Elf Assassin, from Starlog (May #298), April 9, 2002
By Ian Spelling
typed by en penumbras from the
Orlando Bloom Fan Board
As the eyes and ears of the Fellowship, Orlando Bloom focuses on the mission at
Orlando Bloom knew the instant he read J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings
that it could serve as the basis for some extraordinary motion pictures. "The
story has adventure and beasts and goblins," enthuses the actor, who costarred
in The Fellowship of the Ring as the heroic Elf Legolas. "There are Hobbits
and Dwarves. It has heart. It has magic and love and spirit - a
wide range of
emotions you can experience. It's so detailed. Tolkien was a professor of
history, and he just layered this story with so much [of that knowledge]. You
open up the books, take a look at the pages and get lost in this world. That's
what's so amazing about it."
While filming in New Zealand, Bloom
relied almost as much on the books as he did the scripts by Fran Walsh, Philippa
Boyens and writer-director Peter Jackson. Everyone - even Jackson - did
likewise. "For all intents and purposes, the test was like referring to the
Bible." Bloom explains. "It was on hand at all times. I literally went through
the books and highlighted all the information I felt I needed to know about my
character, about the journey of the Fellowship. I really went through them with
a fine-tooth comb to try and absorb everything I could about what it meant for
Legolas to be a part of the Fellowship. I wanted to incorporate what was in the
books and in the scripts into what I was doing in my
place in the Fellowship is that I represent the Elves. I use my Elven qualities,
which are my superhuman strength - which doesn't come into use that much - my
eyes, my ears and my senses.
Legolas seems to know when there's danger around
the Fellowship. In the first movie especially, that's his role. You see him with
his bow and arrows. He's kind of an assassin. But Legolas is really the eyes and
ears of the Fellowship."
Bloom - a young British actor
whose only previous credits were small roles in U.K. television programs and a
supporting part in the film Wilde - faced a particularly difficult challenge in
Rings: Not only is his character tremendously physical, but he's also a touch
otherworldly. Such is the nature of Elves, and so Bloom worked out, read up and
- through makeup, prosthetics and costuming - transformed himself into
"The role of an actor is to make every character
believable," says Bloom, who actually perused parts of Tolkien's trilogy as a
teenager, but read them in earnest during the several months-long Rings audition
process. "And to play and Elf, my way into the character was through his
physicality. The first thing they did when I got to New Zealand was put a bow in
my hand. Training with the bow, doing swordplay with Bob
on horseback - all of that really informed what my character was about and how I
was going to portray him."
"Obviously, the books are incredibly
detailed," he adds, "and there is plenty of information about the Elves in them.
The Elves are a very interesting culture, and many people are intrigued by them
because they're rather magical and mystical. Tolkien created them as the
firstborn race - they're angelic spirits placed on Middle-Earth by the gods - so
they have this otherworldly quality to them. I translated that into them always
being centered, poised and focused. [You can compare that to today], where
people go to yoga classes and meditate and do all sorts of things to try to
attain a higher state of mind and living, to center themselves."
when I was playing Legolas, if the other Hobbit actors were joking around on
set, I would usually be more quite and still, trying to remain as focused and
concentrated as I possible could. I wanted that intensity in the character. It's
all in the eyes, I think. It's not in what he says, it's in what he does - even
if he's not running or fighting or shooting a bow. And if he does speak, it's
because there's danger or something
important needs to be expressed. He'll say,
'The Orcs are about' or 'There's something unnerving about this situation. We
need to move on.' That's his mission, his job."
"For all of us, this
was an epic adventure," Bloom attests. "Pete put the responsibility on us to
bring something to the characters. We all had to raise our game in order to step
up to the plate and meet the challenge. The makeup and prosthetics helped me so
much. I spent two hours every morning with the hair and makeup people, and that
was fun. It really did help me get into the character. Every morning, slipping
into those ears, putting the wig on, I would become
Legolas. I looked at those
two hours as time I could spend getting into the right headspace, and let me
tell you, when you're waking up [that early] in the
morning, it can sometimes
take two hours."
The Fellowship of the Rings emerged as a huge
critical and financial hit upon its release in December 2001, and went on to
garner 13 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. Bloom
wasn't surprised in the least when he heard Jackson's name announced as a
nominee. "Pete is an incredible man," he extols. "He has the heart of a Hobbit,
the madness of a wizard and the cool of and Elf.
He encompasses all of those
races. he's a real centered and focused director, and he had to be. When we
were on set, he would say, 'So, Legolas is going to do this,' and he would do
the gestures and get in a shooting
position and turn his head as if he sensed
something. In those small moments, he would crystallize exactly what he wanted.
