Orlando Watches Fame Bloom on the High Seas, USA Today, June 7, 2003
by Susan Wloszczyna
Ruminate, if you will, on the ever-flowering phenomenon
known as Orlando Bloom.
The name of this model-handsome British actor, 26, doesn't
just suggest a matinee idol in the making. The hothouse handle sounds as if it
should come with its own perfume strip: Scratch to release aromatic hints of
romance, adventure and, perhaps, superstardom.
That redolent promise of eau de Orlando might come closer
to reality when the rollicking vessel known as Pirates of the Caribbean: The
Curse of the Black Pearl cruises into theaters Wednesday and provides the
rising Romeo with a proper plank to show off his acting skills.
"I think it's going to make a lot of people happy and will
put an end to pirate movies that don't work," says Bloom, phoning from Los
Angeles during a break from yet another costume spectacle, next year's
Troy, shooting in Malta.
It may also silence any speculation that Bloom — who broke
through two years ago as the golden-tressed elf Legolas in The Fellowship of
the Ring, the first of the massively popular Lord of the
Rings trilogy — is merely a pretty puss framed by a pair of pointy
Pirates, however, takes full advantage of Bloom's
bounty of masculine beauty. The actor reclaims his original hair color (think
rivulets of rich chocolate) and displays sexy fringes of facial fuzz while
unbuckling his swash in the yo-ho-ho Disney romp alongside Johnny Depp and
It's Bloom's innocent blacksmith, not Depp's sly buccaneer,
who gets the girl, Keira Knightley (Bend It Like Beckham). "He has an
amazing future ahead of him," she says of her co-star. "He's a very good-looking
boy and a lovely person."
Of their onscreen kiss, the 18-year-old boasts, "I'll be
the envy of every teen girl." She maintains they kept the smooch "very
professional, but we always had a giggle. He was kind enough to make sure he had
mints and mouthwash beforehand. I have nothing but good things to say about the
Pirates producer Jerry Bruckheimer has nothing but
good things to say about Bloom. The mogul hired the actor for his 2001 war drama
Black Hawk Down even before Rings was tossed into theaters.
"When the camera is on Orlando," he says, "he is so
natural. He's got that look, as if he could have come from another time."
Bruckheimer knows Bloom has the power to tempt females to
an action flick such as Pirates. When he talks to the teen daughters of
friends, "I get the feeling they're dying to see him in this." In test
screenings, young girls rated the movie highest — 92% described it as very good
Bloom already has felt the flame of instant fame, at least
as measured in Web shrines. A quick Google click can summon thousands.
Yes, he's an elf in Rings. But what an elf. His ace
archer Legolas may be the swift, silent and slightly androgynous type (typical
dialogue: "There is a fell voice on the air"). But the sylvan charmer stood out
and struck many a female heart in the audience with his arrows.
"The kids dig him," says Aaron Schatz, who tallies entries
on the Lycos search engine. "It's amazing how popular he is, considering he's
such a newcomer."
It's the mystery factor. As in, what's it all about, Elf-y?
Before the Tolkien fantasies (the last, The Return of the King, arrives
Dec. 17), Bloom had one small film role, as a "rent boy" in 1997's Wilde.
After Fellowship opened, though, those who were
intrigued by his otherworldly charisma rushed to launch Web destinations. No
wonder Bloom was the most searched-for actor on Lycos in 2002 and the
sixth-ranked male overall. "He was behind four rappers and Osama bin Laden,"
For many it was hero worship at first sight — and site.
"He had very little screen time in The Fellowship of the
Ring, but he has that presence and star was written all over him," says
Jasparina Mahyat, 36, of Singapore, who oversees orlandomultimedia.net, which
averages 320,000 hits a day. "I knew a lot of people were going to want to know
more about him."
A little knowledge proved to be a magnetic thing. "Part of
the attraction was that he was new," says Bianca Cassar, 21, of Melbourne,
Australia, who helps run full-bloom.net. Her site attracts the core Bloom
brigade, girls ages 13 to 21. "Many felt like they had discovered the world's
'next big thing' and were eager to keep abreast of news regarding Orlando. It
took some time before magazines started writing about him."
They caught up eventually, although articles tend to focus
on two facts. His father, Harry Bloom, was a South African writer and
anti-apartheid activist who died when he was 4. "Harry always was a role model
for me," he says. "My mother spoke of him so fondly."
The avid athlete also has an unfortunate habit of hurting
himself, usually while participating in such sports as skiing and snowboarding.
His list of broken bones includes nose, both legs, wrist, fingers, toes, ribs
(he tumbled off his horse while filming Rings) and a cracked skull —
three times. The scariest was in 1998: He fell off a roof, broke his back and
was told he would never walk again. Miraculously, he hobbled out of the hospital
on crutches 12 days later.
It's a good thing elves are immortal.
In April, Bloom returned to New Zealand, where principal
photography took place on all three Rings movies in late 1999, for pickup
shots. Director Peter Jackson, who hadn't seen his discovery for two years, was
curious whether the attention had changed him somehow. "He was the same guy,
fun-loving, enthusiastic and supportive," he notes with pride. "He doesn't buy
into the nonsense."
Billy Boyd, who plays hobbit Pippin and is a surf pal,
concurs. "Orlando has become a big star quicker than anyone I've ever seen. But
because he is so extraordinary looking, people have always noticed him and he's
dealt with that. He is just doing it on a world level."
Bloom admits the hunk label "makes me nervous. It's
flattering, but it doesn't mean anything to me. Beauty is in the eye of the
beholder. I'm much more interested in being an actor and growing."
Also growing is the Mount Doom-like pile of fan mail that
he can't manage by himself anymore.
Wisely, he takes his cues toward career and celebrityhood
from more established players such as Depp. "He's so courageous in how he
develops a character and puts himself out there," he says. "He's not afraid to
fall on his face."
Hanging with Troy co-star Brad Pitt adds
perspective. "We went out in Malta," he recalls. "Saturday night in the heart of
party land. That was an experience, to see someone get properly mobbed. The
whole town came apart. He was so impeccable with his manner, the way he carried
himself. He was very gracious with everyone."
Pitt, who burst on the scene with equal suddenness after
1991's Thelma & Louise, appears envious of Bloom's ongoing honeymoon
with moviegoers. "Aw, he's a gem. He's got that pure enjoyment of it all, of the
trip he's on. I always had to make things so important."
Bloom is tight-lipped about his personal life, though Kate
Bosworth of BlueCrush visited him on the set in New Zealand. "She
is a great girl but I don't like to talk about that stuff. It's not necessary.
People want to know everything."
For Bloom, it's all about the work and there is more to
come. In March, he's an Irish sidekick to Heath Ledger's Aussie outlaw in Ned
Kelly. And he has his first lead in The Calcium Kid, a comedy about a
boxing milkman. "I make a fool of myself. I relished the chance."
Troy, the sprawling epic based on Homer's
Iliad, may be his first post-Rings effort to rival the impact of
Legolas. His Paris is a lover, not a fighter, whose adulterous affair with Helen
of Troy leads to war. Says Bloom, "He doesn't even try to be a typical alpha
male. He's much more romantic. All the other men go out to fight. He stays at
home and makes love."
Just call him lord of the ring-a-ding-ding.
Contributing: Ellen Hale in London