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Originally published in The Straights Times.

Forget muscle-bound action figures like Arnie and Stallone. The men who are ruling the silver screen and stealing girls' hearts today are the lithe, pretty-boy stars of fantasy epics like The Lord Of The Rings, Harry Potter and Star Wars. CLARA CHOW reports
















ORLANDO BLOOM, Hayden Christensen and Sean Biggerstaff.

No, these are not nonsense words from J. K. Rowling's dictionary, but young, fragile-featured actors with soft down on their peachy faces.


Orlando Bloom stars in the fantasy epic, The Lord Of The Rings.
They are the names of three young men now making their mark in big-budget Hollywood franchises. Their weird real-life monikers sound right out of the fantasy genre they star in, and all three have quickly garnered a loyal teen following, making them the new darlings of magazine covers.

With the exception of Christensen, 20, who landed the plum role of Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones, Bloom and Biggerstaff play supporting roles in their movies. But they have managed to steal the thunder from the leading men.

Biggerstaff, 18, plays Gryffindor's Quidditch captain Oliver Wood in Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone. He appears on screen in only about four scenes. But already, he is sending schoolgirls' hearts aflutter.

He is expected to have more screen time in the subsequent Harry Potter movies as his character develops.

Bloom, 24, who plays elf archer Legolas in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, charmed audiences with the way he drew arrows from his quiver gracefully. By comparison, Elijah Wood's Frodo the Hobbit fell far short.

In an online popularity poll at TheOneRing.net, he came in second to established actor Ian McKellen, receiving 20.6 per cent of the votes. Orlando Bloom's Oasis, an online fan club founded in May, currently has 495 members.

Ms Janice Tay, 39, marketing director for 20th Century Fox Singapore, sizes up the three hunks: 'All three are unknowns, not having appeared in many films. Hayden Christensen seems to have enormous talent. He also has a harder job because of his meatier role. He has to make his character develop from a young boy to stepping over to the dark side.


Sean Biggerstaff wows audiences with his looks and boggles minds with his name.
'As for Biggerstaff, he did a brilliant job in Harry Potter because everybody remembers him. He has captured the imagination of girls worldwide. But it's hard to judge his talent because he didn't appear very much.'

She adds: 'The younger girls will certainly be very interested in Biggerstaff, and older women will go for Bloom. Bloom as Legolas has a quiet confidence, skill and grace in battle. He's an eye-mind kind of hero.'

Star Wars: Episode II is a 20th Century Fox film. So what exactly is the appeal of these boys from Middle Earth, Hogwarts and Tatooine?

In films over-run by male action, fantasy elements and special effects, having a good-looking character sweetens the movie for female fans.

And as an observer on The Snitch Forum puts it: 'Maybe everyone found Biggerstaff so attractive because everybody else in the film was about 12-year-olds.'


EVIL NEVER LOOKED THIS GOOD: Hottie Hayden Christensen plays the role of Anakin Skywalker, the good Jedi Knight who later morphs into the evil Darth Vader.
Episode II casting director Robin Gurland might have hit the nail on the head when he spoke of the Christensen mystique: 'He's on the verge of adulthood, so his face still has this innocence, but in the eyes, there's this intelligence that's so knowing, so mature.'

As female film audiences become more emancipated and confident, studies have surfaced about how they are eschewing the rugged handsome looks of movie stars like John Wayne and Paul Newman for delicate, sensitive types like Leonardo DiCaprio.

Says Dr Timothy White, 50, a senior lecturer in film studies at the National University of Singapore's English Literature department: 'If you compare actors today with those popular in the 1940s and 1950s, they're a lot younger now and prettier.

'It may be a symptom of the fact that back then, movies were for everybody. Today, the audiences are younger.'

He adds, citing Tom Cruise as an example of the appeal of the baby-faced actor: 'I think the trend will continue. A lot of actors are about hype and packaging. They get stereotyped. Movie producers will use these same actors again in the same genres.'


The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring and Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone are showing now. Star Wars: Episode II - Attack Of The Clones will be released worldwide on May 16.



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Darth and handsome

Fantasy Hunk: Hayden Christensen

Plays: Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack Of The Clones

Hair: Blonde

Eyes: Brown

Height: 1.85 m

Tattoos: None, but he adorned himself with fake piercings for his role as a pill-popping male prostitute in Life As A House, starring Kevin Kline and Kristin Scott Thomas. 'I don't think George Lucas would be too happy if I showed up with a hole in my lip,' says the dutiful Jedi Knight.

Demographic Appeal: At 20, big brotherly enough for the kids expected to line up for Star Wars: Episode II; tall, Darth and handsome enough for millions of girls.

Hunk Credentials: Canadian of Italian and Swedish heritage - born in Vancouver, but now living in Toronto - he started doing commercials at eight. He was discovered when he tagged along with his then 14-year-old sister (he has another sister and a brother) to look for an agent. In his teens, he juggled high school theatre with bit parts on television and in movies like The Virgin Suicides. He was a paper boy in John Carpenter's In The Mouth Of Madness, and a teen drug addict on the short-lived Fox Family Channel drama, Higher Ground, in 1999.

