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Orlando Bloom - Legolas the Elf, Pavement (New Zealand), December/January 2003
Typed by Lady Legolas, scans from Elf Lady, Bemuuuuse, and Denise

He's the break-out star of The Fellowship of the Ring and a major sex symbol - which should make his many fans very happy when The Two Towers opens on December 19.

Orlando Bloom interviewed in LA by James Graham. Photographed at Chateau Marmont in LA exclusively for Pavement by Lionel Deluy.

Note to Peter Jackson: if you’re reading this story, your Lord of the Rings protégé Orlando Bloom has been meaning to write, he really has.  It’s just that since you plucked him from an English drama school to play archer elf Legolas Greenleaf in your epic three-part screen adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy novel, his career has exploded into a fantasy world all of its own.

Bloom is already being touted as a cross between Leonardo DiCaprio and heath Ledger, a pretty-boy action here who has casting directors in a lather with his elegant ranginess and dark good looks.  Case in point: no sooner had the Kent-born Bloom left his character’s famous blond locks and pointy ears behind in Wellington, his adopted home for 18 months during the LOTR shoot, he turned up as Todd Blackburn, the trigger-happy US ranger who took that backbreaking spill from the helicopter in Ridley Scott’s 2001 hit Black Hawk Down.  Now there are three more Bloom movies slated for release in 2003: the British boxing comedy the Calcium Kid, (his first lead); the bio of infamous Aussie outlaw Ned Kelly, The Kelly Gang; and the big budget high-seas adventure, The Pirates of the Caribbean.

Bloom’s schedule is so tight that at press time, his commitment to filming Pirates – the other two films are already in the can – had all but quashed hopes of him joining Jackson and his hobbit pals on the red carpet for December’s New Zealand premiere of The Two Towers, the eagerly awaited sequel to last year’s smash hit The Fellowship of the Ring.

“I think I only get two or three days off over Christmas so I’m not sure if I’ll make any of the premiere’s,” a disappointed Bloom tells Pavement between a ship-stealing scene with co-star Johnny Depp on Disney’s lavish Pirates set.  “I saw The Two Towers for the first time a few days ago in a screening room with the other cast members who are in town and I’m still trying to take it all in.  know what I mean? Peter really is the star of this film. He’s done such an amazing job with his team of effects people.  They’re just seamless.  You wouldn’t even know.”

A few months earlier, during a weekend’s break from filming The Kelly Gang in Melbourne, Bloom jot a refresher course on the magnitude of Jackson’s magnum opus when he returned to New Zealand to hang out with the director, his writing partner Fran Walsh and their children Billy and Kate.  “Viggo (Mortensen) was there doing reshoots; Liv (Tyler was there; I caught up with everyone,” he enthuses.  “It was really cool just to say hi and see it all still going along.  It’s just crazy to see this huge project going on and on and Peter’s still there in the thick of it.  I can’t believe it.  It’s been two years and I’ve made four other movies.”

The 25-year-old deftly sidesteps the inevitable question of which LOTR film he prefers.  He says you can’t compare The Fellowship of the Ring with the Two Towers because they’re essentially part of the same story.  (The trilogy finale, Return of the King, is released Christmas 2003.)  “You need this part [Towers] to go to the last part.  When you get the whole hit of the three, that’s when you’ll know what’s been achieved,” promises Bloom.  “It could never have been made as one story.  They’re all part of the same story and it’s fantastic.  You can’t really compare any of the three against each other”

So here’s what to expect fro the Towers story-line: The Fellowship has scattered. Hobbits Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) struggle onto Mordor to destroy the evil Ring, accompanied by Gollum, a creature degenerated by his former ownership of the powerful Ring.  Meanwhile, Legolas (Bloom) teams with Aragorn (Mortensen) and Gimli the Dwarf (John Rhys-Davies) to find the problem-prone Hobbits Merry Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin Billy Boyd) who were nabbed by the fiendish Orcs at the end of the Fellowship.  They get swept up in wars brewed by Saruman (Christopher Lee) the wizard who battled Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellan) of whom you haven’t see the last, despite his fatal plunge in Fellowship.

“There’s a whole lot of cool stuff on horseback,” adds Bloom, clearly excited by the finished cut.  “For my part anyway, there’s more danger and battles, all in the process of trying to help the greater cause of the Fellowship.  The horse riding comes into play a lot more and we have great fun with that.”

