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Boy Wonder, HQ (Australia), March/April 2003
By Angus Fontaine
typed by Pagan, scan from Pagan

Orlando Bloom’s is a face to notice, even in pointy ears or a beard. Just don’t tell him to break a leg…

He’s the face of the future and the distant past, a young gun smoking, an arrow on the ascent and a pirate on the high seas of cinema. But Orlando Bloom is not on this earth by virtue of his good looks and rare talent alone. No, it’s only the will of the gods that has kept him alive long enough to ride shotgun to the greatest bushranger of them all in Gregor Jordan’s Ned Kelly and become the big fat star he’s destined to be.

Call it an appetite for destruction. Call it throwing yourself into your work. For Bloom, game time means pain time. In the last few years, the 25-year-old has broken his back, some ribs, his nose, both legs, an arm, a wrist, a few fingers and toes, and fractured his skull three times.

“I think one of the reasons I’ve had so many accidents is because fear is something I’m utterly afraid of, more so than anything else,” says Bloom, who “almost lost a kneecap” on the set of Ned Kelly. “That’s why I put myself in uncomfortable situations so I can push the boundaries.”

“Fear is my staple diet, my demon…and I’m pretty sure it was the Kelly Gang’s, too.”

And that’s why the always-up-for-it Englishman has traded the elfin ears he wore as Legolas Greenleaf in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy for a Colt .32 and a life on the lam as Joe Byrne, loyal lieutenant to Ned Kelly and probably the most enigmatic cat on horseback yet. Byrne was an unlikely outlaw. Eldest son of respectable farmers, he was quiet, handsome, educated, gifted with words (particularly in the company of the ladies) and spoke several languages when he wasn’t smoking opium and laying down lead for Ned.

“Joe’s the dark horse, the calm to Ned’s rage,” says Bloom. “He really is that lukewarm water between the fire and ice of this story. And one thing’s for sure, he would go to hell and back for Ned- and does.”

Playing the outlaw, a lady-killer, a sharpshooter, a multi-linguist and an opium toker such as Joe wasn’t as big a stretch as you might imagine for a man so enamoured with the wild side of life as Bloom is.

“Oh, yeah, man,” he laughs. “That’s just an extension of my real life!”

And he’s not joking. In life or art Orlando Bloom’s never been the kind of guy to let the door hit him in the arse. After loosing his father, anti-apartheid activist and author Harry Bloom, when he was four, Bloom won a scholarship to train with the British Drama Academy. He’d matriculated a week when he landed Lord Of The Rings, and the work has flooded in since, culminating in Smokin’ Joe Byrne.

“Joe’s journey really is incredible. I had to keep reminding myself that he was only 21 when he died because he fit a lot into so short and spectacular a life,” Bloom enthuses. “He fascinated me because where Ned is a fiery fighter, Joe came at it more analytically. He was a big picture man.”

Bloom says he felt “a weird empowerment” while working on the film. “I think we all felt the ghosts of those boys close by,” he says. “There were nights I had real trouble sleeping and I blamed Joe. See, for all his composure under fire, Joe’s opium use adds a real twistedness to his soul. That and the fact that he has to pull the trigger on his boyhood friend to protect the gang. That’s the moment where Joe loses his innocence, because it’s one thing to shoot a stranger, another matter entirely to do it to a mate.”

Bloom’s own moments are many this year. It was another mate, Geoffrey Rush, who talked him into his current project, Pirates Of The Caribbean, currently shooting in the Bahamas with Johnny Depp as star and Bloom breathing down his neck.

Then there’s The Calcium Kid, a British mockumentary in which Bloom plays a milkman turned boxer who fights the world champ in his home town. And the final installment of the Rings trilogy, The Return Of The King, is due in December this year.

“I guess in the past I’ve lived a bit recklessly and not appreciated my life,” he laughs. “But there’s nothing that makes you value life more than hacking around the outback with guns causing havoc. I said to a mate the other day, ‘Man, I’ve been an elf, a soldier boy, a boxer, a pirate and an outlaw.’ I really am living every boy’s dream!”