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Aiming True, Who (Australia), January 26, 2004
typed and scanned by Bek

Whether as an elf, pirate, Trojan lover or outlaw, Orlando Bloom never misses his target. By Kate Halfpenny

Watched by the cream of British showbiz, Sir Ian McKellen didn't mince words at a London Film Awards on Nov. 4. Presented with a gong by the Lord of the Rings co-star Orlando Bloom, the veteran spoke with Gandalf- like honesty about why he'd been given the honour: "They knew I'd turn up for the free booze and the chance to snog Orlando Bloom."

It seems everyone wants Orlando, from A-list directors - Gore Vebinski, Peter Jackson and Troy's Wolfgang Petersen, who called him "beautiful"- to legions of teenage (and older) fans. Since 2002, Bloom, who turned 27 on Jan. 13, has had a packed schedule including turns as an elf in Lord of the Rings, a bushranger in Ned Kelly and a buccaneer in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

"Orlando has become a big star quicker than anyone I've ever seen," says Billy Boyd, who plays Pippin in Rings; Troy's Brad calls him "a gem". But while the blockbuster star has said his new fame sometimes makes him feel "totally lost", he told TIME, "I'm in the prime of my life. What do I have to complain about?"

Probably nothing, now. But growing up, he struggled with his weight and dyslexia. At 9, "I broke my leg when I was skiing and I had to year a cast for a year," he tells WHO. "I sat at home really depressed... I was eating biscuits and chocolate bars. I was a porker." Now, the vegetarian eats nothing more sinister than his nails, but he still cops a ribbing -- about his matinee-idol looks. "The hobbits kill me. Everyone does," he says. "My best mates rip at me all the time."

But he's made of strong stuff. Five years ago Bloom fell three storeys from a roof and broke his back. "I hadn't even been partying," he's said. "There's just no excuse." Says McKellen, "The boy was told he would never walk again. He pulled through and that is tuly amazing."

Born in Canterbury, England, to Sonia, who runs a language school, Orlando believed his father was novelist and anti-apartheid activist Harry Bloom, who died when the boy was 4. His mother's boyfriend, Colin Stone, was a substitute dad and Bloom was later told Stone was his real father. "It's an unusual story but all families have their stuff," said Bloom, who left home at 16 for the London stage.

There he won a one-line role in Wilde, then a scholarship to the British American Drama Academy; he studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and was chosen as Legolas in the Lord of the Rings 48 hours before graduating. To play to 2,931-year-old elf, Bloom was trained in riding, fencing and archery. "I had to be pretty swift with it and I found that I had a bit of a knack, to where I was shooting paper plates out of the sky," he said. "Which is quite cool."

He's also cool about his romances. He's stepped out with Christina Ricci, and his engagement to former model Jemma Kidd ended while filming Lord of the Rings ("That's life," he said. "People come into your life and people leave it."). He's now with Blue Crush hottie Kate Bosworth, 21. "She is a great girl," is all he'll say, but he notes "women are beautiful. They deserve to be cherished. When you start falling for somebody and you can't stop thinking about when you're going to see them again, I love that." Says Keira Knightley, his on-screen love interest in Pirates, "I can report that he's a very good kisser."

And one with taste for streamlining his life. A london homeowner since last year, Bloom avoids computers and listens to Coldplay. When he's not working, "I prefer to sit and do nothing. Go to a beach. Go for a walk. The simple things have suddenly become more enjoyable." His big wish? "I'd really like to take a role that doesn't involve a sword." En garde.

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"It was sad when we pulled our ears off for the very last time," Bloom has said of his last time as Legolas.

"We have made the choice to keep the relationship private," says Kate Bosworth, with boyfriend Bloom in Disneyland in June.

Bloom won the Legolas role after auditioning for the smaller part of Faramir. "He's going all the way to the top," says Sir Ian McKellen.

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My Blooming Career

With his ninth feature due for release and another three in the works, the 27-year-old already has a solid resume.

1997 WILDE
Opposite Stephen Fry's Oscar Wilde, Bloom played rentboy.

2001 THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING
As Legolas, Bloom takes aim.

2001 BLACK HAWK DOWN
In enemy territory, Bloom's character falls and breaks his back.

2002 THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS
Legolas charges into war.

2003 NED KELLY
Bloom played No. 2 to Heath Ledger's pistol-packing Ned Kelly in the period piece.

2003 PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL
Suits up as the dashing hero.

2003 THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING
Legolas and Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) again face battle.

2004 TROY
Paris (Bloom) steals Helen, the wife of Achilles (Brad Pitt), in the epic, due out in June.