Born January 13, 1977, in Canterbury, Kent, England; son of Harry Bloom (an activist) and Sonia Copeland–Bloom (a language instructor). Education: National Youth Theatre of London; British American Drama Academy; Guildhall School of Music and Drama, 1996–99.
Agent —c/o ICM, Oxford House, 76 Oxford St., London W1D 1BS, England.
Actor in films, including: Wilde, 1997; Black Hawk Down, 2001; The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, 2001; The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, 2002; Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, 2003; The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, 2003; Ned Kelly, 2003. Television appearances include: Midsomer Murders, 2000; Smack the Pony, 2000. Stage appearances include: Casualty, London's Burning, Twelfth Night, Uncle Vanya, Little Me, Peer Gynt.
Empire Award for best debut for Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, 2001; best breakthrough star award, MTV Movie Awards, for Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, 2002.
Actor Orlando Bloom got his first big break when he was cast as the elven archer Legolas Greenleaf in the film trilogy Lord of the Rings. His good
Bloom grew up in Canterbury, England, where his mother ran a language academy for foreign students; his father, Harry Bloom, was a Jewish South African anti–apartheid activist and author of a novel, Transvaal Episode. Harry Bloom died when his son was four years old. Bloom became interested in acting at a very early age; he was captivated with television and movie characters, as well as by street performers. He was particularly fascinated by the fact that one actor could portray many different people so convincingly. "I loved James Dean," he told Cindy Pearlman in the Houston Chronicle, "because he put so much passion in his work."
Bloom's mother encouraged him and his sister to participate in local poetry and Bible readings, feeding his interest in drama and performance. When Bloom was 16, after winning several contests for reciting poetry and Bible verses, he left school and moved to London to join the National Youth Theatre. After spending two seasons with the theater, he earned a scholarship to train with the British American Drama Academy. While training, he auditioned for a variety of television and film roles, and won small parts in the plays Casualty and London's Burning. His appearance in a play at London's Tricycle Theater led him to acquire an agent, a big step for a young actor. Bloom then spent three years at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. At Guildhall, he appeared in a number of plays, including Twelfth Night, Uncle Vanya, Little Me, and Peer Gynt. He also made his film debut in the film Wilde, a biography of Oscar Wilde, which was critically acclaimed; in the film, Bloom played a young prostitute.
While at Guildhall, Bloom suffered an accident that could have ended his career, if not his life. In 1998, at the age of 21, he was the home of friends, who told him that the door to their roof terrace was warped and couldn't be opened from the inside. Someone would have to get to it from the outside, and kick it in. Bloom climbed out a window and onto a drainpipe, planning to climb along to the roof, where he could open the door. However, his weight was too much for the pipe, which gave way. Bloom fell three stories to the ground below, breaking his back, and was unable to move. He spent the next four days in a hospital, trying to understand what the doctors were telling him: that he would never walk again. He underwent surgery in which metal plates were bolted to his spine, but the doctors warned him that this was risky, that it would probably not be successful, and that at best, he would still have severe damage to his bones and nerves. Despite this depressing prognosis, he left the hospital 12 days later—walking, though with crutches. Shortly after, he was able to walk without the crutches. He did have to learn to walk again, reminding himself how to do it by repeating "heel–ball–toe" with each step.
Bloom told Jeff Dawson in the Weekend Australian, "It was kind of the making of me, really. I feel like it really tested my belief in myself and everything else because they told me I'd be in a wheelchair. It took a while for me to really comprehend what had happened." He continued to pursue his interest in sports and horseback riding, although he admitted to Pearlman that he became more cautious: "If I'm going to get on a snowboard, I'm aware that I could do serious damage to myself. So I don't just fly off a cliff and hope there will be a big pile of snow beneath me instead of a rock. I check to make sure that the snow is there." He also considered buying a motorcycle, but rejected the idea because it was too risky.
Although Bloom had planned on a career in the theater, soon after graduating from Guildhall he landed a part in a television series, Midsomer Murders. He had also attracted the interest of casting agents for director Peter Jackson, who was planning the three–film trilogy The Lord of the Rings, based on the fantasy trilogy of that name by J.R.R. Tolkien. The trilogy would be filmed in New Zealand. Within a year of his fall from the drain-pipe, Bloom was riding horses through the trilogy's fictional land of Middle Earth, playing an elf, Legolas Greenleaf. The role would be a breakout for Bloom, since it not only guaranteed him work in three films, but the films would garner international attention. For the role, Bloom had to hide his brown hair under a long blond wig, transform his brown eyes to blue with contact lenses, and wear pointed elf ears over his own, but he was nevertheless recognizable as a new talent on the big screen. Female fans in particular went wild over Bloom, making him the newest teen heartthrob. For his role in the trilogy, he won an Empire Award for Best Debut as well as an MTV Movie Award for Best Breakthrough Star.
