An appealing blend of movie star good looks and likeable modesty, Middle Earth poster boy Orlando Jonathon Blanchard Bloom shot up onto girls’ walls the world over as the lithe elf Legolas from Peter Jackson’s epic ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. Since that memorable debut, he has created a niche for himself as a staple actor for fantasy and historical pieces.
Born 13th January 1977, Orlando Bloom is the son of Sonia, a writer and businesswoman who ran a language school for foreign students, and first thought his father to be Harry Bloom, a Jewish South-African born novelist who spent his life campaigning against apartheid.
Harry, who worked with and was jailed alongside Nelson Mandela, died when Bloom was only four years old, and it was not until he was 13 that the boy discovered that the truth. His real father, it was revealed, was a man he knew well: his mother’s business partner and close friend of the family, Colin Stone. After Harry’s death Stone was also made Bloom’s legal guardian.
As a child Bloom was encouraged to pursue his artistic side along with his sister Samantha. Being mildly dyslexic the more academic subjects were not easy for him, but he excelled in Art and Photography and of course Drama. Bloom took his inspiration from actors like Paul Newman and those of his own age in the movie ‘Stand By Me’ (1986) and he made the decision to try his hand at acting more seriously. At the age of 16 he moved to London where he spent two seasons with the National Youth Theatre.
Following this he won a scholarship to the British American Drama Academy, where he starred on stage in ‘A Walk in the Vienna Woods’. During this time he found an agent and went on to make his debut on both the small and big screens. He won bit parts in the long-running British dramas ‘Casualty’ and ‘The Midsomer Murders’ and also found himself cast as a rent-boy in the biopic 'Wilde' (1997) starring Stephen Fry.
Bloom’s next step was to enrol at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama. It was here that he was given a well-grounded education in the classics. Playing Shakespearian and Chekovian characters honed his acting skills and provided him with material that he could really respond to. With this kind of background training it is no surprise that he would later be in demand for historical and mythological epics galore.
But just as everything seemed to be going to plan, Bloom was involved in a life-changing accident. In an effort to climb across to a friend’s roof terrace, he fell 3 storeys, landing on his back, crushing several vertebrae. For the first four days in hospital he was not expected to walk again. Lying on his back, staring at the ceiling Bloom took stock of his life. “I went to some dark places in my mind. I realized, I’m either going to walk again or I’m not.”
After 12 days in bed and an extraordinary operation Bloom was able to walk out of the hospital, albeit with several steel plates in his spine. Traumatic though it had been, the incident had changed his view of the world forever. “That accident has informed everything in my life. Until you’re close to losing it, you don’t realise. I used to ride motorbikes and drive cars like everything was a racetrack; it was ridiculous. It wasn’t because I thought it was cool; it was just because I loved living on the edge. But I’ve chilled.”
With a new outlook on life the aspiring young actor was able to continue with his studies. As the end of the course loomed excitement spread throughout the college as a major audition was announced. With castings taking place in every English speaking country, competition was fierce for roles in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ (2001-2003) trilogy.
Bloom auditioned for the fairly modest role of Faramir, who first appears in the second movie. After viewing his taped audition Peter Jackson himself turned up to film Bloom for his call back. Two days before graduating from the Guildhall he received a phone-call from Jackson informing him that the role of Faramir had been filled, but offering instead the opportunity to play the more substantial part of the sharp-sighted Elf Legolas, working directly alongside the likes of Ian McKellan and Viggo Mortensen.
For the next 18 months Bloom relocated to New Zealand as all three movies were filmed back-to-back. The demands of Jackson’s gruelling shoot are now legendary, but for the inexperienced Bloom fully immersing himself in the project came as no surprise. "Lord of the Rings was my first experience making movies. I had no idea how movies were done. I thought that's the way they're done”.
The hard work was not without its rewards though, as Jackson’s rigorous schedule had Bloom training in swordplay, horse-riding and archery, giving him the tools to play a convincing feather-light, super-hearing, sharp-sighted Elf and which inevitably stood him in good stead for his future movie roles. And far from being all work and no play, Bloom was also able to pursue his love of extreme sports, a passion which even a broken back proved unable to subdue, and spent much of his free time learning to surf with the four Hobbits, Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd.
The overwhelming success of ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ (2001) came as quite a surprise to Bloom, who had managed to go away on holiday when it eventually hit the big screen. With just one film, his life had changed forever as he was thrust into the public eye, immediately achieving heartthrob status of the Hollywood kind and landing in the Top 20 most searched for people on the internet.
As a result of this intense interest, he was also asked to take a role in Ridley Scott’s war movie ‘Black Hawk Down’ (2001), ironically playing the part of a soldier who breaks his back in falling 70 feet from a helicopter – a scenario not unlike his own real-life trauma.
After the resounding success of the second film in the trilogy, ‘The Two Towers’ (2002), Bloom' s career soared from height to height. In 2003 he starred alongside Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush and rising star Keira Knightley in ‘The Pirates of the Carribean: The Curse of the Black Pearl’. The film, widely expected to be a failure, was another hit for Bloom, giving him invaluable exposure to the big-hitters in the film industry.
