Orlando Magic LA Times (US), July 12, 2003
By Mona Gable
Fan-girl frenzy has transformed the handsome "Pirates of the Caribbean" actor
into a major heartthrob.
Theresa Kelley is a sensible, well-rounded girl. Just a few months shy of 12,
she's an ace pitcher on an all-star softball team, plays piano and, for a girl
on the cusp of puberty, doesn't talk back to her mother too much. Though it's
summer vacation, she's completely engrossed in the new Harry Potter book. "I
really, really, really like it," she says one recent afternoon in her suburban
But when it comes to true love, we all have moments when we
lose our heads. And Theresa's downfall, alas, is right in plain sight on her
bulletin board. It's a small shiny Valentine card with a picture of Legolas, the
earnest elf in "The Lord of the Rings." Theresa filched the card from a
Theresa adores the character Legolas, but
her real passion is for the cutie who played him. Like countless young girls
across America, she's wild about British heartthrob Orlando Bloom. Would she
call it a crush? "Maybe," she says, burying her face. "I think I would sound
pathetic if I said it was a crush, but it probably is."
Ever since girls
discovered the lithe, handsome Bloom in "The Fellowship of the Ring" and started
obsessing about him on the Web — his love life, his hobbies, his hair — the
26-year-old has become the "it" actor for the preteen set. In "Pirates of the
Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," the splashy Jerry Bruckheimer-produced
flick that opened Wednesday, Bloom has his first real starring role in a big
movie, one that could hardly draw more attention to his boyish
Clad in tights and a frilly blouse, his curls bound in a ponytail,
he's a good-hearted blacksmith-turned-pirate. Bloom plays straight man to the
sexy Johnny Depp — and he may be as much of a draw for "Pirates" as the
better-known Depp, at least for his young-girl fan base.
In terms of
fan-girl frenzy on the Web, Bloom is now bigger than — brace yourself — Josh
Hartnett. And don't even bring up Brad Pitt. On Yahoo's Buzz Index of searches
for the top 20 actors and actresses in late June, he even beat out Demi Moore's
boyfriend Ashton Kutcher.
Obsessing over movie stars is nothing new, of
course; ever since there have been teen fan magazines, girls have fallen for
dreamy-looking actors and swooned endlessly about them with friends. But now,
instead of the phone, they've got a more powerful tool to fuel their romantic
fantasies: the Web, and with it, the astonishing ability to influence an actor's
"It makes it much easier for information to swirl around in
the fan community," says Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet and American
Life Project, which studies girls' use of the Web. "It makes it easier for fans
to hang out together, even if they don't live in the same spot. Girls are more
into instant messaging. They send each other links for fan sites. And so this is
a new venue for kids hanging out with each other and for squealing, the way kids
have always squealed about stars."
Squealing hardly describes it. If the hundreds of postings
about Bloom could talk, the screams would be deafening. "I LOVE HIM!!!! He is
sooooooo hott and such a great actor!!!" shouts one teen fan on YM.com, the teen
magazine's Web site.
"Since the first 'Lord of the Rings' movie, Orlando
Bloom has consistently been one of their favorite guys," says Alyssa Petrano,
entertainment director of YM magazine, which featured Bloom and his "Rings"
co-star Elijah Wood in a split issue of the January 2003 cover. "He's polling as
the No. 1 person no matter who we put him up against."
message boards, type in Bloom's name and it's like stumbling into a party line
of feverish, opinionated girls. Is he still dating actress Kate Bosworth (of
"Blue Crush")? Who's hotter: Elijah or Orlando? What does Orlando Bloom look
best as? "Is this a joke?" replied someone calling herself talentinbloom. "He
honestly looks best as himself."
More recently, in anticipation of his
appearance in "Pirates," Bloom was "this week's cute boy" on
All this fervor, and the classically trained actor, who
graduated from London's distinguished Guildhall School of Music and Drama, has
been in relatively few films (he's currently shooting "Troy," based on Homer's
epic "The Iliad," in which he plays Paris). So why has he pirated so many young
girls' hearts? Perhaps because he seems to embody the perfect romantic fantasy
for young teens — he's sweet, not too heavy on the testosterone and has an
accent. A star who is more overtly sexual can be overwhelming for girls,
according to psychologists who work with teenagers.
Still, even teen observers are surprised by Bloom's appeal.
"I do think it's a phenomenon that they have glommed onto him so completely when
he has not done a movie with a major role," says Petrano. "It's really been a
groundswell from teenage girls who are hooked into his looks and his
That groundswell started with girls flooding the Internet,
desperate for details about the cute, mysterious elf. Soon there were dozens of
Web sites devoted to Bloom and message boards full of lovesick females
professing their love, giddily calling themselves "bloom_crazy" and "I luv_orly"
and "orli_gurl13." Call it girl power on the Web, but that fan base transformed
Bloom from obscure actor into near movie star.
"The first time the
Internet became known as this powerhouse of influence was with 'The Blair Witch
Project,' " says Stuart Fischoff, a professor of media psychology at Cal State
Los Angeles, who examines how various mass media influence culture and
entertainment. "From that point, every studio, every star, from the A-list down
to the F-list, now has a site. If they don't start it, they get their agent or
some fans to start it. It's incredibly simple to build up this fan
With Bloom finally having a prominent role in a fairly grown-up
film, adults will have the privilege of knowing who he is too. Will there be I
luv Orli!!! message boards as a result on CNN's Web site and
Certainly girls are frantic with anticipation about
"Pirates." "I can't wait," says Theresa with a big smile.Every generation of
young fans wants stars they can call their own — and for this one, it's Bloom.
As hard as it may be for some to fathom, punky and her friends won't be storming
"Pirates" for Depp, of whom Petrano says, "My readers don't know who he is. He
was a teenage heartthrob a generation ago. They'll probably go see 'Pirates' to
see Orlando and will be introduced to Johnny Depp through him. They'll never
love him. That's just way too old for them."