There is irrefutable evidence that Orlando Bloom has been Depputized. He wears scuffed work boots, myriad rings on multiple fingers, and leather strips and sundry trinkets around his neck. The 26-year-old Brit has the wispy facial hair; he sports the funny woolly hat. He is broody and lean, with fine, high cheekbones and the caramelized skin of an actor familiar with exotic location shoots. He pulls the Johnny Depp thing off and then some. Which is good. Or then again, maybe not—since Depp, whom Bloom calls “a hero,” just became a colleague.
If Bloom learned anything from working with Depp—the two bonded late last year on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl — it’s that you don’t have to do heartthrob roles just because you have the right bone structure. Depp, who disappears in Pirates, has made a career out of his fearless willingness to ugly up, and his fair disciple is taking notes. “Johnny may be one of the best-looking guys onscreen,” Bloom says in a well-tailored English accent, “but he morphs into character.”
Trying to make his own character more than a 3-D amusement-park figure, Bloom buckled and swashed; he even learned how to wield a hulking metallic sword to sharpen his Gen-Y Errol Flynn repertoire. “I’ve got all these skills that are f**ing useless for everyday life,” he says. “But throw me back a couple of centuries and I’d be a real hero.” (He does have some modern-day charms down. “We had to kiss quite a few times,” says Pirates co-star Keira Knightley. “And it wasn’t unpleasant.”)
Of course, Bloom is already something of a hero—to a nation of Elvish-speaking geeks. It all started when The Lord of the Rings exploded over Christmas 2001, but now, since the third installment of the hobbit-packed trilogy won’t arrive till Christmas 2003, Bloom has been careful to avoid Middle Earth and other molten locations. “I didn’t want to do teen crap,” he says, “and that was what I was getting offered. I did a small part in Black Hawk Down because it was Ridley Scott and I had the chance to use an American accent. Then I waited.”
The role that lured Bloom back to work was Joe Byrne in Ned Kelly, the story of the famed Australian outlaw. Ozzie hotshot Gregor (Buffalo Soldiers) Jordan directed, and the buzz from Down Under suggests that Bloom and his co-star, Heath Ledger, firm surf buddies, transcended their perfect skins.
The Canterbury lad next suits up for Troy, which will feature Brad Pitt as a glistening Achilles. Bloom will play Paris, the callow, lusty youth who steals Helen and unleashes all kinds of mayhem. And Bloom relishes the challenge of bringing the randy little bugger to life. “Paris is an anti-hero,” he says. “Because of him the whole thing turned to sh*.”
Playing the baddie will be something new for Bloom, who was offered the part of Legolas Greenleaf, two days before finishing at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. You get the impression that once this whole forces-of-good-vs.-evil trip is over and done with, Leggy, as Bloom calls him, will go off and start hobbit tossing in a Middle Earth version of Jackass. “I don’t think there’s anyone more unpredictable to spend time with,” says Elijah Wood. “I imagine that 8-year-olds in playgrounds all over the world want to be Legolas,” adds fellowship compatriot Billy Boyd, alias Peregrin Took.
“I didn’t quite understand what I had at first,” Bloom says of the role. “I just thought, Great, I’ll be in work for the next eighteen months. But a friend was just dumbstruck. He said, ‘Mate, this is one of the greatest opportunities ever, ever, ever.’” And he didn’t even have to get ugly for it.