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Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

A Conversation with Orlando Bloom

by Michelle Zoromski
July 9, 2003

Avast! We talk to the star of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

Orlando Bloom rocketed to stardom with his portrayal of Legolas Greenleaf in the Lord of the Rings films, delighting Tolkien devotees and becoming the object of fascination for women and girls the world over. He’s currently starring in Disney’s ride-to-film adaptation Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, in which he portrays Will Turner, a young man who sets out on a quest to save his bonny lass from the clutches of cursed pirates.

Orlando described one particular scene in the movie, where he gets to impersonate Johnny Depp’s character, Jack Sparrow. “That’s one of my favorite parts in the movie! I was so jealous of Johnny, I was so envious of that character that he created. I mean, that character was not on the page, it wasn’t written like that. That’s what Johnny does, he creates an incredible character from something that’s an idea on a page. I was just like, ‘Wow, I wish I was doing that.’ I said to him, ‘I’d love to do an impression of that.’ Because they’re like the odd couple . . . Johnny was like, ‘You know, you should.’ And Jerry was like, ‘Yeah, let’s write that in. Okay.’ So, we got it going and I was so happy that it made it.”

As an actor, does it get any better than playing a swash-buckling pirate? “I was sure you were going to say, ‘Play opposite Johnny Depp.’ No, it doesn’t. I mean, I’m not really a swash-buckler, really. Will’s the kind of stick in the mud, the only straight-shooter. He’s the guy who’s like holding it together, as it were. But it was so much fun. You know at the end, Will’s arc is he sort of realizes through the experience of hanging with Jack Sparrow and going on that journey together, he sort of realizes that that’s what it can be. You know what I mean? That there’s something about being true to yourself and there’s something in bending the rules a little without hurting anyone, if you can, can be the right thing to do as well. Because Will, who hasn’t had a father, has grown up with no father, has kind of taken a guideline for a father figure from the kind of naval officers at Port Royal . . . It’s a good arc. A little bit at the end of the movie, when I get the hat with the plume and do some stuff, a little bit more like swash-buckling.”

One swordfight scene early in the film is described as wild, crazy, and lots of fun to watch. “It was a headache to make. And kind of intimidating when I first saw the stunt guys, they filmed like in a basic form to show Jerry and Gore, to see it, to see whether it was going to work and so on. So, they showed the fight and I was like, ‘I’m supposed to do that?’ But, it actually was a lot of fun to film as well. Once you kind of learn the moves, it’s like muscle memory. You learn the moves, and then it’s sort of like learning lines. You can then play with it and have fun with the scene. Working with Bob Anderson—who I’d worked previously with on Lord of the Rings—again, was great.

As Legolas in The Lord of the Rings movies, Orlando already had some familiarity with filming fight scenes. “I’ve had some experience with it. On Rings I did certain amounts of picking up different swords and training and stuff. Yeah, I mean, I think my experience with that in other films, like in Rings and stuff, it kind of gets easier. Do you know what I mean? Spatial awareness. I don’t stab as many stunt men as I used to . . . I had to do some stuff fighting with skeletal pirates that weren’t there . . . I’d do the fight with the stunt guy, and then the stunt guy would go away and I’d have to do it without a stunt guy there. I was kind of prepared in that sense.”

Besides having fun getting to imitate Depp’s character, Bloom describes what it was like to work with the actor himself. “He’s somebody who as a young actor, and most young actors I think would probably agree, you sort of grow up seeing this guy, who’s probably one of the best looking guys onscreen, but he just manages to become these incredible characters and really morph into that. It was great . . . I just picked his brains about how he goes about living his life, because you know, it must be an unusual reality. And it is. I just wanted to know how he deals—it is a kind of surreal reality, and I just wanted to know how he deals with that. He was so gracious and such a lovely man. He far surpassed all my expectations, just as a human being, let alone as an actor. It was just so reassuring.”

Orlando credits Depp for bringing Jack Sparrow to life in a remarkable fashion. “When I read the script, Jack Sparrow was a great swashbuckling pirate, that you could see Errol Flynn doing something with. I’ve seen Johnny’s movies, I’ve seen what he does to characters. But, I don’t really think the studio thought he was going to do what he did. He created this kind of drunken, sea-legged, kind of Keith Richards sort of number. With the costume, the gold teeth, the eye makeup, the whole thing, he sort of ‘Depped’ it.”

