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The Budding of a Heartthrob, Newsweek (US), July 14, 2003
by Kate Stroup

Deep in the Magic Hingdom, things are about to get ugly. I’m walking with Orlando Bloom down a 1,050-foot red carpet at the Disneyland premiere of “Pirates of the Caribbean,” between him and a hysterical horde of his prepubescent girl fans. Not a good place to be.

THEIR HIGH-PITCHED SQUEALS morph into sobs—and then the tweens turn territorial. “Get out of my way!” one screams at me, eyes glittering with hatred and pink eye shadow. Soon the entire girl-gaggle is chanting Move! Move! Move! “It’s just the excitement of being at Disney,” Bloom tells me. “It would be like this for anyone.”

Nice try, pal. But not even Mickey gets that kind of reception. At 26, this soft-spoken British actor has become the toast of the Tiger Beat set. (They toast with what? Milk?) And Bloom’s done it without ever appearing in a romantic comedy or a gross-out road tripper; most people over 30 still have no idea who this guy is. He’s had only supporting roles in action epics, including “Pirates,” where he plays Will Turner, the swashbuckling straight man to Johnny Depp’s madcap Capt. Jack Sparrow.

For the little ladies, though, Bloom’s the leading man—and has been since his debut as Legolas, the sensitive elven archer in “The Lord of the Rings.” Sure, his pretty-boy good looks were obscured by a waist-length wig and pointy prosthetic ears, but as sharks can smell blood, young girls can sense hot. “There’s absolutely nothing sexually threatening about an elf,” Bloom says earnestly. (Grandma should embroider that on a pillow.) “Legolas is a good, safe guy for girls to pin their dreams on.” And so was Bloom—you didn’t want to sleep with him, exactly, just doodle his name in your three-ring binder. Nearly 200 fan sites sprang up overnight. Leo DiCaprio has only 80. Who’s king of the world now?

“Orlando’s a one-man boy band,” says “Pirates” costar Keira Knightley, whose fetching Elizabeth Swann gets some above-the-corset action with her fellow Brit—which helped earn the film’s PG-13 rating, a Disney first. So far, it’s Bloom’s only on-screen romance, and Knightley (of “Bend It Like Beckham”) is bracing for a teeny-bopper backlash. “We were filming our kiss, and someone brought her daughters to the set,” she recalls. “I thought I was going to be lynched by a little blond mob.” Might any good come from deflowering Bloom? “I can report that he’s a very good kisser.”

Such talk gets Bloom all kinds of bothered. He began acting at 8, and left home at 16 for the London stage. He spent two seasons with the National Youth Theatre, won a scholarship to the British American Drama Academy and studied at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. Why aren’t people more interested in his craft than in how he filled out that elf costume? “It’s just such a circus,” he says. “In groups, the girls get rather intimidating.”

They must be scary: Bloom spent his 18-month “Lord of the Rings” shoot tracking down every bungee jump and sky dive New Zealand had to offer, despite a three-story fall that nearly left him paralyzed five years ago. (“Shimmying down a drainpipe,” he explains, “and I hadn’t even been partying. There’s just no excuse.”) He brings that sense of fearless physicality to his roles, from elf to boxer to buccaneer. “Orlando’s enormously talented,” says producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who pushed Bloom for “Pirates” after working with him in “Black Hawk Down.” “But he’s also made some really smart choices.” His current project, the Greek epic “Troy,” directed by Wolfgang Petersen, is an A-list toga party with Brad Pitt. Next, like his favorite leading men—Viggo Mortensen (the intellectual hunk), Depp (the bohemian hunk) and Pitt (the hunk hunk)—Bloom hopes to transcend his teen-dreamboat reputation in some unconventional indie flick. “I’d really like to take a role that doesn’t involve a sword.”

In the meantime, he wears the matinee-idol mantle with a surprising degree of grace and class. During the course of this interview, he pauses repeatedly to sign autographs, to rub a pregnant woman’s belly and—please, no more!—to help an old man whose electric wheelchair has broken down. “Oh God,” Bloom groans, “I seem like such a wanker.” No. To millions of teenage girls, Bloom seems like a slightlysubversive Eagle Scout, the boy next door with supernatural bone structure. Unless this guy starts drowning puppies soon, he’d better get used to the screaming.