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Friday, May 25, 2007

Bloom's Day

From Day and Night in today's Irish Independent

Orlando Bloom is huge in LA right now. Literally. On Hollywood Boulevard and the Sunset Strip, Bloom looms over the city from gigantic billboards promoting one of the 2007’s most eagerly-awaited movies and the conclusion to one of the most successful movie trilogies in cinema history. If Bloom has a big head – literally and figuratively – it would be perfectly understandable.

But on a dull Thursday morning in the Beverly Hilton hotel, eight days before the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Orlando Bloom is, if anything, more humble than ever. Dressed in a black jacket, grey top and dark jeans and boots, Bloom seems shy and somewhat uncomfortable when thrust in the spotlight.

Having spent the best part of the last eight years playing either elf warrior Legolas or swashbuckler Will Turner in two of the most lucrative and popular movie franchises ever, Bloom has clocked up more experience in the field of Hollywood blockbusters than most actors would in a lifetime. The question is, after Lord of the Rings and Pirates, what does an actor do next?

“I’m going back to London to do some theatre,” a relaxed and tanned Bloom says. “I need to do something completely different now. I want to go back to what it felt like when I left drama school – you know, that feeling of immersing myself in a completely different world.

“The only thing I don’t want to feel again is how poor I was when I left drama school. I definitely don’t need to go back there!

“I feel very fortunate. I mean, it feels like I’ve been doing pirate movies for most of my adult life, but it’s been great because obviously this is a quality film and I’ve been working with terrific people. It’s been a fantastic safety net as it were. It’s certainly a bittersweet feeling to be saying goodbye to it.

“It’s kind of a transition time for me now, having gotten to the end of a big series of movies. I’m excited about doing new film work, but mainly theatre. Geoffrey Rush and Bill Nighy [his Pirates co-stars], two actors I really admire, have told me that mixing theatre with film keeps them sharp. I’ve been toying with the idea for a long time. I just realised I had to make the time because movies kept coming in. I needed to create space for it.”

And space is just what Bloom has created. His IMDb profile confirms that Bloom has no up-coming movie projects in production at the moment. Who could blame him? The three Pirates movies alone took a combined total of four years to make, with parts two and three shot back-to-back in an epic and troubled 284 day shoot.

Aside from the workload, there’s also the staggering level of expectation that is accompanying At World’s End. The first movie, The Curse of the Black Pearl, was an unexpected smash hit, grossing $654 million in 2003. But the sequel, Dead Man’s Chest, defied box-office records despite poor reviews, pulling in an astonishing $1 billion worldwide gross, placing it at number three in the list of all-time box office champs.

This would indicate that the Pirates franchise has a loyal, inbuilt fan base and that At World’s End is probably impervious to any criticism. In its own right, the movie is more enjoyable that the middle instalment, although its plot is highly convoluted. Be that as it may, the movie boasts some terrific action set-pieces, lots more of Johnny Depp’s idiosyncratic posturing and a much-anticipated Keith Richards cameo.

“What’s so cool about this trilogy is that it was in response to the audience that the second and third were made,” Bloom explains. “We set out making the first movie and we never intended to make more, unlike Lord of The Rings, which was always going to be three movies. It was no easy feat for everyone to take what was meant to be just one movie and spin it into a second and third. I think it’s exciting because it feels that no matter what anyone says or writes about this film, the audience has taken ownership of it at this point.”

Orlando Bloom was born in Canterbury in England in 1977. As a child, Bloom struggled in school due to dyslexia, but excelled at drama and the arts. At age 16, he moved to London to join the National Youth Theatre, and later trained in the Guildhall School of Music and Dance. It was while performing in a production for the college that Bloom met director Peter Jackson, who then cast him as Legolas in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003), propelling Bloom into superstardom.

In addition to the Tolkien epics, Bloom also starred in the historical blockbusters Troy, opposite Brad Pitt and Kingdom of Heaven, with Liam Neeson. In 2005, Bloom tried to move way from action roles and was cast in his first modern leading part in Cameron Crowe’s Elizabethtown, which bombed at the box office and was skewered by critics.

Talking to Bloom, it’s clear that he has struggled with the level of fame and scrutiny that his successes – and failures – have opened him up to.

“The attention I got after Lord of The Rings put me more in to a shell,” he admits. “It made me a little shyer. It was very new and I wasn’t sure how to deal with it and I think I’m still learning how to come out of that shell.

