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Big Hitter, HotLine (UK), Summer 2004
typed by Carrie, scan by Katie

Catapulted to superstardom by that Trilogy, Orlando Bloom could be forgiven for acting the Hollywood big shot but, as James Rampton finds out, this hot property has both feet planted firmly on the ground.

Although he is still only 27, it seems unlikely that Orlando Bloom will ever experience a greater high than attending the world premiere in New Zealand of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, the final installment of Peter Jackson's spectacularly successful adaptation of the epic fantasy trilogy. Going to the screening showed the young British actor what it must be like to be a visiting head of state.

"It was a crowning moment," he beams. "We were all in open-topped Mustangs traveling from a meeting with the Prime Minister at the House of Parliament, down to the cinema. It was hilarious! Fantastic! In New Zealand, we were on stamps and coins and everything. My mum is keeping examples of all this stuff."

She is going to have some pretty full cupboards over the coming years because playing Legolas, the heroic Elf leader, has turned Bloom into seriously hot property. Tinsel Town producers are door-stepping him like so many over-eager double-glazing salesmen.

Thanks to that extraordinarily popular triptych of movies, Bloom has been catapulted into such hit films as Black Hawk Down, Pirates of the Caribbean

and Ned Kelly. Now, his face is recognisable everywhere from Canterbury, England, to Canterbury, New Zealand. He has rapidly become one of only a handful of British actors with the above-the-title clout to 'open' a Hollywood picture.

With his shimmering eyes and a set of cheekbones to die for, Bloom possesses a natural ease on screen that audiences immediately latch on to. He has presence to burn. He is a Movie Star-very much with a capital 'M' and a capital 'S'. All this acclaim could well have gone to his head but what is most appealing about Bloom is that he is not getting the least bit carried away by this newfound A-List status. He retains that most British of qualities: self-deprecation.

"London is my home," he assert. "I have family in America, and I have spent enough time there to feel that I have some semblance of life there. I feel very lucky to be able to be able to do that but London, England, keeps you very real. The lifestyle here keeps you grounded. Waking up in the morning when it's grey and wet and you have to get the Tube to work can get on top of you after a while, but that's what I love about it. I love the changing seasons, the weather. I love it when it rains because when you have been away so much, you appreciate that even more."

His natural modesty is also reflected in his choice of movies. Although The Lord of the Rings has enables him to have his pick of the plum roles in Hollywood, Bloom prefers to intersperse mega-blockbusters with smaller-scale, independent Brit-pics--such as his latest offering, The Calcium Kid.

In this light-hearted, low-budget film, he plays Jimmy, a milkman and amateur boxer who, after a series of comic scrapes, winds up fighting for the world title. Bloom underlines that it was the quirky, indie feel of the feel of the film that attracted him. "I did it because I don't want to be thought of as the sort of actor who only does epic films and nothing else. I have always loved independent films. For the most part, when I go to cinema, it is to see independent movies. Obviously, I see the great epics and big films as well but some of my favourite films have been City of God and Amores Perros.

You never know how things will go with an independent film but I'm very happy with the way that The Calcium has turned out. It's very light, a very sweet, heart-felt story somewhere between a Billy Elliot style and a Lock, Stock. It has it's own little area in there."

He reckons the humour lies in the unlikeliness of Jimmy as a professional pugilist. "He isn't actually a very good boxer--that's the comedy of it,"

Bloom smiles. "He's a milkman, first and foremost, and boxing is what he does to feel part of a family that he doesn't have at home."

A man who takes his job seriously, Bloom did some intensive training in the ring for the part, "so that I could hold my fists up with the gloves on--they're quite heavy! It was a fun process, I have a whole new respect for boxers now because it's not an easy sport. It's very demanding, physically and mentally." in this ultimate school of hard knocks, Bloom was not immune from learning a few harsh lessons. "I took a few knocks, yeah. It's an interesting thing trying to punch somebody--that's not a particularly pleasant thing to do. It's a weird feeling."

