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By Ali Gazan and Martine Bury
typed by RT

How a guy with a pointy-eared role in Lord of the Rings got so popular.

Orlando Bloom has this ability to make you feel like you're the only other person in the room.  It even happened during our photo shoot in London.  He gave our fashion director, Elizabeth, six kisses and two hugs. Elizabeth's been kissed and hugged by hot celebrities before, but with Orlando her heartbeat sped up and her knees wobbled a bit.  Meanwhile, our art director, Amy, was psyched because he seemed to be making cute faces at her.  Then she realized he was actually watching himself in the mirror behind her!  Oops.

No one would deny that Orlando, 25, is gorgeous.  Even his co-star Dominic Monaghan, who plays the hobbit Merry, says, "He's a beautiful-looking boy."  With short, curly black hair and dark, intense eyes, he looks nothing like the blond, long-haired, blue-eyed elf Legolas he plays in Lord of the Rings.

When Orlando sits down for our interview at the Chateau Marmont hotel in Los Angeles, he apologizes for being a little out of it (he had a dental procedure the day before).  Also, he says in his charming accent, "I'm still slightly jet-lagged because I've only just arrived from London."  Love the proper English manners.

He's sipping bottled water and telling us he's excited to be in L.A. for about four months while filming Pirates of the Caribbean with Johnny Depp.  "Yeah, I'm feeling good," he says.  And he should.  Since the first installment of LOTR came out, he's snagged male breakthrough star at the 2002 MTV Movie Awards, made four other movies, and become the guy everyone's asking about.

Let out that sigh of relief now: He doesn't have a girlfriend -- at least not one he tells us about.  He was seeing someone while shooting LOTR in New Zealand, but they broke up.  What about those rumors that he was dating Christina Ricci?  Well, our entertainment director, Alyssa, did dance next to the two of them at an Oscar party in L.A.  But were they actually dating, or did the gossip pages just do their "They were spotted together, therefore they're going out" thing? Orlando has never confirmed that he and Christina were an item, so if it was true, at least we know he doesn't kiss and tell.

Here's what he will say about past romances: "I flew to Dubai [in the Persian Gulf] once to hang out with a girl," he says.  "[Another time] I had a crush on this girl and sent her an airline ticket from Ireland to London so she could come visit me.  She came."  Duh.

Apparently, he isn't as hush-hush with his friends. "Mine and Orly's favorite subject was the girls we were watching in the bars," Dominic, 26, says with a laugh, but he doesn't give details, either.  "He's never had problems with the girls."

Orlando grew up in Canterbury, England, where he and his older sister, Samantha, were enrolled in poetry recitation contest by their mom, Sonia. (His father, who was an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa before Orlando was born, died when Orlando was 4.)

"We used to win first prize," Orlando says of the competitions, and then reels off a poem he once recited, Robert Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.  "'The woods are lovely, dark and deep/And I have promises to keep/And miles to go before I sleep/And miles to go before I sleep,'" he says, finishing up the last line of the poem.  "Not bad for a 10-year-old memory.  I think those [reading] experiences are what inspired me to be an actor."

Orlando says there's another reason he loved being involved in community theater and plays at school: He got to "hang with the chicks."  (He's denied this in other articles, but that's exactly what he told us.)  Still, he must have been pretty serious about acting, because he moved to London on his own to pursue it when he was only 16.

"That was a big growth period for me," says Orlando. "Me and my friends, who were mostly older, used to go clubbing, and I experienced a lot of life at a young age because of that."

Two years later, Orlando received a scholarship to train with the British American Drama Academy and starred in its production of A Walk in the Vienna Woods.  An agent saw the performance and quickly signed Orlando, though it didn't lead to much except a few bit parts on British TV shows like Casualty (which he describes as a "cheaper version of ER").  So Orlando decided to enroll in the Guildhall School of Music & Drama's three-year acting program.

"I needed fine-tuning and to know more about the playwrights and poets," says Orlando, who inserts names like Shakespeare, Donne, and Milton into our interview.

