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Can You Hear the Drums Orlando, The Daily Telegraph (Australia), September 11, 2003

ONCE an elf, then a bushranger, now a pirate and soon a Greek legend, Orlando Bloom tells PAUL SHEAHAN in London about his swashbuckling rise to fame.


Orlando Bloom loves make-believe: "I used to run around the garden in pirate outfits and cowboy costumes. It's fun. If you can be an actor and get dressed up, why not dress up as something ridiculous? And enjoy it."

He certainly enjoyed acting out his childhood fantasies in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, which opens in Sydney today.

Based on the ride at Disneyland, this adventure stars Bloom and Johnny Depp as gentlemen rogues both chasing the governor's daughter, Elizabeth (Keira Knightley from Bend It Like Beckham), who then team up to battle pirates led by the dastardly Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush).

"Will [Turner, Orlando's character] is very eager and dependable. He's a blacksmith by trade and a master swordsman. He's a man of honour in a time when there is no honour, the polar opposite of Captain Jack Sparrow [Depp]," he says.

"Will would throw his cape over a puddle for a woman. The character has a great arc as he develops you see he learns the way of the pirate. I'm the earnest, young 'I must save Elizabeth' kind of dude who is not really swash Johnny's the swashbuckler and he does an amazing job."

Bloom is only 26, yet he has been working non-stop since just two days before his graduation from drama school in London. In the past four years he's worked with the cream of talent that made up the cast and crew of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, where he played the immortal elf archer, Legolas. Then there was the remarkable time he spent with Ridley Scott making Black Hawk Down. He came to Australia for Ned Kelly, playing the bushranger's sidekick, Joe Byrne, where he first worked with Rush.

And now, taking no time to bask in the huge success of Pirates in the US, he's in Mexico filming the final scenes of Troy with Brad Pitt, Eric Bana (with whom he worked on Black Hawk Down) and Rose Byrne.

With all these mentors, it's Depp who's made the biggest impression. "Johnny may be one of the best-looking guys on screen but he morphs into character. I think Johnny has made some interesting choices and preserved his integrity. I admire that in an actor."

Pirates is full of memorable fight scenes that appealed to the daredevil in Bloom. "I remember hanging about in the rafters, just swaying around there with my sword in hand. There's a lot of just crazy stunt stuff."

But he regretted that the demands of filming on location in the Caribbean did not allow time for too many off-screen adventures.

"I did so much cool stuff in New Zealand while making Lord of the Rings snowboarding, skydiving, bungee jumping which is a lot more intense than skydiving," he says.

"To throw yourself into the air with only something attached to your feet is a different headspace. I went off at the highest bungee jump in New Zealand, nearly 320 feet [97m], six times."

Not surprisingly, this action man has had his share of accidents: "I've broken my ribs, my nose, both my legs, my arm, my wrist, a finger, a toe and cracked my skull three times. I've slowed down recently but I was a bit mad in my youth. I fell out a window a few years ago and broke my back. For four days, I faced the prospect of never being able to walk again. But after 12 days, I walked out of the hospital. I'd always been 'act first, think later' it can lead to an exciting spontaneity but that was a big wake-up call."

Bloom had only recently moved to London from his home of Canterbury when he suffered this setback. Life had already dealt him the hardest blow of all by robbing him of his father when he was only four. Harry Bloom had been a renowned lawyer and human-rights activist in South Africa who was forced from his homeland because of his anti-apartheid beliefs.

He and his wife took refuge in England in 1976 but he lived only five more years. Then his mother told him that his real father was, in fact, a close family friend, the writer Colin Stone. It's a subject Bloom still won't comment on.

Cast in Lord of the Rings as the elf Legolas, lethal with a sword and bow, only two days before he graduated from acting school, Bloom spent the next 18 months in New Zealand filming the three films back to back to back.

He will always be grateful for the life-altering experience and he proudly shows off his stylish wrist tattoo (the word nine in Elvish) that marks him forever as one of the nine elite members of the Fellowship.

He persuaded the others, including Sir Ian McKellen, to be tattooed as a permanent reminder of their strong bond. "For me, the third book, The Return of the King, is the most exciting, with some great battle sequences. To be part of this was like winning the lottery imagine being flown to an amazing country and being taught how to shoot, learn to ride horses and study swordplay."

Orlando was surprised his acting school Guildhall lost no time adding the trilogy's breakout star to its hall of fame. "It's got a board with photos of different people. My sister, who's training there now, says I'm up there next to Ewan McGregor," he says.

"The first scene I shot in Black Hawk Down was with Ewan. He was the big name that had come out of school. So we chatted about some of the teachers we had at college."

After that exhausting shoot in the Moroccan desert, Bloom was ready for something a lot lighter: "I met the Ned Kelly director, Gregor Jordan, in LA and he told me: 'Well, we're gonna make a movie about a bunch of young guys riding horses, shooting guns'."

Off-screen, Bloom played cupid for co-stars Heath Ledger and Naomi Watts he set them up and played decoy so the twosome could romance in private.

His private life is low-key. Hollywood's latest "It" boy describes himself as "young, free and single [although he's recently been spotted with Kate Blue Crush Bosworth] but I feel like I'm married to my career at the moment. I'm aware of just trying to keep my eye on the ball."

When Troy is over, Bloom plans to take a break. "When I'm not working, I prefer to sit and do nothing, go to a beach, go for a walk. The simple things have suddenly become more enjoyable. I'm just trying to take it one day at a time and enjoy it all for what it is."