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One Big Adventure, The Sunday Post (Scotland), April 4, 2004

Orlando Bloom’s career so far has been just like the film that made his name, as Darryl Smith finds out.

AFTER graduating from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Orlando originally auditioned for the part of Faramir in the much-anticipated trilogy of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

He failed to get the part but director Peter Jackson saw something that he liked in the young man from Kent and a few weeks later offered him the part of the blond-locked elf, Legolas.

The role propelled Orlando into the realms of fantasy — but not just on screen. The object of many a schoolgirl crush, Orlando is one of the most downloaded men on the Internet, earns a reputed $5 million per picture (something he denies), and has been called the modern day Errol Flynn.

Given his meteoric rise, the 27-year-old could be forgiven for walking on air. But, in fact, Orlando is just glad that he can walk at all following a horrific accident that doctors thought would leave him paralysed.

Back in 1998, aged 21, Orlando fell three storeys from a rooftop terrace and broke his back. He required an immediate operation that, if unsuccessful, would have left him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

Thankfully it was a success and Orlando defied medical prognosis by walking out of hospital just 12 days after his fall.

“I was told I might not walk again,” he explains, “and for four days I was contemplating that as a serious likelihood. Then they operated, and I walked out of the hospital within two weeks.

“I have to admit, I’m rather accident-prone. As well as my back, I’ve broken my ribs, my nose, both my legs, my arm, my wrist, a finger and a toe and cracked my skull three times!”

It’s the sort of injury list you’d expect from a boxer rather than an actor so it’s fitting that Orlando’s next role is exactly that in The Calcium Kid, which is released at the end of this month.

Orlando plays Jimmy Connolly, a milkman and amateur boxer who is thrust into the spotlight when the British champion breaks his hand trying to knock him out during a sparring session.

A substitute is needed for the approaching bout with the world champ and who better than the hard-boned Calcium Kid?

The star describes the film as “halfway between Billy Elliot and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”.

“Jimmy actually isn’t a very good boxer, that’s the comedy of it. He’s a milkman first and foremost and boxing is something he does to feel part of a family that he doesn’t have at home. 

“I did, however, do some boxing and some training for it so I could at least hold up my fists with the gloves on, which are quite heavy! 

“I have a whole new respect for boxers, I can tell you that, because it’s not an easy sport. It’s very demanding physically.

“I took a few knocks but it was more interesting trying to punch somebody back. It’s not a pleasant thing to do, trying to hit somebody with your full force. I was a bit of a playground scrapper as a kid but I grew out of that pretty quickly, thank goodness, and realised the error of my ways.

“Frank Bruno and Chris Eubank appear in the film as cameos and it was a real honour to meet them because, as a kid, I watched both of them fight.

“Boxing is one of those event sports that people really get behind in the same way that big football games have that wow factor.

“Chris was his fantastically eccentric self. The director, Alex De Rakoff, had seen him make a speech to young fighters and asked him if he could do that same speech for the film. Chris came in with a completely different speech and did that instead!”

The public affection for high profile figures like Bruno and Eubank is something Orlando is having to get used to himself now he’s moving up the Hollywood pecking order.

He followed up his Lord of the Rings success with a role in last summer’s surprise hit, Pirates of the Caribbean, alongside Johnny Depp, and later this year he will be on screen with Brad Pitt in the blockbuster Troy.

Then he’ll take on the lead role in Kingdom of Heaven, directed by Sir Ridley Scott and currently filming in Morocco.

“It’s my first leading role on a global scale,” says Orlando nervously, “but it feels right that I’m making that step in a sword-fighting movie, as that’s what I’ve become known for.

“I did one film that didn’t involve sword-fighting so I’m going back to that again now. 

“I never thought about being famous when I was doing my training. I just wanted to be an actor and the idea that the rest of it would come wasn’t something I could contemplate because, when you’re starting out, you never know how it’s going to go.

“That’s why I was grateful for the opportunity to work with Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt. They’re great role models for anyone, and especially for a young actor. It was also a learning curve to see how they handled the fame aspect.

“When I was in Malta with the Troy production we had a cast dinner and as I left the restaurant with Brad, what felt like the whole of Malta descended on the guy! It was the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen.

“But it was interesting the way he handled it with incredible poise, humility and grace. He had a bodyguard, which is something that goes with the territory because people tend to get a bit frenetic around him, but it was eye-opening to see someone handle that situation. 

“I do find the whole celebrity thing a bit unnerving at times, because if somebody jumps in front of you and flashes a camera in your face you are going to feel uncomfortable — not many people like having their photograph taken.”

Orlando is equally guarded when talking about his private life. He grew up believing that Harry Bloom, the famous anti-apartheid campaigner, was his father. Harry died when Orlando was four and, at 13, he discovered that his real father was, in fact, Colin Stone, a close family friend and his legal guardian.

So Orlando was relieved that he was unrecognisable in Legolas’s blond wig, which helped keep his anonymity for longer than he could have expected.

But he was much more himself for Pirates, playing the romantic lead. Cue screaming girls everywhere.

“It’s very weird because people approach you but they’re so nervous that you have to do all the work. They just stand frozen in front of you! It’s one of the things that I’m having to come to terms with so that it doesn’t freak me out. It can be overwhelming and a lot of people go off the rails and get angry because it is an intrusion.

“One of the weirdest things to happen was having my mum fly over to New Zealand for the premiere of The Return of the King with a big picture of me as Legolas on the side of the plane.

The Lord of the Rings cast is on stamps, coins, the lot, in New Zealand. For the premiere we met the Prime Minister and then travelled through the cheering streets of Wellington in open top Mustangs. It was fantastic.

“I’ll be saying I’m grateful to Peter Jackson for the next fifty years for choosing me for The Lord of the Rings because he placed me in an arena that has put me ahead of the rest of my class.”

And with three films all due out by the year’s end and a sequel to Pirates of the Caribbean planned for next year, it looks like Orlando’s intending to stay there.