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Elf Esteem, USA Weekend, December 8, 2002
By Michele Hatty

In the second chapter of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, Orlando Bloom is back as the Elven warrior whose grace and good looks have fans entranced.

When the second chapter of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy opens Dec. 18, the fellowship once again will battle the forces of evil with the help of heroic Legolas, the blond, blue-eyed Elven warrior played by Orlando Bloom. For the theater-trained English actor, 25, making "The Two Towers" wasn't just a stretch -- Bloom has dark hair and eyes and, at 5-foot-9 1/2, is shorter than the 6-foot-plus Elf he plays -- it was literally a thrill. He had read the books as a boy, and the story had played out in his imagination.

Portraying a character who wields more weaponry than words required more than a creative mind: Achieving Legolas' stealthily graceful way of carrying himself presented a number of physical challenges for the self-admittedly "accident-prone" Bloom. (Despite his youth, to date, he has broken his back, nose, both legs, an arm, a wrist, a finger and a toe; bruised his ribs; and cracked his skull several times over.)

"A friend of mine in England has a house in the countryside, and we'd go for walks. When I found out I got the role, I practiced walking through the forest and running and sort of imagining what it would be like to be really quiet in the trees," Bloom says with a laugh. "It sounds ridiculous, but what can you do? I mean, you are playing a character that's immortal, ageless, never been seen before. It was great fun to be able to create that character, to embody it."

Embodying Legolas made a lasting impression on Bloom. As filming concluded, he even persuaded the other actors in the fellowship of nine to get a tattoo of "nine" in the Elvish language. "It's a great reminder of that whole period in my life," he says.

After the first installment of the trilogy appeared last year, Bloom found himself in a new role: heartthrob. Within days of the film's release, stories began to pop up about the romantic zeal he elicited in fans, many of whom suddenly had immense crushes on Bloom's fearless, flawlessly handsome -- and quiet -- alter ego. "I like the fact Legolas is a man of few words, really, because what he doesn't say kind of gives him more weight in a way," he says. "Do you know what I mean?"

When asked about his status as "Rings"' resident hottie, the actor is sheepish. But has this newfound attention kicked his love life into high gear?

"Um, no," he confesses. "Normally, yeah. I'm working so hard at the moment, and I'm just trying to keep up with the pace of everything else that's going on. There's been no time for women or love in my life."

With his profile heightened by "Rings", offers of work have poured in. After filming the Tolkien trilogy back-to-back-to-back in New Zealand, Bloom went to Morocco to play a small but pivotal role in last year's "Black Hawk Down" as the soldier whose fall from a helicopter set in motion the disastrous chain of events in the botched 1993 American mission in Mogadishu, Somalia. After that, he headed to Australia to film the outlaw flick "The Kelly Gang" with Heath Ledger; it's due out next year. He's currently in England filming his first lead role, a milkman-turned-boxer, in the comedy "The Calcium Kid". Next, he's off to the Grenadines to co-star with Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush in "Pirates of the Caribbean".

Working in exotic locales is a plus for the wanderlust-infused actor. But he travels for fun, too. The Mayan city of Tikal in Guatemala was one standout. "The temples there were awe-inspiring," he says. "I remember climbing these steps and looking over this huge forest. It's a pretty amazing place."

His numerous mishaps, such as breaking his back in a fall a few years ago, have helped shape his outlook about life. "I was lucky to survive the fall, and then I was lucky to be walking. It's funny how you accumulate gifts in life, and I think that's mine in a funny kind of way. It taught me to appreciate my life a lot more. Whenever I sort of start to move a bit too fast or get overexcited about stuff, it's a good reminder. ... I have to just slow it down a bit."

He pauses. "I definitely enjoy doing mad stuff -- I did these bungee jumps in New Zealand. They were the freakiest kind of experience -- to summon up the courage to jump out of a cable car with something tied to your feet -- and it was pretty surreal. That was definitely the most exhilarating to date." Best of all, he didn't break any bones in the process.