“This trilogy coming to a close and moving into other work is giving me confidence in myself to work on my craft in another way. It’s going to be fun. I know what I’m capable of and I’m not afraid to make mistakes along the way. I’ve found that when you’ve been a part of so much success and people associate you with success, if you make a step wrong, then they shoot you down. Having turned 30 this year, I’ve realised there’s nothing at stake, nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

That birthday was, Bloom admits, a turning point in his life. “I just felt like I didn’t have to take myself seriously anymore,” he says. “It was a big relief to be honest and I had a great birthday in Hawaii with friends and some family.

“It’s been fantastic being a part of such successful trilogies, but turning 30 made me look at how fortunate I’ve been and so I asked, ‘What can I do that will challenge me in a totally different way?’”

Both the Lord of the Rings and the Pirates movies have been separately called the Star Wars for the Bebo/MySpace generation. Indeed, Bloom’s roles in these trilogies put him in the same bracket as Harrison Ford, whose career was defined by the Star Wars and Indiana Jones trilogies. But the major difference is that Bloom was not the key character of LOTR and in the Pirates movies, he’s more Mark Hamill than Ford, playing the straight-man to the swaggering, scene-stealing genius of Johnny Depp in his iconic role as Captain Jack Sparrow. So, did it get annoying playing second-fiddle in what is essentially The Johnny Depp Show?

Bloom laughs. “You know, I’d often watch Johnny as Jack and just marvel at his ability to physically create this character,” he says. “And Geoffrey [Rush] had freedom to act written right across his forehead so he was just be totally out there. But actually, watching the first two, my character Will is like the emotional core. He’s got clear objectives – to save his dad and get the girl and be willing to die for those – and there was something heroic and simple about that that made him central in his own right.

“But Johnny’s probably one of the most courageous actors and movie stars alive today. He’s made a career of not being afraid to fail. If I could have just a tiny bit of that and a bit of that rubbed off, I’d be very lucky.”

Outside of movies, Bloom has also become involved in environmental issues, and is one of several celebrities that launched the Global Cool campaign last year that aims to tackle global warming by encouraging people to reduce their ‘carbon footprint’. The green star is even in the process of building an eco-friendly house in London.

“Yeah my home in London will have solar panels to heat the place,” he explains. “We all have to just do what we can.

“I just got back from a mission to Antarctica where I heard and was shown so much evidence about melting ice caps. The environment is such a massive issue, and everyone thinks its doom and gloom, all or nothing, but I don’t think that’s the case.

“You can drive an SUV but there’s a balance. Maybe use energy efficient lightbulbs or be conscious of switching off lights or, if you can afford an SUV, then maybe make a contribution to a windfarm. It’s all about balance. If you think of the ice caps as the fridge of our planet, then if that fridge dies, then the food that you have in it would go rotten and you’d starve. We all have to be aware of it.”

Bloom himself freezes up, however, when the subject of his love life comes up, and no amount of charm or coaxing can melt his resolve. Bloom was dating Superman Returns actress Kate Bosworth for four years, but the couple broke up last year. Since then, he has been linked to Spanish star Penelope Cruz, but Bloom refuses to go into it.

“I’m looking forward to having a family one day,” he says. “When I meet the right partner, I’ll be happy to settle down. And I’m not moving back to London because of a relationship – unless you count my dog!”

Once the publicity schedule for At World’s End dies down, Bloom is looking forward to taking some time out to relax. After such an intense period of work, his private time is very important to the star. So how does he unwind from it all?

“I try to keep it very real,” he reveals. “I have great family and friends, I have a cool dog and I’ve been afforded an ability to make a home and create a real life. When you work in such a surreal environment, time off to just read a book or listen to music or hang out with friends or even time alone is very special, so I’m enjoying that now.”

As I prepare to leave, I ask Bloom if his move to theatre work will follow in the steps of Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe, who has generated headlines all over the world for doing full-frontal nudity in the stage production of Equus.

“You’re asking if I’m going to get naked in London?,” he laughs. “Well, I’m very fortunate that I’ve learned how to be comfortable on a huge Jerry Bruckheimer-style movie set, but I feel I’m not as comfortable in a theatre, with a live audience, so that’s going to be a challenge. I want that fear and I’m going to give it my best shot.” And as he gets up, Bloom smiles and adds: “Not sure I’ll be getting my bits and pieces out though!”

Declan Cashin

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