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The Incredible Hunk, The Irish Times magazine, August 2, 2003
typed by Carey, scans by Sarah

Move over Colin, step aside Brad- is the swashbuckling ORLANDO BLOOM the next big thing, asks Derek O' Connor.

"It's weird, isn't it? I'm a pikey boy from Kent at the end of the day."
Elle Magazine, August 2003

The word is "buzz". And buzz drives today's multi-billion dollar entertainment industry; it shifts units, be they cinema tickets, CDs, DVDs or magazines, and, ultimately, whether anybody actually likes to admit it or not, shifting units is absolutely everything. Buzz can indeed be manufactured but it can't be sustained for any length of time- without eventually delivering. The buzz on Colin Farrell got him million-dollar paydays without the Castleknock kid ever having opened a big movie. And at the very moment when those LA movers and shakers might have wondered if their investment was actually worth it. Bam! three US number ones in a row. In the last one, Phone Booth, Colin Farrell was the star.

The result? Farrell steps up that significant level form Next Big Thing to Someone Who Opens A Movie. He can have the odd dud or two, he can get smaller projects financed, and he can breathe a little easier. Now, Hollywood needs fresh meat. Over the next 12 months, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Keanu Reeves all hit 40 years-of-age, and with one generation of $20 million-a-movie talent getting on, a new generation is needed. Urgently. This is a key reason as to why, right now, the buzz surrounding Orlando Bloom is deafening. Somebody smells money.

"There's absolutely nothing sexually threatening about an elf. Legolas is a good, safe guy for girls to pin their dreams on."
Newsweek, July 2003

Most people over 30 probably won't have too much of an idea who Orlando Bloom is, a fact that probably contributes even further to the young Londoner's massive teenage fan base. If someone was to tell you that the actor, who plays blond archer elf Legolas in the film adaptations of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy, was the most searched- for actor on three of the four main Internet engines in 2002, you might be a tad surprised. Indeed, Orlandomultimedia.net, one of the 50-plus websites solely dedicated to the man and his slim body of work to date, currently receives some 320,000 hits a day. Leonardo Di Caprio, even at the height of Titanic mania, wouldn't get a look in.

Talk to any girl under the age of 17, however (as well as a decent spattering of females a great deal older), and the Cult of Bloom suddenly begins to make sense. After all, he's a dream boat. He's a hunk (you're damn right there!). He's gorrrrrrrrrrgeous. Whatever "It" is, he's got it in buckets. And spades.

"The hunk thing makes me nervous. It's flattering, but it doesn't mean anything to me. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I'm much more interested in being an actor and growing."
USA Today, July 2003

But can Bloom cut the mustard? This month, we get another chance to scrutinize Orlando in full bloom, tackling his first romantic lead in a mega-budget Disney spectacular, Pirates of the Caribbean: The curse of the Black Pearl. While the premise may not sound all that promising- it is, after all, the first major motion picture based upon a theme park ride- the results are surprisingly agreeable, particularly after a cinematic summer primarily comprised of under whelming, over cooked sequels. As supernatural swash-buckling romps go, Pirates. is a must see, if only for one reason; Bloom's Co-star, Johnny Depp. As a disheveled, down-on-his-luck sea slat name Jack Sparrow, Depp offers a one-man master class in show-stealing. He makes the movie. Young Bloom, on the other hand, can't compete- very few young actors possibly could. He contents himself with playing the straight man- a noble young blacksmith with a mysterious past- with a certain, understated nobility, and gets to save the day and kiss the girl. Everybody's happy. The critics will love Johnny, but the punters won't forget Orlando.

"People have this idea of me that I cruise cities looking for the next building to throw myself off. That's bollocks."
The Face, August 2003

The Orlando Bloom story, then. He's 26 years old, born and raised in Canterbury, underachieved in school (he's severely dyslexic) but always had an eye for the spotlight. He moved to London at the age of 16 and joined the National Youth Theatre, followed by London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama, combining his studies with odd acting gigs (one line as a rent boy in Wilde), day jobs in shops such as Box Fresh and Paul Smith, and a busy night life as a London Club kid. Plucked from Guildhall three days before graduation by Peter Jackson for the Lord of the Rings gig, it's been a rollercoaster ever since.

