of which are any use at all, but throw me back a few centuries, I’d be a real superhero.’ Oh, and he has a smattering of French, too. Taken altogether, he’s the very picture of a 16th-century aristocrat. ‘It’s weird, isn’t it? I’m a pikey boy from Kent at the end of the day.’

That’s probably not how his mother would describe him. His parents ran a language school in Kent, and his mother badgered both Orlando and his sister (who is two years older and attending London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama where Orlando earned a drama degree in 1999) to do bible and poetry readings for the Kent festival. I say ‘badgered’, but he makes it sound almost voluntary. He’s really much more boho and theatrical than his falling off roofs and shooting people from horses would suggest, though not so boho that he’s named after the Orlando of the Virginia Woolf novel.

Plus, he didn’t spend his earlier years being groomed to be a leading man. ‘I never got dashing lead, not once, although I always wanted those. I got to be the old man, the police officer – the character stuff.’ He left home at 16, despite all the French hotties milling about the language school (‘yes, there were certainly a load of them), came to London to do his A levels, had an agent before he even got to Guildhall (after a production he did with National Youth Theatre) and landed the Legolas gig three days before he graduated, when he was still, in his mind, just going to auditions to work out how to act in them. He really is moving incredibly fast, though in film-star lifestyle, not quite fast enough for Peter Jackson (director of The Fellowship of the Ring and Two Towers) and Ian McKellen (Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings films). ‘They were saying, [adopts tongue-in-cheek Sir Ian impression] “Well, now, come on, you’ve gotta get a move on, you’ve gotta have the drug phase, you’ve gotta have the marriage, the divorce…”.’

Is any of that likely then?’ I ask.

He looks sceptical. ‘I’d be more likely to jack it all in and become a recluse. But you know, I’m not ruling anything out.’ A life of solitude doesn’t seem like the best career move for an archetypal open-and-shut charm machine. But then, I can see how winning over all the chicks everywhere might get a bit tedious when you find it this easy.