Great fun tempered by a great deal of pain.  During one sequence shot around the hills of Queenstown, Bloom fell from his normally trusty stead and fractured a rib.  He recalls the mishap between Legolas and his riding partner Gimli (Rhys-Davies) vividly, as you’d expect.  With his mount fired up after five takes of sword waving and screaming, Bloom was trying to come to a halt on a downhill stretch.  But with the weight of Rhys-Davies’ fully armoured body double pressing forward on him, exercising enough leverage on the reins to stop his horse seemed impossible.  Fearing for their safety, Bloom bailed in full flight.

“I landed on a rock and John’s body double landed on top of me, which broke my rib,” he recalls.  “It was kind of painful at the time’” But not serious enough to slow Bloom down.  His push-life-to-the-limit attitude has left him with more fractures than a young Evil Knievel.  The scariest of these was a three-floor fall from a friend’s drainpipe a few years back that for four days had him thinking that he might never walk again: “Then they operated and I walked out of hospital in about 12 days.”

Although Bloom insists he’s not taking quite the same injury risk he did in his ‘youth’, this natural-born adrenalin junkie was in his element in New Zealand.  He surfed with the hobbits in Wellington’s Lyall Bay, a five minute drive from his home in Seatoun, bungie jumped six times of a 134-metre high bridge in Queenstown, went snowboarding, mad-dogging (boogie-boarding down white water rivers) and laughed hysterically with Monaghan as they sped down Queenstown’s Shotover River in a jet boat centimeters from river bank rocks.

“I miss the landscape, the people, the pace of life, the food, the lifestyle… Yeah, the lifestyle, really.  I like the big outdoors.  You know what I mean?”

Bloom, who wants to buy a home in New Zealand soon, will talk your ear off about his adopted homeland and his experiences filming Rings. The lifelong friends he made, the tattoo on his wrist of the Elvish 9 to symbolise the bond within the nine-strong Fellowship and the special book of on-and-off screen photos presented to Bloom and the rest of the core cast by Jackson and Walsh are constant reminders.

But after such an exhaustive publicity push with Fellowship, the media-friendly Englishman worries he’s already recycling the same anecdotes, such as the one about the night he was allowed home between takes and crawled into bed with his ears still glued on.  “I woke up with one of my ears stuck to the pillow and the other there in perfect form, with my girlfriend at the time taking photos and laughing.  After two years away, it really is hard to think of something new though” says Bloom, whose perception of time is thrown out of kilter by the three-in-one nature of filming the stories back-to-back,   “What am I going to be like by the time the third one comes around”

With Legolas peppered through Towers even more that he Fellowship opener and three other features in theatres by the time of its release, Bloom will probably become even tougher to get interview time with.  Just type in his name on any internet search engine and the response is nothing short of insane, especially when you consider the ensemble nature of the film that launched him.  There are virtual alters, such as the “Orlando Bloom Estrogen Brigade’ and ‘Bloomin’ Marvelous’, while back at his agent;’ office the fan mail hasn’t abated since Fellowship was released.

So far, Bloom is happy to report, there have been no stalker-type letters, although there have been at least a couple he’d file under more ‘peculiar’ types of correspondence.  The first is a package that came with biscuits blessed by the Pope, with pictorial proof of their holiness; the other was a 160-page letter from a female fan outlining every minute aspect of her life.

“I was advised not to write back to that one.” Says Bloom who is definitely not dating actress Christina Ricci, as one website report suggests and at press time preferred the single life to focus squarely on work.

Although he swears he never reads the fan sites on the net, Bloom says friends and journalists always remind him of what’s being said and he’s very flattered by the attention.  But because he doesn’t normally get around with a bow and arrow strapped to his back, a blond mullet, pointy ears and leather strides, most public recognition, at least until the release of his three follow-up films this year, is restricted to cyberspace.

Career-wise, LOTR has changed Bloom’s life in ways he is still discovering, yet he insists his new-found celebrity status hasn’t altered his personality at all.