The Big Break: While planning to get a tennis scholarship to university, he beat 350 hopefuls, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Ryan Phillippe, for the part in Star Wars. Not bad for a lad, who, en route to his screen tests, was so nervous he threw up on the plane. His father sent him a card that said: 'Some things are bigger than a tennis scholarship to Harvard.'

Other Stuff: To embrace the Force, he had to take fencing classes (a.k.a. light-sabre training). Allergic to bees, he panics when he sees them.

Out Of Tatooine Threads: His grin is best teamed with T-shirts and jeans.

Marital Status: British tabloid The Sun has reported an alleged real-reel romance between Christensen and Natalie Portman, who plays Queen Amidala. Sources say she dropped him after filming wrapped up and that he is now listening, broken-hearted, to Britney Spears' songs over and over again.

How To Snare Him: Look like either Portman or Spears.

Coming Up: Production on Star Wars: Episode III will start in Jan 2003.

Get Your Web-Fix: Fan sites - The Hayden Christensen Estrogen Brigade, and About Hayden Christensen. The Hayden Christensen Oasis is a good links page.



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Bloom is in season

Fantasy Hunk: His moniker, Orlando Bloom, conjures up ever-so-romantic images, from Virginia Woolf's gender-bending hero/heroine to aggressively beautiful flowers in bloom.


Orlando Bloom plays Legolas Greenleaf, the valiant arrow-shooting elf in The Lord Of The Rings (LOTR) trilogy.
Plays: Legolas Greenleaf, the valiant arrow-shooting elf in The Lord Of The Rings (LOTR) trilogy.

Hair: Brown

2Eyes: Brown

Height: 1.8 m

Tattoos: He has three - the elvish character for 'nine', on his right forearm, a sun on his torso and one in an undisclosed location.

Demographic Appeal: At 24, he is young enough for teenage girls yet legal enough for older women. Fans are in conflict over his birthday - some say it is Jan 13, others Jan 27. That has not stopped them from starting an online countdown to his birthday on Jan 13.

Hunk Credentials: This Canterbury, Kent, boy moved to London at 16 to join the National Youth Theatre for two years. He then won a scholarship to train with the British American Drama Academy. The Big Break: His big screen debut was as a rent boy in Wilde, starring Jude Law. He then studied at the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

He read for the role of Faramir, (who does not appear in The Fellowship Of The Ring) but was offered the role of Legolas after a six-month casting process.Other Stuff: He went through three months of intensive archery, martial arts, horseback riding and language (to master Elvish) lessons prior to filming LOTR.

Out Of Elfish Threads: He is the epitome of GQ cool, with his brunette hair in 'the fin' hairstyle. A serious contender for the title of the Next Jude Law.

Marital Status: Single, but he says: 'Out of the blue, I did send a plane ticket to a girl asking her to visit. I guess that's quite romantic.'

How To Snare Him: Take up sky-diving, surfing, skiing, snowboarding, bungee-jumping, paragliding and photography.

Coming Up: He will appear as Blackburn, a soldier in Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down, due for release here on Jan 17.

Get Your Web-Fix: Fan sites include Orlando Bloom's Oasis, Wilde About Orlando Bloom, Bloomin' Marvellous.



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Getting bigger

Fantasy Hunk: Sean Biggerstaff. He is Scottish, so maybe that explains the sexual-innuendo in his surname.

Plays: Gryffindor's Quidditch captain, Oliver Wood, in Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone. Wood's part will become meatier in the second and third instalments of the tale.

Hair: Brown

Eyes: Brown

Height: 1.75 m

Demographic Appeal: Teenage boys and girls and some young-at-heart women. According to a Lycos popular user search report last month, Biggerstaff got 76 per cent more searches than Daniel Radcliff, star of Harry Potter. He also received more searches than boyband O-Town and Buffy actress Sarah Michelle Gellar.

Hunk Credentials: Born in Glasgow, on March 15, 1983, he began acting at five and joined the Scottish Youth Theatre (SYT) when he was 11. In 1996, he acted in The Crow Road, a short-lived mini-series.
The Big Break: Discovered by Alan Rickman while acting in Macbeth with the SYT, he then starred with Rickman and Emma Thompson in The Winter's Guest in 1997. Rickman then got Biggerstaff a London agent, who landed him the Harry Potter gig.

Other Stuff: Not much else is known about this elusive teen idol, except that he used to play guitar in a band named Crambo.

Out Of Hogwarts Robes: Looks exactly the same.

Marital status: He says: 'I'm devilishly good-looking and single!'

How To Snare Him: Become a guitar-rocking babe. Hang around his college, or something.

Coming Up: More Harry Potter films.

Get Your Web-Fix: Check out The Snitch Harry Potter Community for web-drool or The Sean Biggerstaff Network.
















Copyright 2001 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.