The other area that Bloom researched thoroughly was the life of a milkman. "Absolutely!," he enthuses. "I had a few lessons driving round in milk floats and carrying bottles of milk becasuse guys can carry like, a bottle in each finger and one on each palm. I didn't actually pull that off!"

Bloom clearly had a ball making The Calcium Kid but what pleased him above all about the movie was the fact that it afforded him the opportunity to show another side of himself. Light as a feather, this piece demonstrates that there is very much more to this actor than a passionately committed warrior. "I am very proud of this film," Bloom asserts. "It was an opportunity for me to be a bit of a clown. I had done The Lord Of The Rings, Black Hawk Down and Ned Kelly at that point, and all of those were these very intense and serious young men... or elves. This was a chance to throw caution to the wind."

Quite a change from the earnest young archer he played in The Lord of the Rings. But Bloom does not for a moment regret his role as Legolas. How could he not cherish the part that transformed his career? "I think I am always going to be grateful to Peter Jackson and The Lord of the Rings. It put me into a new arena--I was suddenly thrown into the public eye."

If there has been one drawback for Bloom, it is the full-on intensity of his overnight fame. It has certainly turned a simple act such as going to the supermarket into something of a challenge. "I can get a little frazzled with it all and sometimes it's overwhelming," the actor admits. "People come up to you when you are shopping. It's weird, people approach you and they are nervous, so you have to do all the work. They stand frozen in front of you, and you don't want to create a scene."

Bloom goes on to reveal that where he is most frequently lionised is on the internet. "But it's not like that in my everyday life," he hastens to add. "I get a lot of fan mail. I haven't played an axe murderer yet, so I haven't attracted any of those letters--it's mostly just people wishing me luck. No panic on the streets of London."

But whether he likes it or not, the actor has become a solid gold sex symbol--how else explain the fact his shouldering image adorns the bedroom walls of a million teenage girls? Bloom thinks that women fell for Legolas because he is an un-macho figure who poses no threat. "He's not like, 'I'm a man. this is the way it is, honey. Come and get it.' He's much deeper than that."

In any case, Bloom is--as countless young women will be mortified to learn--already taken. He is dating the Californian actress Kate Bosworth, who starred in Blue Crush and The Horse Whisperer. "I'm in love with love," he beams, "It's heavenly when you're falling for someone and you can't stop thinking about her."

Brought up in Canterbury, Kent, Bloom got the acting bug at a young age and decamped to London as an ambitious 16-year-old. He signed up with the National Youth Theater. Ever self-effacing. Bloom says that he was never perceived as drop-dead gorgeous when younger. "I was quite chubby as a kid. To be honest, the sports they had at school never really worked for me."

The actor continues bashfully that he only entered the business in the first place as a way of meeting girls. "Basically, I'm acting because of the women. I don't care much about the money. Frankly, if I got the chance to kiss someone in a film, they wouldn't need to pay me at all." Much to his chagrin, though, thus far, "I haven't even had any kissing scenes! One Disney kiss at the end of Pirates of the Caribbean--'Quick, before the kids get tired!'."

After graduation from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, Bloom began his television career--as so many British actors do--with a walk-on in Casualty, before making his big-screen bow in 1997 playing a rent-boy

in Wilde. Bloom has come a long way in the last seven years--he has just been named Actor of the Year by US cinema-goers and film critics, scooping a whopping 49 percent of the vote. As if that wasn't impressive enough, in his latest venture, Troy, he is headlining with Brad Pitt, no less. In this gargantuan sword-and-sandals epic that promises to be the major league blockbuster this summer, Bloom plays the vain Paris. His selfishness is abducting the divine Helen from her husband, Menelaus, King of Sparta, sparks the 10-year Trojan War.

"Troy is the story of stories, I'm sure Shakespeare took a lot from it. It was an epic adventure. The challenge for me was to find a sympathetic aspect to a character who is a young guy in love. It's about the indiscretion of youth, thoughtless actions that lead to devastating war.

