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I was told I’d never walk again, Sneak (UK), April 3, 2003
typed and scanned by LiL PiPPi BLooM

Four years ago, Orlando Bloom’s career looked over after he broke his back in a horrific accident.  Sneak tells the story of his amazing recovery.

These days, Orlando Bloom is a world-famous actor, with starring roles in blockbusters including The Lord Of The Rings and Black Hawk Down.  But a few years ago, the 26-year-old star thought he might never be able to walk, let alone act.

            Although Orlando can’t put a foot wrong career-wise, the gorge star isn’t quite such a smooth operator when it comes to his own personal safety.  He loves to push himself to the limit both on and off the screen, but the daredevil activities mean he’s broken his arm, nose, ribs, toe, wrist, both legs and cracked his skull, not once but three times!

            “This is a battered body all right.  You could say I’m accident-prone,” he says.  “But each time it made me stronger and more determined to do things I want.”

Devastated

Orlando sounds positive about it now – back in 1997, while he was still a drama student, he had a particularly disastrous accident.  He broke his back after slipping and tumbling backwards from a third-floor window.  Orlando was rushed to hospital with serious spinal injuries and was devastated when doctors told him he might be permanently paralysed.

            Suddenly it looked as if his promising acting career might have been cut short before it had even got off the ground.

            Recalling the near-fatal fall, Orlando says. “I fell from a friend’s flat in Notting Hill in London.  I was 20.  I was climbing out of a window and down a drainpipe, trying to get onto my friends roof terrace.  I fell down three floors and I landed next to some rusty railings.

            “It was just a miracle I missed them and another that I wasn’t completely paralysed.

            “The doctors told me I might never walk again,” says Orlando.  “For about four days I was lying there seriously contemplating that as a reality.

            “I was told I was going to be in a wheelchair.  I was in a hell of a lot of pain so I was [slipping] in and out of consciousness and on strong drugs, like morphine.”

            Thankfully, further medical examinations gave him some hope of recovery.  “I was in surgery for six hours,” remembers Orlando “All the bolts and plates were inserted and I was able to leave hospital after 12 days.  I was on crutches and had a neck brace which I wore for the next year.”

Recovery

Orlando reckons he made such a recovery because he has a “fighter nature” as well as plenty of self-discipline.  After taking some time out from college, he was eventually able to return to his theatrical studies.  Even then, he couldn’t take on roles which were too physically demanding.

            In a weird twist of fate, years later in 2002, in Black Hawk Down. He played the role of a soldier, Private Blackburn, who breaks his back after falling from a helicopter.

Extreme sports

Considering his favourite hobbies, it’s hardly surprising Orlando has had so many accidents.  Forget stamp collecting, think bungee jumping, snowboarding, skydiving, surfing and riding motorbikes.  This fella’s a serious extreme sports fanatic!

            “I love danger,” he enthuses.  “If it’s hair-raising, you can count me in!  I’m always throwing myself out of planes, I love snowboarding and I’ve always been into motorbikes.  I’m just a bit of an adrenaline junkie.  And New Zealand [where The Lord Of The Rings was filmed] is the place where they invented bungee jumping – I love that sh*t.”

Thrill-seeker

When Orlando was filming The Lord Of The Rings, he didn’t feel the need to chill in his trailor between scenes.  He preferred to head off for a sesh of bungee jumping instead.

            “I definitely enjoy doing mad stuff,” he says.  “These bungee jumps were the freakiest kind of experience.  To summon up the courage to jump out of a cable car with something tied to your feet was pretty surreal.”

Lessons

Despite his love of danger, almost losing the ability to walk has taught Orlando some important lessons.  “It was a life-changing experience,” he says.  “Perhaps I’d been moving a bit too quickly through life.  It was a wake-up call to end all wake-up calls.  It completely refocused me and had a profound effect on my thinking.  It forces you to confront your deepest fears and the darkest areas of your mind.”

Thankful

Orlando is grateful that he was able to pull through all the terrible injuries he suffered.  “I was really lucky to survive the fall and lucky to be walking.  It’s funny how you accumulate gifts in life and think that’s mine in a funny kind of way.” He says.

            Although one side of him still completely loves “doing mad stuff”, Orlando has a much more chilled way of living now.  “When I’m not working, I just prefer to sit and do nothing.  Go to the beach.  Go for a walk.  Simple things have become a lot more enjoyable,” he reveals.

            “When I broke my back, it was such a terrible time, but on the other hand I learned through that to value some things more.  Certain things do happen for a reason.  You just have to trust in the fact that sometimes life has its own road mapped out for you.”


Pic 1. Orlando aged 18, just before he enrolled at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
Pic 2. Out partying in 1998 with supermodel Sophie Dahl. What a lucky gal!
Pic 3. Last year, fashion giant Gap signed up Orlando to appear in its super-cool ads.
Pic 4. Playing Legolas in The Lord Of The Rings catapulted Orlando into Hollywood’s A-list
Pic 5. Orlando stars with Heath Ledger in Ned Kelly, out in September. He plays a 19th-century highwayman