Orlando Bloom interview - the pin-up hero is leaving blockbusters behind: 'No more family films. Now it’s grittier roles'

He is making a fresh start, starting with a tough role as an alcoholic South African cop

Earlier this month Orlando Bloom was given one of Hollywood’s highest accolades, a star on the Walk of Fame, the 2,521st one. Accepting the award, the 37-year-old actor was more doting family man than cinema star, playing with his young son Flynn and graciously giving his estranged wife, the Australian model Miranda Kerr, thanks for supporting him in his career. There were complimentary speeches, too, from his fellow hall-of-famer Forest Whitaker, who stars with the British actor in his new film, Zulu, and David Leveaux, the five-time Tony Award nominee who has just directed the British actor on Broadway in Romeo and Juliet. It was a happy day, but Bloom’s star also looked like something of a headstone, signifying the end of his time as a handsome young action hero.

Bloom shows remarkable self-awareness as  he describes his current career conundrum: “I was part of two franchises, two trilogies, that at the onset of my career depicted me as a heart-throb and a teen pin-up and for a certain window there was a lot of money being made by a lot of people by me being that guy. And then they move onto the next guy, and you’re left going: ‘What do I do now?’ Because there is a lot more to me than that.”

Born in Canterbury in 1977, Bloom was only two days out of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in 1999 when he was cast as Legolas in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. In 2003, the summer before the final instalment of the Peter Jackson extravaganza, The Return of the King, would make a huge amount at the box office and sweep the Oscars, Bloom appeared as Will Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, another critical and commercial success.

For a time, it seemed that Bloom walked around with a golden ring in his pocket. Everyone wanted a piece of him; he was on magazine covers; he had houses in London and Los Angeles; his love life, most notably an on-off relationship with Kate Bosworth, became public property; his agent was inundated with offers.

How did he cope? “When I finished Pirates I went to Antarctica for three months on a science research boat because I couldn’t stop my head from spinning,” he recalls. “Then I did a play in the West End [a revival of David Storey’s 1969 drama In Celebration]. I think it was a great choice for me because I was terrified of going on stage. As a kid I’d done a lot of things and I’d lived a lot of stuff. I needed to take myself out of the equation for a bit to get some perspective, because I lost some perspective, seriously at times.”

What did that losing perspective entail? He pauses and gives a long, vibrating “erm” before responding, “I suppose being quite young and being thrust quite dramatically into a large public arena skewered my vision of what it means to live and be a part of something”. He didn’t go completely off the rails, he is quick to state, “But in my own way... you start playing a game to become what people think you are. You sort of unwittingly play into that image, as opposed to just being who you are.”

He met Victoria’s Secret Angel Kerr in 2007 and they married in July 2010. Six months later their son Flynn was born in Los Angeles. He adores being a father. “It’s great, I love it. It’s probably the most rewarding thing that has ever happened to me.” The worst thing that has happened may be his split from Kerr. The couple separated in the summer last year, although they officially announced their split in November. The parting has been handled well. The couple went out as a family soon after the announcement was made, and they have both gone out of their way to profess their ongoing love for each other. In Hollywood acting terms, it is a very British split, more Hugh Grant and Liz Hurley than Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.

Their decision to put their house in the Hollywood Hills up for sale last October might have served as a sign of their split had the home not been targeted by the Bling Ring, a group of teenagers who became notorious for robbing the houses of the rich and famous in LA. One of the culprits, Nicholas Prugo, is wearing a striped T-shirt stolen from Bloom in his mug shot.

Their notoriety was secured when Sofia Coppola made a film, The Bling Ring, about the criminals last year. Bloom has yet to see it. “Paris Hilton asked if she could do a cameo in the film and because she asked they then asked me if I would [do a] cameo. I said ‘no’, not because I don’t think she is a wonderful director – I’d love to work with her by the way – but because it was too close to home.”