I could just look at him - and I think we all could do this - and he would show
us what to do, and them we would do it
"We got to know our
characters so well over time, and that made for a great working relationship with
Pete. We were all on the same page. We all knew what he wanted. It was cool. He
would just say one word and it would sum up precisely what I needed to do. he
would tell me. 'Just remember, you're an assassin.' and I would think, 'OK, I'm
a cool, steely assassin.' I thought of
Legolas as a gun and his arrows as his
One of Jackson's fellow nominees in the Best Director category was Ridley
Scott for Black Hawk Down, and unrelenting, brutal film based on the true events
of American's ill-fated 1993 military mission into Mogadishu, Somalia. Bloom
played an inexperienced, eager soldier in the
picture, and got to act in a cast
that included Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore and Eric Bana. "It was
an opportunity to work with Ridley and [producer] Jerry Bruckhemimer," Bloom
says. "You don't turn down a chance to work with those guys. I had no idea,
really, what I would be doing, but I knew it was a modern-day military story
based on the events that happened in Somalia. My character, Private First Class
Todd Blackburn, was the youngest and greenest of the Rangers brought over to
fight in Mogadishu. He fell 60 feet from a helicopter at the start of the
mission, and that was really the beginning of the end, if you like. But he's
alive today. The Ranger's code of conduct is that you never leave a man
or down. So this one man fell and needed to be removed from
that location. This
meant that the other Rangers had to land in an area with the worst open live
fire since Vietnam and try to take him out. And it became hellish."
"As an actor, it was a great
experience. I didn't have much to do, but I had
my moments, and I learned a hell of a lot from working on such a huge machine of
a set, which is how Ridley runs things. Lord of the Rings is one of the largest
projects ever made because it was three movies filmed at once, but since we were
working in New Zealand and with Pete, it felt like a family and smaller set. It
didn't feel like a big thing. Whereas on Black Hawk Down, there was no messing
around. You had six to eight helicopters in the air, six to eight cameras
filming, 600 to 800 people on set. It was a big machine, and there was a
different type of approach to getting it on film. I was being baptized by fire,
and just trying to hold my own and keep it going."
Bloom played a small but pivotal role in Black Hawk Down, and one could make
the same argument for his part in Fellowship of the Ring. Legolas doesn't have
that much screen time, but thanks to Bloom's understated
really felt the character's presence throughout the picture.
It would be easy
for Bloom to grouse about deleted scenes and such - some of which will probably
turn up on the Fellowship DVD,
due for fall release by New Line Home
Entertainment - but that isn't the actor's style.
"I think that people will find that I'm more present in the other two films,"
Bloom says diplomatically, referring to The Two Towers, due out in December, and
The Return of the King, scheduled to open in December 2003. "Legolas doesn't
really arrive in the Fellowship until Rivendell anyway, although there was other
stuff shot for Fellowship that didn't make it into film. But there was more
[footage] of every character that didn't make it into the movie. That was purely
because the film had to introduce the characters and get on with the story.
Rather than let Fellowship run on too long, Pete refined every character right
down to their essence.
"To me, when I watched the film, it was about setting up the Ring and its
history and introducing the audience to the Fellowship. It hit all the things it
had to hit. What is the Ring? Where is the Ring? Who will be the Ring-bearer?
Where does it have to get to? Who will help Frodo get it there? Who is good and
who is evil? I was all about that. And now that we've seen how these characters
joined together on the first part of their journey, there are another two movies
which will explore the Fellowship and its role."
As with any journey through life, there are lessons learned and people lost
along the way. "By the end of The Fellowship of the Ring, the Fellowship has
dispersed," Bloom comments. "We've lost Boromir, and now we'll go on. You'll be
seeing some more action - in terms of the big battle sequences to come - and
you'll get to know each of the men more, on a personal level. Pete was well
aware that he had to introduce a considerable amount of characters in the first
film. It was such a huge cast. When I first saw the move, I felt very privileged
to have been in it, to have been around these other actors. Pete did justice to
all of the characters and to the story and, of
course, I wanted more. I'm an
actor, and an actor always wants to see more of his character, but I'm actually
happy with what's there. You get enough of Legolas, and hopefully you'll get
more later on. Even in the book, Legolas is silently present. And that's what I
was in the movie."
Right now, Bloom is in the process of dealing with Fellowship's phenomenal
worldwide success. He still calls London his home, but has spent most of the
last few months on the road promoting the film. He did
manage to squeeze in a
part in the dark drama Lullaby of Clubland, which follows four Londoners as they
wreak all kinds of havoc after they unwisely mix alcohol and acid. The film is
set to debut in England this summer, and will probably reach the U.S. by
November. And beyond that...
"I have no idea yet what the impact of my being in the Rings films will be,"
Bloom offers, "So far, just having done it has enabled me to get representation
in America. It has opened a whole new area of work, which is very exciting to
me. I spent three years at a drama school in London, the Guild Hall, and trained
for the theater, which I love. I will always do stage work, but I'm very
intrigued by movies. I'm interested in the relationship that I can form, as an
actor, with a camera. I like using that and understanding that in order to
create a performance on film."
"So, Fellowship has opened a whole new area of thinking for me, which is
thrilling. It has also enabled me to travel, both while I was making the film
and now while I'm promoting it. I've had a whole series of educational life
lessons - whether it was living in New Zealand for 18 months, working with the
high caliber of actors and crew on the movie, or speaking with the media about
the project and myself."
"There's a whole different kind of headspace you have to get into with
something this big and this popular," Orlando Bloom muses. "It wasn't that
difficult in this instance, because Fellowship of the Ring was a real labor of
love. It's a great movie, and I find that talking about it has really helped me
understand who I am and what I've done, and taught me a way to express that."