Orlando Bloom is still pinching himself.
Last year, the 23-year-old was winding up a three-year theatre training course at Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and pondering his future.
The day before he graduated, a telephone call from his agent changed his life. He had landed the role of the elf, Legolas, in Wellington director Peter Jackson's $360 million Lord of the Rings trilogy for New Line Cinema, based on the J. R. R. Tolkien books, being set in faraway New Zealand.
For the past 14 months, Bloom has spent his time on location, exploring New Zealand while wearing a strange costume, a long blond wig and prosthetic ear extensions. Most people would not recognise him.
Leaving his classmates behind in London, he has been rubbing shoulders with some of the best in the business - Jackson, Sir Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Liv Tyler, Sir Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, John Rhys-Davies and Dominic Monaghan, to name a few.
In an interview with the Otago Daily Times, he talked with excitement.
"I'd sit there and look around, looking at the people sitting next to me - that I'm performing with - and I'd be pinching myself wondering `Is it real?'" he said.
"I'm definitely like a big floppy puppy who's wet behind the ears. And I'm gagging for it all. To watch these people work is incredible."
Slipping into the role of a 2931-year-old elf has not been easy. First there was the archery training and the movement training, as well as the two-hour make-up sessions each morning.
Jackson - who, the actor jokingly says, looks like a hobbit - has been a huge help.
The director had given him the freedom to try a few things, and reeled him back in if he needed it, he said.
"Initially, I was floundering, trying to work out how to portray him [Legolas], to bring the image to the screen. I've spent time with the character, we've been together a year, and I identify with him."
Being uprooted from home has not upset the confident young actor. Despite only spending two weeks in England over the past 14 months, he is not complaining. Working in this country has unearthed his love of the outdoors he spends his free time surfing, snowboarding and fishing.
"My God, this country . . . it's, like, so raw and beautiful . . . it's kind of overwhelming. I feel like the luckiest man alive."
He believes Lord of the Rings will be a mark on the map of movie-making and a chance for New Zealand to cash in on the industry.
"Especially when they see what Pete's been doing here. It couldn't have been made anywhere else, in every aspect.
"The world is going to see New Zealand in a completely different light.
"We've seen a lot of the country a lot of New Zealanders haven't had the opportunity to see."
As the film offers start pouring in, his only worry seems to be what his next project will be, because how can he top Lord of the Rings ?
His other problem is what to do with his beloved surfboard.
"What am I going to do, surf the Thames?" he laughs.
Bloom says his time in New Zealand, where he discovered he has family, has been the best in his life and it is with a tinge of sadness he talks about leaving when filming wraps up before the end of the year.
"I will take Legolas, and this experience in New Zealand, wherever I go. The beautiful thing about being an actor is every character you embrace, when you move on, you take part of the character with you."
The first of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring , will be released in December 2001.
Bloom debuted in the feature film Wild before he started at Guildhall. He also performed in the upcoming television series Midsomer Murders .
Born in Canterbury, Kent, he joined the National Youth Theatre at 16 for two seasons and then gained a scholarship to train with the British American Drama Academy.