“Obviously, I’ve grown,” admits Bloom.  “I understand what it means to be doing what I’m doing and I appreciate that more.  It’s more normal, more real.  But as a person, no.  I think I’m still the same. I’ve been trying to maintain as much of a normal life as possible and not get lost in all this world of other stuff.  At the end of the day, I love being an actor, the creative part of becoming a character.  The stuff that surrounds it, now I’ve seen what it’s all about, I’m not as intrigued about as maybe I was out of curiosity to begin with.  Once you’ve bee to one or two industry events, you realize it’s the same old same old.  I’d rather spend time with friends and family, people near and dear to me.  I don’t see them that often because I’m working so much and for me it’s about staying real and not buying into it.”

Unless a journalist asks him, Bloom, who was named after the hero in Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando: A Biography, says he never thinks about what his life would be like if Jackson hadn’t picked him to play Legolas.  Maybe he’d be living in London now, working in theatre and trying to break into film that way.  Acting always seemed a calling, even from a young age.

“I’m fully aware I’m in a very fortunate position and there are hundreds of people out there who I’m sure have as much talent, if not more, to be doing the same thing if they’d had the same opportunities,” admits Bloom.  “It’s about timing and good fortune, all at the same time.”

“Of course, I will always feel indebted to Pete.  I’m kind of loyal like that.  He gave me a fantastic opportunity and we had a great time working together.  You only have to look at the Two Towers.  I think he’s amazing.  If Pete ever called me and said he wanted me to be involved in anything he was doing, I’d drop most everything to help him out.  I feel very lucky to have worked with him and Fran and the whole team.  They’re really great people and they’ve got a fantastic sensibility about them.  It made being in New Zealand for 18 months a real pleasure.”

Bloom, who cut his performing chops reciting poetry at local arts festivals, was just two days away from graduating from London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama when he got the call that changed his life.  Through his agent at the time – Bloom had already made his big-screen debut as a rent boy in Wilde (1997) – he first auditioned on videotape for the role of Faramir, only to be called back later to read for Legolas.

“I couldn’t quite believe that I was in the project until about a month into filming,” admits Bloom, who made sure he’d read the books before his first day on set.  “Then we finally saw some very rough snippets of a few scenes, not in any kind of order, about halfway through the first year, which Peter showed us to help keep morale up.  And I finally really understood what I was part of.”

Bloom also seems to have found a niche in the type of big-screen characters he’s drawn to: a crowd-pleading hero fighting for a greater cause.

“I guess there’s a kind of pattern emerging,” he agrees.  “I like period pieces; I like the way the language flows.  I like the idea of being a warrior.  The elf is a warrior elf, not like a fairy.  I guess I’ve kind always lived my life that as well.  Know what I mean?”

“I think I am going to do another one like that as well,” he continues.  “At the moment I am in negotiations to do Troy with Brad Pitt and Eric Bana.  It’s more epic-style action.  It sounds very exciting.  But at the moment I am enjoying being a swash-buckling pirate.”

Bloom, who plays the blacksmith son of a pirate father he never knew he had, says his Pirates’ co-star Geoffrey Rush put his name forward for the part and advised him to read the script during their wrap party for The Kelly Gang.  The clincher was getting the chance to work with Depp, Bloom’s all-time acting here.

“When I think of the great character actor, I think of Johnny Depp.  But he’s also like this incredible leading man.  It’s so awesome to be working with the guy and he’s just the coolest, amazing, down to earth, normal, nice person.”

When Pirates wraps in February – Bloom still has seven weeks of swordplay ahead in the Caribbean island of St Vincent – he plans to finally do something about his homeless state and put down roots closer to his acting sister Samantha and mother, who runs an English language school for foreign students. 

“I crave the British countryside, even the over-cast wet weather,” says Bloom, who was born in Canterbury.  “I love just walking in the woods.  London has always been home.  It’s a hard city but it keeps you real.  I’ll always go back to London and that’s where I’ll buy my first home when I have time to stop, hopefully after I finish this film.”

“The ideal would be to go between London and LA,” he concludes.  Pirates is the first film I’ve ever shot in LA but obviously there’s a lot more happening out here in terms of work.  I have a cousin (‘Bast’, a commercials director and photographer) who lives here and I’m slowly building friendships and beginning to appreciate it a bit more.  It’s becoming a bit more normal and real.  But I’m a country boy from England at heart.”