While filming the trilogy, Bloom fell off a horse and broke several ribs, but this did not prevent him from continuing to work. All three parts of the trilogy were filmed simultaneously, which required Bloom and the other cast members to spend a year and a half in New Zealand. Bloom told Henry Cabot Beck in Interview, "It was like winning the lottery. I mean, imagine being flown to this amazing country and being taught how to shoot a bow and arrow, learn to ride horses and study swordplay.… Not until I'd filmed a few scenes did I finally believe it was actually happening." Bloom enjoyed learning these skills, and became quite proficient at archery. He was able to shoot paper plates out of the sky and while riding a horse, dropping the reins to loose arrows at enemies. During the filming, much of the movie had to be kept secret, so Bloom and the other actors were not allowed to take photographs of themselves in costume, and while riding back and forth to work with makeup on, had to wear hooded jackets to hide their appearance. By the time the long period of filming ended, the cast and crew had become very close, and when Jackson called the end of the final scene, they were all crying. The stuntmen, in tribute to the film and those who worked on it, did a Maori dance called a "hucker." "It was really sad and hugely emotional," Bloom told Amy Longsdorf in the Record. The trilogy, which was released in 2001, 2002, and 2003, was a hit with audiences as well as with critics.
Bloom's other 2001 film, Black Hawk Down, provided an odd reflection of Bloom's real life: his character in the film was a United States marine who fell out of a helicopter and was similarly injured. Unlike Bloom, the character was carried out of the action on a stretcher early in the film, and did not return. In 2003's Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Bloom played the romantic lead, Will Turner, a former blacksmith–turned–pirate who joins Jack Sparrow, played by Johnny Depp, in mayhem on the high seas. Together, the two must rescue a beautiful maiden from an evil pirate. Bloom thought he would enjoy the movie because as a child he had watched many pirate movies on long Sunday afternoons, and like many other children, had imagined being involved in boat–to–boat battles, swinging on ropes and brandishing swords. In addition, Bloom, who as a young man had idolized Depp, told the Houston Chronicle 's Pearlman. "Knowing that Johnny Depp was involved in this movie made it a no–brainer for me. Johnny is such a hero of mine." Depp advised Bloom that he should take roles that were meaningful to him, not simply go for the money, and to give his career time if it needed to develop. However, Bloom's career was not slow to develop, and he did not have to wait to make money. Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski told Jeff Chu in Time International that Bloom's appeal was that he was both "beautiful and accessible. As cool as Orlando can be, there is also something there you can relate to." Bloom admitted that all the attention he was getting made him nervous, telling Chu, "Celebrity and stardom are never things I wanted. To acknowledge that's what's happening is odd. To admit it to yourself, that seems wrong."
Bloom next appeared in Ned Kelly, directed by Gregor Jordan. The film, about the life of Australian outback robber Ned Kelly, featured Bloom as a member of Kelly's gang. Jordan told the Record 's Longsdorf, "Orlando is a movie star waiting to happen.… He's in the long tradition of guys like James Dean and Russell Crowe. There's just something about him that makes people want to sit in the dark and watch him on the movie screen."
Bloom was cast as the romantic lead, Paris, in Troy, based on the ancient epic, the Iliad. He told the Weekend Australian 's Dawson, "I suppose I'm getting into that position, which I suppose all actors want to be in, where I have some control over what I'm doing, yet what goes with that is a whole new series of pressures." He told Dawson that while filming the movie, he and costar Brad Pitt went out to dinner and were mobbed with photographers and crowds of fans. Of Pitt's response, Bloom said, "I was so impressed with the way he kind of kept his composure. But it's bizarre to see how one person can have that kind of effect on that many people just immediately. It was really scary." Bloom also began filming or contracted for roles in The Calcium Kid, Kingdom of Heaven, Pirates of the Caribbean 2, and Haven (which he is co–producing). In addition, Bloom told Dawson that his own growing fame, as well as his busy film schedule, was beginning to catch up with him. "It's been such a whirlwind since the release of the first Rings film.… I guess the novelty's wearing off—all the travel, all the excitement of doing the press stuff." When told he had been named one of 2003's "It" people by Entertainment Weekly, he laughed and said, according to the Houston Chronicle 's Pearlman, "That's huge. Massive. What is 'it'?" Bloom told the Record 's Longsdorf, "You know, the heartthrob thing—I hope that it won't stop me from making more interesting choices, because that's what I intend to try and do."
Houston Chronicle, July 13, 2003, p. 8.
Interview, November 2001, p. 50.
Newsweek, July 14, 2003, p. 56.
Record (Bergen County, New Jersey), July 6, 2003, p. E1.
Teen People, December 1, 2002, p. 80.
Time International, August 11, 2003, p. 52.
Weekend Australian (Sydney, Australia), August 30, 2003, p. B1.
"Biography for Orlando Bloom," Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0089217/bio (December 1, 2003).
Biography Resource Center, Gale Group, 2003.
— Kelly Winters