"Paris is not particularly heroic and it was a challenge to try and show the human aspect of his character. There is a very human quality to Paris--one of lust and affairs of the flesh."

Working with Pitt in Malta gave Bloom a clear insight into the pressures of living permanently in the spotlight. "We had a cast dinner at a restaurant," the actor recalls. "As we left, I was talking to Brad. It was one of the single most bizarre things I have ever seen. It felt like pretty much the whole of Malta had descended on the guy.

"I witnessed, with great interest, the incredible poise and humility and grace with which he carried himself at that point. People tend to get a little bit frenetic and frantic around him, so it was eye-opening to see him handle that situation as there were people coming at him and trying to touch him and grab him."

Bloom may have the odd problem in the supermarket but he has no desire to be mobbed in this way. He says he has no time for all that starry stuff.

"I think if I make the right choices, things will go in the right direction," he reflects. "I haven't sold out yet. I don't feel like I've done anything too cheesy, and I'm not in a hurry to make millions and millions of dollars. I got into this because I wanted to be an actor, not because I wanted to be famous or a celebrity. I'm still trying to keep it all about the work because that's what I enjoy."

So Bloom hopes to remain with his feet very much planted to the ground--and the auspices are good. He has the grace, for instance, to laugh about the moment when it first dawned on him that he was in the absurdly famous league.

"My mum flew over to New Zealand on a plane with a picture of me on the side of it!" If that didn't phase Orlando Bloom, we reckon nothing will.

In Bloom

Born in Canterbury on January 13, 1977, This makes Orlando Bloom not only prettier, more famous and richer than most of us, but younger as well.

His father died when he was four. While growing up, the young Orlando believed his father was the Legendary anti-apartheid activist Harry Bloom. Sadly though, no.

Orlando left canterbury at the age of 16 to act with the national youth theater. Two years later, he won a scholarship to the British American Drama Academy.

He gets an agent at the age of 20. Shortly after, he make shis first appearance in 1997's Wilde.

He makes for the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. As well as plays, he appears on such British telly staples as Casualty, the Midsomer Murders, and, oh dear, The Ben Elton Show.

In 1998, disaster strikes as he plunges three floors from a roof terrace and snaps his back like a twig. Told he would never walk again, the fortunate fellow recovers and leaves hospital 12 days later. Eight lives left....

Admitting that he is "Accident-Prone", Orlando claims "I've broken my back, my ribs, my nose, both my legs, my arm, my wrist, a finger and a toe and cracked my skull three times." So, maybe that's just five or six lives.

1999: Auditioning for the human Faramir in LOTR, the jammy git is given the Plum role of immortal elf Legolas instead. His cheekbones and pointy ears make him very popular with the ladies.

The Nine actors playing the Fellowship get so chummy that they each get a Tattoo--the world "nine" in Mystical script... Except for John Rhys-Davies (Gimli) who bottles it and sends his stunt double in his place..

2001: Lands a part in Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down, playing a young army ranger who falls 70 feet from a helicopter in the battle of Mogadishu and breaks his back. Kinda spooky

Wins 'Breakthrough Male' at the 2002 MTV Movie Awards and 'Best Debut' at the 2002 Empire awards. Kate Winslet describes him as "Brilliant"

Orlando heads for Australia in 2002 to play Ned's Lieutenant in Ned Kelly, the story of the Armour-wearing australian outlaw. It does pretty well.

2002: The Two Towers appears. Rave reviews for all concerned, Piles of awards won, much money taken, thousands of orcs slaughtered etc..

In 2003, Orlando plays straight guy will turner to Johnny Depp's Amusingly unhinged Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean. Despite being based on a disney theme park ride, it turns out to be brilliant.

Return of the King lays waste to everything in its path like one of those creatures in the final battle. Much awards, acclaim and an exceedingly mawkish half-hour end sequence.

And now? First lead role in Brit-com The Calcium Kid (April 30), Trojan war mega-epic Troy (May 21) and a Major leading role in Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven, currently filming in Spain.