He was still at Guildhall when the LOTR chance came up.  Orlando video taped an audition and two days before finishing school found out he'd landed a part.  "The first time we saw Orlando, we rewound the tape, looked at him again, and then looked at each other," says LOTR director Peter Jackson.  "He was straight out of drama school and hadn't done anything, but we knew we'd struck gold."

Six weeks later he was on a plane to Queenstown, New Zealand, to train for the role of Legolas, the lone elf in the group making the journey to destroy the ring.  Orlando had to learn how to shoot a bow and arrow, ride a horse, and speak Elvish (yes, author J.R.R. Tolkien actually invented a whole language).

Orlando prepped for his role in unusual ways.  "I studied the Japanese samurai warriors, because their style of movement is so precise and thought-out," he says. "I also bought a book on trees. They're like these ageless beings. I really got into them.  Legolas [who's 2,931 years old] lives in the trees."

In the first part of the trilogy, Legolas and the entire fellowship set off to take the ring to Mount Doom, where they can destroy it. In The Two Towers, the fellowship has split up.  Legolas continues his quest with human Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and dwarf Gimli (John Rhys-Davies).

Here's the list of the body parts Orlando has broken: both legs, back, arm, finger, three ribs, wrist, and toe.  He's also cracked his skull three times.  Despite all this, he's not afraid of risking more damage. "[Everyone in LOTR] got a memo saying New Line was asking that nobody bungee jump, skydive, white-water raft, et cetera," he explains.  "I'd been in Queenstown for like an hour and I walked up this mountain and bungee jumped."

He's quick to tell us that it's not like he'll be sitting around on a Saturday afternoon and decide he wants to go skydiving.  "People thing that's how I spend my time because I did it while I was in New Zealand," he explains.  "But there it's all around you.  I don't make a habit of doing that stuff."

Orlando did think, however, that it would be cool if the guys in the cast did adventurous things together.  "I'd say, 'Let's go motocross or mountain biking or bungee jumping' and they'd be like, 'You've got to be crazy, man.  We'd kill ourselves.'" he explains.  He eventually convinced the guys to snowboard, white-water raft, bungee jump, and surf.  It was also partly Orlando's idea for the nice actors who are members of the fellowship to get tattooed with the symbol for nine in Elvish.

Orlando already had a tattoo, a yellow sun near his belly button that he got when he was 15.  "I sort of lied and told my mom, 'Oh, it's only going to last a couple of years,'" says Orlando, who was always daring, even as a kid.  "I'd be the first to jump off the wall or go into the woods.  I like to do things as a group, but I think I'm more of a leader than a follower."

He didn't even dress like everyone else.  "My best friend, Chris, his mum had a whole load of '60s clothes, so we used to get dressed up in that stuff," he says. We think it would be pretty hard for Orlando to look bad, but apparently not everyone agrees.  Last year, Orlando was filming The Kelly Gang, in which he plays a member of the 19th-century Australian outlaw group. Studio execs freaked out when they heard Orlando and co-star Heath Ledger had grown unruly, rather unattractive beards, which the guys wore to make their appearance historically accurate. The execs wanted the beards trimmed, but a bunch of scenes had already been shot and couldn't be changed. "I think they thought [we couldn't look good with the beards] but that's not really true," he says. "And it's more about the way you wear it, isn't it?"

Since LOTR came out, countless Web sites have been dedicated to Orlando and one of his autographs was even sold for $250 on eBay.  Safe to say his fan base is pretty large, and we get why.  "Orly's just a great person to gravitate to because there's always something happening around him," says Dominic.

Next year, there'll be even more going on.  The second installment of LOTR is in theaters now, The Kelly Gang comes out in the spring, and Orlando recently wrapped an indie British film, The Calcium Kid.  "I wanted my first lead to be in a film that wouldn't require me to be hugely responsible for a budget of a hundred million dollars," he says, referring to his role as a milkman who becomes a pro boxer.  We can picture the Got Milk? ads already.