Bloom to portray diplomat with a difference

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

An intrepid Scot, he has been called a modern-day Lawrence of Arabia, renowned for his work as a high-level diplomat and his enlightening travails across conflict regions in which he has lived humbly, wearing native dress among villagers.

So inspirational is the life story of Rory Stewart, an Eton-educated former diplomat, that he is to become the subject of a Hollywood biopic starring the English-born actor Orlando Bloom.

Stewart has earned an international reputation at the relatively tender age of 35 for his work in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans. He has taught Princes William and Harry, run a charity in Kabul, written three books and received an OBE.



Mr Stewart, who was born in Hong Kong and studied at Oxford University, was briefly an officer in the Black Watch before joining the Foreign Office, serving as the British representative to Montenegro from 1999 in the wake of the Kosovo campaign, then as the occupying coalition's deputy governor in Southern Iraq in 2003. He was aged just 30.

He had earlier undertaken a two-year journey on foot across 6,000 miles from Turkey to Bangladesh. En route, he was held at gunpoint by Maoist guerrillas, beaten up by the Taliban and imprisoned several times – all of which helped him understand the way communities really live, he says.

He went back to the Foreign Office because of his belief in human intervention, such as in Bosnia and Kosovo.

He left the British diplomatic corps after becoming disenchanted by the Allied invasion of Iraq. In Iraq, he grew bewildered by the out-of-touch advice on how to rebuild a devastated society. His 2006 book The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq gives a bleak but humorous account of the bungled advice that he received.

"I arrived [in Iraq] quite hopeful," he said. "It was a long year of disillusionment. I realised that America, Britain and international forces in general lacked the power, legitimacy and knowledge to transform Iraq. I left very doubtful about how much good Britain could do."

He went back to the Foreign Office because of his belief in human intervention, such as in Bosnia and Kosovo.

He plans next year to move to America to take up an academic post as a professor of human rights at Harvard University.

The idea for the film came from Bloom after he heard a talk given by Mr Stewart on behalf of his Turquoise Mountain Foundation charity. The project could hail a new direction for Bloom into more politically conscious film-making, after his star billing in such blockbusters as the Pirates of the Caribbean and the Lord of the Rings. Last week, he announced he would co-produce and appear in a film about the siege of Sarajevo. Bloom hopes the film, which is based on the memoirs of the American writer Bill Carter, Fools Rush In, would be made in the Bosnian capital itself.

The film, to be written by the award-winning novelist and script writer Ronan Bennett, will focus on three central "chapters" of his life: his epic journey on foot, his return to the Foreign Office, and his aid work in Kabul, which began two years ago as a one-man operation. The Turquoise Mountain Foundation now employs 350 people and runs a artists' school. The charity was conceived by Prince Charles, who enlisted Mr Stewart's help.



From Hong Kong to Hollywood

Name: Rory Stewart

Age: 35

Place of birth: Hong Kong, of Scottish parentage

Education: Eton, and Balliol College, Oxford

Occupation: Former diplomat, award-winning writer, explorer, aid worker and, imminently, a Harvard professor

First career break: Summer tutor to Princes Harry and William in the early 1990s

Greatest accomplishments: British representative to Montenegro during the Kosovo campaign, for which he won plaudits. A 6,000-mile walk from Turkey to Bangladesh, which started in 2000 and took two years

Name: Orlando Bloom

Age: 31

Place of birth: Canterbury, Kent

Education: Gained entry into St Edmund's School, Canterbury, despite his dyslexia, then Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London

First career break: Debut as a rent boy in the 1997 film Wilde, opposite Stephen Fry

Greatest accomplishment: Being cast in a leading role in Peter Jackson's award-winning trilogy The Lord of the Rings (2001, 2002, 2003), followed by a star casting in the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, opposite Johnny Depp. In 2006 he guest-starred in the sitcom Extras

Comments