His juggernaut career climb then slowed down with the Aussie production ‘Ned Kelly’ (2003), in which he starred with fellow young ‘it kid’ Heath Ledger. Making the break from epics and period pieces, he then also took the starring role in the Brit mockumentary ‘The Calcium Kid’ (2004), showing us that the ‘brooding hero’ is not the only string to his bow, so to speak.
However the next film saw a return to the historical epic genre in the shape of Wolfgang Peterson’s representation of the Trojan war, ‘Troy’ (2004). To star alongside the likes of Brad Pitt and Eric Bana was an inspiration to Bloom, even though he played Bana’s cowardly brother, Paris. Yet even as famous as Bloom now was, he still invested his time and talent into the independent movie ‘Haven’ (2004), written and directed by the 23-year-old Frank E Flowers.
Although 2005 began with the break-up from girlfriend of 2 years, Kate Bosworth, it also brought Bloom the opportunity to take the leading role in Ridley Scott’s crusade epic, ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ (2005). 130 days on set in the Moroccan desert in full armour (including period underwear, according to Liam Neeson!) was no mean feat. But Bloom was prepared to do whatever it took to step out from the shadow of his role as the cowardly Paris and take up the true hero mantle in his first major lead role.
The movie, however, was not the box-office blockbuster that was expected. Bloom’s subtle representation of Balian was lost on the mainstream audience, receiving a luke-warm response from critics who had expected a larger than life leader and commander in the vein of Russell Crowe’s role in ‘Gladiator’ (2000).
Leaving the epic knight behind, Bloom next starred alongside Kirsten Dunst in Cameron Crowe’s romantic comedy ‘Elizabethtown’ (2005), showcasing Bloom’s first onscreen attempt at an American accent. Another average response followed the movie’s release, although it was largely Crowe who came under fire for general production problems, rather than specific performance criticisms. The year did not end badly for Bloom though, as a reunion with ex Kate Bosworth was on the cards, although it only lasted for several months into 2006 when they finally decided to call it a day.
Small-time movie ‘Love and Other Disasters’ (2006) flew under the radar for most film-goers, with Bloom’s small role paling into insignificance against his next project, a return to the silver screen as his former character Will Turner in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest' (2006) and the final movie in the trilogy, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End’ (2007).
No stranger to filming movies back-to-back, Bloom took the simultaneous shooting of these two sequels in his stride. More at home with Will Turner than Legolas, Bloom was excited to be given the opportunity to develop a character so close to his heart. Both movies drew flak from critics but were a resounding box-office success, breaking opening weekend records in both North America and worldwide.
Bloom’s rise to success has been attributable to not only his talent but his unassuming, down-to-earth attitude. Despite starring in 4 of the top 15 highest grossing films of all-time, featuring on numerous ‘Sexiest/Hottest/Most Searched For’ lists and being swamped by fan mail, he retains his approachability, normality and above all sense of humour. The star proved he could laugh at himself in 2006 while filming Ricky Gervais’ British sitcom ‘Extras’, in which he played an egotistical version of himself who utterly loathes Johnny Depp, his rival Hollywood heartthrob.
Further, his Buddhist philosophy keeps him grounded and focused on the important things in life. “I'm trying to be a man of integrity and live a good life. I'm very grateful for all the opportunities I've been given and if there's anything you can give back in some form or other you try to.” Early in 2008 he began dating Australian-born Victoria’s Secret model, Miranda Kerr.
In recent times Bloom appears to have taken a step back from his whirlwind rise to fame and “epic” career to pursue other projects. Trained as a stage actor, Bloom made his first post-student appearance at the Duke of York’s Theatre in London’s west-end in summer 2007, taking one of the lead roles in David Storey’s drama ‘In Celebration’.
In April 2008, Bloom filmed his role in ‘New York, I Love You’, a sequence of 12 short romances in one movie.
The actor enjoyed a quiet year in 2010, appearing in 'Sympathy for Delicious' and 'Main Street'. He also wed his Australian sweetheart, Miranda, on 22 July 2010, with the couple welcoming their first child on 6 January 2011. Orlando was seen cradling his newborn son Flynn at a park in Los Angeles. He also took a picture of his wife breastfeeding their new arrival that was posted on her website. Unfortunately, they split in October 2013.
In 2011, Orlando returned to the big screen in 'The Three Musketeers' playing the villain in a departure from his usual 'nice-guy' roles. He starred as the Duke of Buckingham who is trying to overthrow the French monarchy and plunge Europe into war.
He also donned the white wig that helped make him famous when he reprised the role of Legolas in 'The Hobbit' and its sequels.
Although some critics feel he lacks the darkness and charisma needed for more serious, dramatic roles, many who have seen him on the London stage know that his talent goes far beyond what we have seen in his movies to date and look forward to seeing him expand his repertoire and fulfil his potential. Indeed director Cameron Crowe says of his leading man that "under that puppy-dog energy, there's a darkness".