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Lads of the Ring, The Toronto Star (Canada), December 12, 2003
By Peter Howell

Mortensen's quiet dedication and unaffecting ways really impressed Orlando Bloom, the other Lord Of The Rings heartthrob.

"I had an incredible time working with Viggo," Bloom says. "I worked very closely with him and he was like a mentor to me, really, chatting, talking about film and just about the day-to-day stuff of getting through making this film. He really influenced the way I approach the work today. He has a lot of integrity in terms of how he approaches it, but he can also have fun with it as well, so it was cool. He taught me a lot."

Bloom is just getting used to the idea of being adored by his own ardent admirers. A group of fixated femmes called Little Legolas Lovers have set up a Web shrine (tinyurl.com/xkn2) devoted to Legolas, the ace archer Bloom plays in the Tolkien trilogy. The site describes him as a "superhunk" and reveals he enjoys Irish folk music and long walks on the beach.

Two years ago, before the three-Rings circus began, few of these women would have known the British-born Bloom, 26. His previous acting experiences received scant notice. It included playing the sexually available character Rentboy in the little-seen biopic Wilde in 1997.

Now Bloom is a star not only in Middle-earth, but also on the high seas. He played opposite Johnny Depp in this past summer's surprise hit, Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl.

"It's a little bit intimidating," he says, sitting for his own interview.

He laughs when it's suggested that he and Mortensen are competing for the title of most popular hunk in The Lord Of The Rings.

"Well, I don't think I can compete with Viggo ... certainly, I'm (popular) with the six-year-olds and below. He's got the rest covered."

But Bloom has had to make some adjustments. He's had a few weird personal encounters in the past couple of years.

"There's the odd occasion where you get caught, where you were just doing something and somebody will freak out a little bit ...

"I'm getting more easy with it. Because I realized that ... I sort of rationalize it for myself so it's not such a big deal, 'cause it really isn't. I mean, after Pirates came out it was more intense than anything, really."

It must have been really intense, because his hair is still Pirates long (he plays with it while he talks) and he's wearing more gold and silver jewellery than Bluebeard. All that bling-bling ("They're my good luck charms") looks rather incongruous atop the tracksuit he's also wearing. It's quite unlike the blond Robin Hood figure of Legolas.

Bloom takes inspiration on how to handle his rising fame from - of all people - the psychotic Travis Bickle, played by Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver.

"I understand it, because I used to watch Taxi Driver and see Travis Bickle. I'd go, `Wow, see that character?' ... You sit in a movie cinema and you sort of transcend, don't you? You sort of project yourself into a character. You have this idea of who these characters are, but they're not really human. It's just an actor playing a role and so I can understand how that felt, I remember how that felt."

He also received some advice from his Pirates co-star Depp, who has been up and down in the popularity polls. Depp is currently way up, having been recently declared by People magazine to be the Sexiest Man Alive.

"Johnny said to just enjoy it," Bloom says.

"This is a great job and we all really enjoy doing it. It's not open-heart surgery. Enjoy the whole process. You keep certain things private, don't you? There are things in your life where there is a line ... this I'm prepared to talk about. And anyway, the truth is that I understand people wanting know about your private life in some way, because they want to feel like they are getting closer to you."

One of the things he keeps private about is his love life. He's vague when names are mentioned of women he's been linked to.

"The truth is that you have areas where you don't want to go that route. At least you're not fuelling the fire. You're going to get a few bullets, a few snaps taken here and there. You can't avoid it, but you can avoid fuelling the fire. Look at that couple that nearly got married and didn't."

(He's referring to Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, and yes, it's a good thing not to be like them.)

"At the end of the day, the fans that I have are really nice - at least up to date, they have been really nice. I don't have a role where I'm playing a serial killer or an axe murderer and so for the most part the fan mail I get it really friendly and they are wishing me well, really - `Keep up the good work!' and kind of thing."

Bloom says he responds to most of his letter mail, but not to e-mail. Just like Legolas, he's a low-tech guy.

"I don't do email. It's the one thing I haven't gotten into. I don't have my own account."

There's no need for him to enter the 21st century just yet. His next big movie keeps him well into the past once again: In next summer's big-budget movie, Troy, he has the key role of Paris, who starts a war with Greece after he woos Helen of Sparta away from her husband. He'll be starring opposite Brad Pitt, who plays avenging Greek hero Achilles.

"Paris is an anti-hero," Bloom says. "For me, it was like playing a character whose actions fundamentally are wrong - he goes against all the ideas of manhood and the male energy of the time. He's a lover, not a fighter. He falls in love with a woman and creates a war because of it, because of his lust for this woman. It's like the indiscretion of youth.

"So the challenge for me there was to try to find a way to make the character still likeable in some way. To humanize him, you know what I mean? It doesn't happen ever f--king day. Imagine if we were at war right now because Bush stole bin Laden's missus. It's a story, it's the story of stories, but it does deal with jealousy, with love, with anger, with greed, with power - it's all those basic instincts that we as human all have."

There's a big difference between Legolas and Paris.

"Legolas is a Zen, action-speaks-louder-than-words guy. He's an Elf and an awesome warrior. And Paris is like a dysfunctional little prince.

"He's romantic and dashing and handsome and sort of swans to the ladies and does the whole thing. He doesn't really think about the consequences of his actions."

No matter how tough things get in the fame game, Bloom always has other guys around whom he can look to for good counsel.

"One of the things I feel most lucky about, most fortunate for, is to have had the opportunity to work with Viggo and to have worked with Johnny. I've seen first hand how they go about what they do, and they are very gracious. They have their moments, like everybody else, but they're very gracious. They've learned to be more as ease with themselves and with their fame and with their status as actors and as movie stars.

"For a young actor, that's an education and a half right there ... And it's cool to see how they handle the pressure."

Pressure like being asked to prove he's as good an archer as Legolas? (He's not, incidentally.)

Next time he's in a pub, he's sure to be challenged to a game of darts by some punter.

"I haven't had that experience yet, either," Bloom chuckles.

"No doubt I will."