He may be playing Legolas, one of the major characters in The Fellowship of the Ring, but Orlando Bloom is something of an unknown.
Orlando Bloom makes his major feature film debut in The Fellowship of the Ring, playing the elf Legolas, who is lethal with a sword and bow and represents the Elves in the journey of the Fellowship. The young English graduate of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London is clearly thrilled with this career break and shows off his tattoo that officially marks him for life as one of the elite nine members of the Fellowship.
All nine of the Fellowship actors got tattoos that said nine in Elvish. Where is yours?
On my wrist [he pushes up his sleeve proudly]. People got them everywhere and I think Elijah got his on his stomach, which is kind of unusual.
When did you first read the books?
When I was 14 I picked up Lord of the Rings. I got about halfway through it and then got a little distracted and got into sports and music and girls. I picked it up again when the casting process began and I read the books when I went out to New Zealand and found them perfect for everything you needed to know about the through-line of your character or anything [else]. It was great to have the books there to be able to refer to the different stages that you'd be at in terms of what you were filming.
Did you like the books when you first tried to read them?
I loved them, but it was really just that there wasn't enough time. It was over a summer holiday and I got distracted. I've given the book away as a gift to friends since I finished filming and said, You should read this because it is a great read. For people who haven't read the book, they're going to love the movie just as much if not more. Essentially it is a beautiful story and it is a huge book. Tolkien was a professor of history and he layered everything with details. It can be distracting or confusing, but for people who go and see the movie only, they'll get the essence and get lost in that world. It is an exciting journey to take however you come to it.
How was your time in New Zealand?
It was 18 months and the best time of my life. Working on a project like this and a character like this was a real challenge. I had to immerse myself and its kind of surreal sitting around the lunch table in New Zealand with Orcs and monsters with huge prosthetics. They're already big guys! I certainly got lost in that world.
What kind of training did you do?
I was the first of the cast to arrive and the first thing they did was put a bow in my hand! I started using the bow and getting to grips with archery, so by the end of the week I was taking paper plates out of the sky, trying to get some real dynamic movement into the way I used the bow. It's an extension of his body, so I had to be proficient in that. Horse riding was also important, particularly in the second movie when there is a lot of riding. The Elvin style of fighting is based on an ancient European and Asian style of fighting, so I learned those kinds of styles with twin blades. Essentially, at the end of the day, I had to learn to slow down the movements for the camera and still make them look flashy.
How important was the physicality of the character to you?
I looked at Legolas and thought this character has never been seen before; Elves are immortal and have super human strength and have lived in the world for so long... they are so graceful and elegant. So I spent some time really working on the physicality of the character and trying to develop an Elvin quality, which Tolkien talks about in the books. I had to pretend there was such a thing.
Did you have any preference as to which character you played?
I was in drama school when the casting process began and everybody I knew went up for a role. I went up for a different character first, but it wasn't being made available to me so they asked me to look at Legolas and I was just as excited. I went back and read the books and tried to find out who that character really was. I was thrilled when they asked me to play him.
How authentic is this movie?
Although is it a fantasy film, it is as real as it can be. You have to imagine that an audience will buy their ticket to a cinema and get on a first-class flight and journey to Middle-Earth, so there was huge attention to detail in terms of costumes and sets. We used the New Zealand locations and incredible scenery to its fullest advantage.
You must have felt very comfortable after 18 months in New Zealand.
It was home, I have a great warm feeling about New Zealand and I'm really tempted to buy some land there, particularly with everything going on in the world at the moment, because New Zealand feels like a really safe place to be right now.
When were you really aware of the enormous scope of this project?
When I first arrived in New Zealand one of the first things I did was to go to the special effects studio. There was a warehouse full of armour, thousands of rows of armour and weapons that was the first point when I realized, 'Oh my God, this is huge!'. I couldnt quite believe I was in a project until a month into filming. Then we finally saw some very rough snippets of a few scenes, not in any kind of order about halfway through the first year, which Peter showed us to help keep morale up and I finally, really understood what I was a part of and still couldnt really believe it!
Are you more aware now what The Lord of the Rings means to people?
I'm a bit of a technophobe, but I'm aware of the web pages that have cropped up for the film and specific characters and people and thats amazing to me. Everywhere I seem to go now, The Lord of the Rings comes up in the conversation and it seems everybody loves it and has an experience with it. My character has a few web sites I've flicked through and I was very impressed, but I haven't studied them yet.
Was there anybody in the set who hadnt read the books?
No way. I'd read the books and felt pretty knowledgeable on the worlds, but if you ever had any question about where you were, what was happening at that point in the story, someone was always on hand who knew exactly what was going on. Peter has said this before, but it was really made by the fans for the fans. Everybody was a fan.
How uncomfortable were the ears?
Surprisingly not uncomfortable at all, other than the two hours that it took to put them on. The only thing that got to be a bit of a drag, because it weighed so much, was my quiver and my bow strapped to my back. I went home one day without the wig, but with the ears on, because I had a four hour break and it was the middle of the night I crawled into bed with my girlfriend at the time and woke up with one of my ears stuck to the pillow and the other there in perfect form, with my girlfriend taking photos and laughing. I'd love to have gone out with them on, but we had tight secrecy so it's not like you could go into a bar or anything! I would have to wear a hooded jacket in the car on to way to set and home every day too if I still had the ears on as security was really tight.
How much did the security affect the mood?
I was not allowed to say anything. We weren't allowed to take out own photographs. There was a lot of restrictions that were frustrating, but if you think there were 18 months of filming, if they didnt keep security tight so much material could have slipped out. These movies are going to be released a year apart for the next three years, so they have to be careful. If everybody sees an image of something coming up in the second or third movie they might think, 'Oh well, Ive already seen what those things look like,' and they might feel like there was no element of visual surprise at all.
Are you confident about the release of the three movies each a year apart?
Movies are strange and wonderful things that can do anything, but Im pretty confident that we embarked on a labour of love. You put a lot into it and that kind of energy and effort into something has to be rewarded.
You just completed the Ridley Scott movie Black Hawk Down. How different was that film?
Ridley Scott has a history of being one of the greats. Although Lord of the Rings was a massive movie it felt, being filmed in New Zealand and amongst sort of friends which is what everybody became it felt like a smaller thing. Ridleys movie felt like a really big deal, but it was a great experience to have.
You must be relieved to finally have Lord of the Rings coming out?
Im excited but nervous too. How do you prepare yourself for what everybody keeps telling me it will mean when it comes out? You just dont know, do you? But I'm sure I'll hear every joke you can think of about Legolas; "Legolas in the pub" and "Are you really a fairy?" Can you imagine: I'm just really going to get it.