Old flames included model Jodie Kidd (actually it was rumoured it was Jemma, Jodie's sister) and actress Christina Ricci (denied). Right now, however, he's rumoured to be dating Blue Crush star Kate Bosworth. Sorry, girls. Forthcoming projects included a sidekick role to Heath Ledger's bandit king in a revisionist Ned Kelly biopic, and his first starring role proper, alongside Billie Piper in low-budget Britcom The Calcium Kid. Bloom is currently filming Troy, director Wolfgang Peterson's epic take on Grecian Legend, where he plays war-mongering Paris alongside Brad Pitt's Achilles. The supporting cast includes Eric (the hulk) Bana, Julie Christie, Brendan Gleeson and Peter O'Toole. Nice work, if you can get it. In-depth Bloom profiles tend to stress two matters: the death of his father, Afrikaner anti-partied lawyer Harry Bloom, when Orlando was four (it later transpired that a "close family friend", Colin Stone, was his biological father), and his considerable propensity for injury. To date, he has broken both legs, various ribs, fingers and toes, cracked his skull (three times) and was written off at 21 as crippled for life, after a three-storey fall climbing onto a mate's roof broke his back. Five years later, he's a Hollywood player. Funny old world. He appeared briefly in the first series of BBC's The Office. And Legolas's luscious blond tresses are we're sad to report (after a year of it already being known), a wig.

"It's a good choice. The movie has a broad spectrum. This will help Orlando down the path of becoming a true movie star."
Pirates of the Caribbean producer Jerry Bruckheimer. (Who has worked with Orli previously on Black Hawk Down)

Already, Orlando's nudging the A-list. Rumours suggest that he's one of the myriad of stars who have passed on the role of Superman in the forthcoming, mega-budget remake. Apparently the fear of typecasting that comes with the iconic cape and red knickers has already scared off everybody form Jude Law to Ashton Kutcher. Press access to Bloom is at a premium these days; a recent day of interviews in London saw journos being offered 15-minute one-on-one chats; half the usual minimal length, and rather difficult to transform into an intimate, revealing bonding session. If celebrity is currency, Orlando Bloom is seriously flush.

"When I first got the [pirates] script, I was like, I'm not really interested. And then it was put to me in a different way, which was that if I opened a door like this, it will ultimately put me in a marketplace where I can get projects made that I want to get made."
Premiere, June 2003

Isn't this all a bit cynical? Absolutely. What about the art? Well, there's that too. It hasn't hurt the Orlando Bloom industry that Peter Jackson's Rings movies have been, for many, truly sublime cinematic experiences. Studio execs took a $300 million risk on a bear-like New Zealander best loved for kitchy horror flicks such as Brain Dead and found themselves winners on every imaginable level.

The first LOTR movie, The fellowship of the Ring, garnered near-unanimous critical acclaim and nearly a billion dollars at the global box office, covering the costs (and some!) of the remaining two chapters of the cinematic trilogy before they had even been released. And from that phenomenon sprang the mini-phenomenon that is the rise and rise of Orlando Bloom.

With a blockbuster-a-year guaranteed over a three-year period, all Hollywood had to do was pave the way to fortune, glory and above-the-title billing for the next Next Big Thing. And it's doing its best.

Bloom didn't have to carry Pirates of the Caribbean, but his presence made it more attractive preposition to the potential teenage punter. The result? $150 million worth of ticket sales Stateside in less than a fortnight, and a bona fide critical and commercial box-office hit in a summer of heavy-hitting underachievers. He won't have to carry Troy, either- that's Brad Pitt's job- but if it succeeds, and there's every chance that it will, he'll be that one step closer to being the name above the title. The one that matters.

"I've had enough of being the cool clean-shaven elf; the cool, wholesome pirate slayer."
The Face, August 2003

That's why, ultimately, his new mate Johnny Depp is so important. There are certain kind of intelligence, those whom the audience trusts won't appear in any old nonsense, who then promptly appear in any old nonsense. Kevin Spacey blew it, for example, when he decided he wanted to embrace "emotional" roles: cue duds such as Pay it Forward, The Shipping News and The Life of David Gale. Depp, on the other hand, has managed to fashion a truly unpredictable and electric motion picture career. Sure, there are clinkers aplenty (chocolat and the ninth gate), but the man can bring in indie integrity to Pirates of the Caribbean that makes it an occasional delight. Indeed, in certain scenes one can almost sense our boy Orlando trying to suss out just how it's done. He has already expressed a strong desire to leave his teenybopper image behind (think of Lord of the Rings as his boy band days), with that "quality" dream project already in his sights: a biopic of photojournalist Dan Eldon, who died covering the Somalian conflict in 1993.

In Troy, Bloom's Paris gets to face off against Brad Pitt, another off-centre screen idol. Beyond the buzz, beyond the hype and the sheer adoration, has our Legolas got a Fight Club or an Edward Scissorhands in him somewhere? He'd like to think so.

Pirates of the Caribbean: the Curse of the Black Pearl is released on August 8th. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is released on December 17th.