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Bloom Town, 8 Days (Singapore), January 09-16, 2003
typed by Mei

Playing Legolas in The Lord of the Rings trilogy has turned ORLANDO BLOOM into a heartthrob. Now all he needs is for people to recognise him.

Arriving at his press conference for Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Orlando Bloom is unrecognisable. Gone is the silken white-haired wig he wore to play Legolas in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. In its place he has dark brown hair, but the same soulful eyes, and chiseled cheekbones which made him the most sought after of all the actors in the trilogy.

Ironically he wasn't scheduled to be there, but he prevailed on producer Jerry Bruckheimer who gave him time off from his current movie The Pirates of the Carribean.

At the press conference in New York --- he flew in at the last minute -- he's everything an English actor should be: articulate and forthright. He can barely contain his enthusiasm for being there, not because his readership demands it, but because he's become so close to other cast members.

"I pleaded with Jerry to let me come so I could kind of hang and be here with the guys and feel like I was part of everything again. I think of it as the gift that keeps giving. Each episode is a new and exciting adventure. You feel really lucky to be a part of it. It brought us together as a group of actors. We were like riding a wild horse, everyone was trying to grab a rein. I will never forget it."

How about girl friends. Is he dating?

"I'm not really dating. I'm sort of dating, but I'm not in a relationship. Dating is more an American thing."

How did he get started?

"I think it began when I spent a Christmas in Boston with my cousin. I was like 12 and my cousin from LA who's a commercials director was in town and he rented some videos for the holiday period, and one of them was The Hustler with Paul Newman. I was young and didn't think I was going to be impressed with it, but I was so impressed by the cool of Paul Newman in that film --- as a young kid my mom was quite into us being creative, we'd go to musicals, plays and theatre --- I somehow knew that's what I wanted to do."

Four years later he dropped out of school and attended the British American Drama Academy in London, eventually gaining a scholarship to study at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama from 1996 - 99.

Wasn't he a good student?

"As a kid I was dyslexic so I always struggled in school. I'm still mildly dyslexic. It was only when I went to Guildhall that I started to feel like I got a proper education. We would learn about Milton and Donne and read Chekhov and Shakespeare and that kind of inspired me."

But then he had a near fatal and life altering experience.

"I had an accident four years ago where I broke my back. For four days I was told I would never walk again. But then they operated on me; they put me back together, and I walked out of the hospital in 12 days. At first I was told I'd be in hospital for six months, which could have meant I couldn't have completed my course."

How did it happen?

"I was trying to get onto a roof terrace and I fell backwards, three floors, out of a window. I was on a drainpipe and I landed between some iron railing and an old washing machine that was left on a first floor landing. Being young I guess I didn't have a very healthy fear of death, but that experience has since taught me to slow down and appreciate things in a different way. So I think of it now as a good thing."

"It was kind of like the penny dropped. I was forced for eight days to lie on my back. I couldn't move. I had four nurses to move me. I was in more pain than I could ever experience in my life. If you movie a finger when you break your back, it's indescribable. I broke four vertebrate and three ribs. I almost severed my spinal cord. I had bruised it which is why they thought I wouldn't walk again."

How demoralised was he?

"I lost all my dignity. Everything had to be done for me. When you can't move you learn to have a lot of humility and you begin to appreciate life. Little things like a walk outside now is amazing. You appreciate things in a different way.Ē

Obviously heís learned a lot from it?

ďIt was kind of a life changing time for me. I learned a huge amount from it. I was a young 20-year-old living in London having a really good time at drama school, racing through life, a bit impatient about wanting to be an actor, wanting to be working. Missing the point a little bit, I guess. But then I was forced to stop and recognize what was going on in my life and explore some pretty dark corners of my mind. It was kinda scary, but it was sort of a blessing in disguise.Ē

Shortly thereafter he auditioned for Lord of the Rings.

ďThere was a huge casting process, worldwide casting. I went on tape like every other actor. Initially I auditioned for Faramir the role David Wenham plays. I met Peter (Jackson, the director) and Fran (Walsh the screenwriter) three months later, and thatís when I auditioned in front of them. I took direction from Peter and then went on tape for Legolas. A month or so later I was told Faramir was no longer available, but two months later I was offered Legolas. The whole experience was quite nerve-racking but ended up being the most amazing thing thatís ever happened to me.Ē

So after 18 months of filming, how has it changed his life?

ďComing out of drama school, for a young actor to have that opportunity to work with such a fantastic cast and director, the whole experience was just a massive growth. It was the most daunting experience of my life. I felt like I was dropped in the deep end. Eighteen months is a really longtime; however since Iíve worked on subsequent films, I now realize the more you struggle with life, the more you grow.Ē

When heís not working, what does he do? What type of music does he listen to?

ďIím into all sorts of music, mostly the Ben Haroer, the David Gray, and the Bob Dylan type of folk music. And as far as hobbies are concerned, Iíve simplified them. It could be just taking time to walk whether it be on location somewhere or on a beach. I did get involved with extreme sports when I was in New Zealand, but most of the time I just chill with my friends and have a mellow time because otherwise itís all a bit too hectic.Ē

Itís no secret that heís become a sex symbol as a result of playing Legolas. How does he deal with it?

Reluctantly he admits, ďI do get a lot of fan mail and itís very flattering to be told that, but Iíve been working a lot also, so I havenít had much direct contact with audiences. My mum however telephones me, gives me updates of stuff thatís happening on the Internet. Iím flattered, but it really hasnít affected my life in a huge way.Ē

It must he an advantage that without his wig heís not immediately recognized?

ďItís great, but on the other hand when they do meet me, Iím probably a bit of a disappointment. But the blonde wig helps disguise me, and thatís kind of cool because it allows me to have a relatively normal life at the moment.Ē

Things will change when his two new movie open next year, in neither of which he is a blonde. Apart from Pirates of the Carribean, in which he appears with Johnny Depp, he acts opposite Heath Ledger in Ned Kelly. ďWe shot it in Australia, sort of the same neck of the wood. I play an Irish bush ranger, shooting guns, tearing up the town.Ē