A British Star In Full Bloom, TIME Europe, August 11, 2003
by Jeff Chu
scan by The OB Files
He's everyone's favorite elf and the hottest young actor in
Hollywood. Now here comes the Orlando onslaught: five more films. This pin-up
pirate has found the treasure
Orlando Bloom is multitasking. He chomps his way through a green apple, then
flosses his teeth and flirts with a makeup artist — all while philosophizing
about his "craft," noting the absence of reality in an actor's life and
lamenting the homesickness that can hit, even here in sunny Malta, where he's
filming Troy — Wolfgang Petersen's adaptation of the Iliad.
Mid-floss, Bloom pauses, cocks his head, smiles and says: "But I'm 26. I'm in
the prime of my life. What do I have to complain about?"
Not much. No
star is rising faster than his. Of course the boy from Canterbury, England, has
worked hard to propel it. He's had a packed shooting schedule during the past
two years, as his role as the elf Legolas in The Lord of the Rings has
turned him into a teen heartthrob and a sure-fire box-office draw. And in the
next nine months, audiences will get to see the latest results of his relentless
workload. First up is the well-reviewed Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse
of the Black Pearl, which opens across Europe this month. Then comes the
Aussie outlaw-gang flick Ned Kelly at the end of September, followed by
The Calcium Kid, a spoofy comedy with Bloom in his first starring role,
and one last elfin turn in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the
King. Finally, next May, comes Troy. You don't need to be a
lovestruck teenage girl to notice that Bloom is one of the hottest talents in
In Pirates he plays Will Turner, who, with his
olive skin and wispy goatee, must be the best-looking swordsmith in the West
Indies. Fueled by love, Turner sets out with Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp)
to rescue damsel-in-corseted-distress Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) from
dastardly pirate Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). When you watch Bloom parrying
onscreen, you see shades of pirate-movie icon Errol Flynn — a natural. But Bloom
was actually the last lead to be cast. "We really needed somebody who could hold
his own as the love interest-Errol Flynn character, so the audience wouldn't
think Keira was going to end up with Johnny Depp," says director Gore Verbinski.
Rush, who had also worked on Ned Kelly, suggested Bloom, and Verbinski
set up a dinner with him and Knightley. During the meal, Verbinski recalls, "I
just kept looking at them across the table and thought, 'This could work.'"
It does — on several levels. Bloom and Knightley make a sweet — and so
gorgeous — couple. And Pirates gave Bloom the chance to work with his
hero, playing the earnest straight man to Depp's camp, wisecracking
swashbuckler: "I can guarantee any actor my age would say Johnny Depp is the
guy." Bloom also recognized this as more than just his biggest part so far in a
major movie. "I talked to my manager," he says, "about the fact that
Pirates would open a bigger door to the American market than other
films I'd worked on."
He was right. Pirates' take at the U.S.
box office is nearing $200 million. But how big a door does he think he needs?
He's already got Hollywood at his service. Troy director Petersen
explains Bloom with a single word: "Beautiful." Verbinski thinks the actor's
appeal is that he's "beautiful and accessible. As cool as Orlando can be, there
is also something there you can relate to," he says. "He has the ability to
create characters we love to watch, yet he doesn't isolate us."
they love to watch. "Everywhere on the Net, it was, 'Yeah, we love Frodo, but
who's that elf?'" says Jasparina Mahyat, 36, a Singaporean wife and mother who
spends seven hours a day maintaining Orlando Bloom Multimedia (orlandomultimedia.net). Younger fans
paper their bedroom walls with posters. They kiss their Orli pillowcases ($9.99
on eBay) goodnight. And they flock to online message boards like "Orlando Bloom
Is 100% Buff" to read and post news. (And gossip — is he, like, really going out
with Kate Bosworth, that blond girl from Blue Crush? He won't say.)
According to the search engine Lycos, Bloom has owned the title of most popular
male actor online since January 2002, getting more searches than any other —
even his Troy costar Brad Pitt. (Bloom still trails Angelina Jolie and
Jennifer Lopez in the overall stakes.)
All this attention "makes me nervous," Bloom says, which may explain why he
often seems guarded, even overrehearsed, in interview, as if he took a class
while studying at London's storied Guildhall called "The Answers a Young Actor
Gives Upon Achieving a Measure of Fame." He's tried hard to balance his need for
privacy with a desire to please fans — at Pirates' European premiere,
last month in London, he kept the audience inside the cinema waiting for half an
hour while he signed autographs and kissed swooning girls. "Celebrity and
stardom are never things I wanted," he says. "To acknowledge that's what's
happening is odd. To admit it to yourself, that seems wrong."
hardly unprepared; he had the acting bug since childhood. At Guildhall —
alma mater of Ewan McGregor and Joseph Fiennes — Bloom's focus was
stage. He appeared in a raft of productions, including classics like
Antigone, Twelfth Night and Uncle Vanya, and says, "I
had every intention of going onto the stage."
Lord of the Rings
took him onto a much bigger stage than he'd imagined, and Bloom still says that
the 15-month shoot in New Zealand was the greatest thrill of his life. But
The Calcium Kid "was creatively the most rewarding experience I've had
— loads of dialogue, exercising muscles that had been lying dormant." It is his
first chance to carry a film. He plays a milkman and amateur boxer who finds
himself up against the world champion. Bloom is glad that fans like Pirates, but
says, "I can only hope the people who write me thousands of letters will go see
this. I feel proud of what it meant for me." Each film teaches unique lessons,
"and I'm learning a lot about my craft," he says. "To come out of school and to
work with the kinds of actors I've worked with has given me a fantastic
introduction." His latest challenge is to play Troy's Paris, who steals
another man's wife — the legendary beauty Helen (Diane Kruger) — and sparks a
war. It's a nice change to play the bad boy, says Bloom. "Will in
Pirates and Legolas, they're obvious hero types. Paris is an antihero,
and this is the story of stories."
Look at his projects — ancient
Troy, the colonial days of Pirates, time immemorial in
Rings — and one question does come up: Need a reality check? "My
realities do blur a little," he says. "This isn't real life. I managed to get
home for my best friend's wedding, and I had this real sense of achievement."
Earlier this summer, he made a move toward normality by buying his first home, a
place in London, partly because "my mum was losing her mind" with all his stuff
cluttering up her house. He's barely spent any time at "home" so far, but plans
a break after Troy wraps next month.
At the end of The Lord
of the Rings' marathon shoot, Bloom was given a ring with the inscription
to wherever it may lead. Fans may look at what he's done and what he has planned
— a possible Pirates sequel, the lead role in the biopic of Dan Eldon, a
photojournalist who was killed on assignment in Somalia — and marvel at how
rapidly his star has risen. Bloom does, too, sometimes. "I don't want to be
jaded," he says. But he also knows this acting stuff "is not life or death. You
can't take yourself too seriously. The truth is, we're making films. It's
playing. It's dressing up." Then, break over, he slips into the finest in Bronze
Age breastplate craftsmanship, and steps back onto the road toward Troy and
wherever else his blessed path may take him.
With reporting by Desa