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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

Kaleem Aftab
Saturday 19 April 2014 08:34 BST

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

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