The film depicts the gang breaking into Bloom’s home having first established online that he was filming in New York and that Kerr was with him, and then using Google Earth to check his address. They are filmed finding a box of Rolexes and a wad of cash in a cupboard. “I didn’t see the movie so I didn’t see how easy it was for them to break into the house. I would imagine it was that way as Coppola got it from the horse’s mouth; it might well have been that easy. It’s funny because we got them all on camera.” Indeed, it was Bloom’s CCTV footage that helped police catch the gang. He testified at the trial before putting the house up for rent.

At the end of last year, Bloom made his debut on Broadway in Romeo and Juliet. It was a chance for him to use his superstar status to demonstrate his acting chops and could be seen as the last entry in his career as heart-throb. Romeo was, he says, “a different challenge for me. I think I sneak in just under the wire to be not too old, but it’s getting close.” It’s true that he still retains his youthful looks. “Shakespeare is a wonderful language to speak, but it’s also a world to get your mind into thematically,” he says. “A black Capulet family and a white Montague family.”

Zulu, the film that he hopes will represent a new beginning, also deals with racial themes. Helmed by the French director Jérôme Salle and adapted from the novel by Caryl Férey, the action is set on South Africa’s gang-ridden streets. Bloom plays an alcoholic, pill-popping detective, trying to cope with an ex-wife and 17-year-old daughter, who partners with Forest Whitaker’s Ali Sokhela, a policeman haunted by apartheid, after a rich white teenage girl is found dead in Cape Town.

“If you think of the character of Brian, you wouldn’t necessarily think of me playing that role,” says Bloom. “[Jérôme] had the vision to see that perhaps I could do something different with it. I think he wanted to go against those cliches and try to have it be a real character. It’s the type of role that was probably meant for Clive Owen and he was too busy, so I got a look-in. I’ll always be grateful to Jérôme for thinking outside the box and giving me the opportunity to play this character. I’m not sure that I got it right, but I gave it a good shot and I enjoyed it doing it. That’s all you can do.”

South Africa is a special place for the actor on a personal level. “There is a connection there,” he says. “My mother’s husband Harry Bloom was a writer, a novelist, a reporter and an anti-apartheid activist.

“When I arrived they gave me a book called Jewish Memories of Mandela and there was a two-page spread on Harry Bloom as a political figure. Having grown up until I was 13 believing he was my father, and having him die when I was four, there are ideas and histories that you create for yourself.” When Bloom was 13, his mother revealed that his father was in fact Colin Stone, a family friend who was made Bloom’s legal guardian after Harry’s death. “So I had an interesting connection with South Africa, and it was great to be there.”

His son Flynn went with him to South Africa. Bloom took him everywhere, even when he was busy bulking up for the role (he put on a stone of muscle to play the Cape Town cop). “There were a lot of stairs in South Africa. I had him on my back in a rucksack and I would run up and down the stairs”, he says.

There is also the small matter of the final part of the Hobbit trilogy that will be released in cinemas at the end of the year and in which Bloom will appear as Legolas one last time. Shot in 2012, there was initial consternation from fans about Legolas’s appearance as the character does not feature in the novel. However the history of Middle Earth and other material surrounding the book makes it clear that Legolas was around long before Bilbo Baggins and the third film promises more of the glittering dynamic between Legolas and his father Thranduil.

It will likely be his last family film for a while. “It’s ironic because I stopped making family films when I became a father and am now starting on grittier roles,” he says. “I got the family things made.” The end of his marriage has brought with it a time for contemplation, about home and work. Does he have any regrets?

“Nothing, no way. There is nothing I regret, it just so happens that I’m 37 and I have my whole career ahead of me. When you have done two trilogies like that, it creates a strong idea of something that is hard to break.”

“It’s the beginning of a second chapter, something different, something new. I have new responsibilities in my life as a father, and I look at my career and can’t wait for new opportunities. I’m looking at doing things that challenge me.”

‘Zulu’ will be released later in the year; ‘The Hobbit: There and Back Again’ will be released on 12 December

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Reach Volunteering: Chair and trustees sought for YMCA Bolton

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Bolton YMCA is now a...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada