Celebrity interview: Orlando Bloom

Orlando Bloom

Orlando Bloom - Credit: Archant

The Kent-born actor on his new movie Zulu and abiding love for Canterbury

When Orlando Bloom struck the big time in Lord of the Rings at the age of just 21, it was clear Kent would be talking up one of its proudest-ever exports.

The decision not to jump on every film script offered since has only enhanced the Canterbury-born star’s reputation as a solid character actor. And, 15 years on, reprising that initial role for New Zealand auteur Peter Jackson’s new The Hobbit trilogy, Bloom is clearly still in high demand.

The actor, now 36, has also hit the box office with a summer movie about a pair of South African police officers, the Cape Town thriller Zulu, which was unveiled at Cannes this year to acclaim.

For Bloom, the role proved far more demanding than the seafaring commitments of his other major success, the Pirates of the Caribbean films, and a role he felt the need to immerse himself in from the outset.

“I was very hands-on with the character,” he says. “Even cosmetically, I worked out very, very hard and was on a strict diet for months. It was actually helpful for me to feel like I could be an authentic character, to legitimise me as this character.”

For Bloom, a large part of pulling off the authenticity was in swapping his elegant Garden of England tones for a South African swagger. “It was a challenge but the accent was a very useful avenue into depicting him,” Bloom says.

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“The white South Africans I came across are very strong characteristically, very macho, they settle things with their fists.”

The actor, who moved to London from Canterbury to attend drama school when he was 16, says fond memories of his home city really did inspire his work. He still dreams about walking through Canterbury streets such as St Thomas Hill, where his family had a house and which led to his old school, and he loved the nearby cathedral.

For Bloom, the rich history of Canterbury has left a lasting impression. “It’s the kind of place that inspires, and I always felt very lucky that I’d spent some of the formative years of my life there,” he says. “I would spent hours around the High Street watching the live performers – I’m sure I even had an impromptu go myself once or twice. I think, at the heart of it, I always found Kent and its people reassuring. There’s not too much bravado – people are welcoming and honest.

“Obviously through time spent in Hollywood I’ve seen quite the opposite side of human nature on occasions, but that’s the industry I move around in and it’s to be expected. Certainly going back home feels like returning to a place of sanity.”

Bloom is clearly now at a point in his career where he’s looking for more challenging portrayals, and they don’t come saddled with much more pressure than when playing Romeo on Broadway.

The upcoming production is not his first dalliance with theatre – he spent two seasons in the National Isa Youth Theatre – but it’s very different to movie work.

“Shakespeare is huge thematically, but in terms of a live audience, a live show and performing six nights a week, that’s a challenge,” he admits.

“And I’m definitely at the point where I want to move things on. I’ve had something of a polished image in the films I’ve done so far because everything is immaculately produced. I hadn’t realised I was becoming pigeonholed in that, but I suppose I was, and that’s why I want to shed a few layers on stage. I felt a lot of pressure at the start of my career. I felt a lot of attention was focused on everything I was doing, and all I can tell you is that I don’t feel that pressure in the same way now.”

So what’s changed? “I breathe through it and I am just looking at opportunities that come along as challenges that I want to overcome as opposed to the challenges being insurmountable,” he says.

Another huge life-changer for Bloom has been the birth of his son, now two-and-a-half, but spending time away from Flynn and his Australian model wife Miranda Kerr can be difficult. “It’s one of those things you have to accept as an actor, but thankfully when filming Zulu the family were able to come along as well.

“South Africa is great because they don’t have the same paparazzi issue. We had freedom to do anything we wanted. We went shark diving and up the top of Table Mountain. He probably won’t remember any of it, but we had a great time doing it.”

The nomadic existence of the busy actor is a familiar concept, and Bloom admits he struggles with the concept. He has a house in Los Angeles and a rural escape in Kent, but has spent the entire past year on filming locations. Will it always be like this?

“I don’t know, but it’s surprising how quickly you get used to it,” he says. “This year I am going to be eight months in New York and next year I will be wherever the next movie is. My family is a bit like a travelling circus, but this is my job, and actually it makes the time when you are settled in one place away from work really special. That’s like a holiday in itself.

“I would never complain about my career. I’m extremely lucky, and if keeping a constant overnight bag packed is the worst thing that happens, I’ll be OK.”

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