Orlando had only positive comments about working with another of his Pirates costars, Keira Knightley. “Yeah, she’s a spritely young creature. She’s great. She’s 17 when she showed up, she’s 18 now. It’s crazy. I couldn’t believe it, because she seems a lot older. She’s very grown-up . . . She seems really smart. She looks beautiful in this.”

Since the movie is based on a Disney attraction, Bloom was asked if he’s ever been on the ride. “No, I’ve never been to Disneyland. I’ve been to Disney World, as a kid, in Florida, and done some stuff there, but I hadn’t been on the ride.”

This movie is in a way a landmark for Disney, since it is their first PG-13 film. Orlando responded to a question about whether the movie was too scary for the typical Disney audience. “The visual effects are quite impressive and do what they’re supposed to. I mean, they’re skeletal pirates. I’ll be pretty wigged out by them. I think it will crossover. It’s the first PG-13 for Disney. Somebody described it to me, I think it was the head of Disney said, ‘Well, you know, some of the rides at Disneyland, if you don’t go above this line, you can’t go on the ride.’ It’s kind of like that.”

An upcoming project for Bloom is the currently filming Troy in Malta. “It’s cool. I don’t really work that much with Brad [Pitt], I’m Paris, he’s Achilles, so he does most of his stuff with Hector and stuff. He’s such a lovely man and really an incredible actor. He’s had a really fascinating career, a very handsome man, but very gracious and very kind of giving of his time and energy as well. It’s been amazing working there. He looks fantastic, and the role is just so perfect for him. Achilles is a great role for him.”

Paris is a fairly well-known figure in mythology, and was a challenge for Orlando to bring to the screen in a likeable manner. “Paris is a real anti-hero. I liked it for that. Because it’s like, I want to try and show the human side of this character. He’s in a world of men . . . like warriors. You know, Hector and Achilles, they’re real fighters and warriors and everything. Actually, he’s like a lover, not a fighter. He’s in love with Helen, and he steals Helen from Menelaus. He falls in love with her and they leave Troy, and that’s what creates these terrible, horrific events that follow it. It’s a real coming of age story for him, in terms of realizing the folly of his deeds and how he’s created this, having to live with losing a brother and his father, and seeing a city destroyed all because of his lust and love for a woman. It was interesting to me to try and find a way of playing a character who is—there are some scenes in this movie that are really hard to make work. I don’t want the audience to think, ‘What an asshole?’ I don’t want them to think, ‘What a despicable young man.’ So it was kind of a challenge to find a human element to the character and make him somebody that an audience can understand as well as relate to in some way.”

Many of Orlando’s roles are period or fantasy pieces—or both. He spoke about this, and his future plans. “I did a film called The Calcium Kid, which will be out later this year in Scotland. I haven’t been intentionally avoiding anything, I think I’ve been really fortunate, the sort of projects that I’ve got involved in. I’ve been around and I’ve been available to work when they’ve been coming along. I’ve started with these films, and I definitely want to go back to doing, like I really feel like more kind of smaller, human stories . . . I just respond to the material, and I’m just hoping that I’ll respond to something with a more kind of gritty, sort of dramatic . . . As a young actor, you kind of have a rite of passage in a way. You’ve got to kind of put the leg work in early and do the stuff that comes to you and hopefully that will be good, and grow with it and do stuff with it. You know, I really do want to be doing stuff that’s more human and interesting . . . There’s incredible writers out there, and I’d love to get really taken through the mill.”

The Calcium Kid is finished filming and expected to be released later in 2003. Bloom says, “The Calcium Kid is a very sweet, British film that’s aimed at a younger audience. It’s a comedy, it’s very funny. It’s about a young guy who’s a milkman, but he fights. He’s a boxer. He fights as a boxer, just because it’s like the family he’s never had. He’s sort of in the gym fighting and stuff and was sparring with the British champion. He’s in preparation to fight the World champion, coming over from the States, and the British champion breaks his fist on my head. Because I’m a milkman, I drink a lot of milk—I’ve got strong bones. It goes from there. So, then he steps in to fight the World champion who’s coming over. He’s got one week to prepare for the fight and it’s these farcical events that take place, that lead up to the fight. It’s a very sweet, funny, story about this kid who’s completely simple. He’s a milkman, he loves his job, and he just gets thrown into this world of chaos.”

Recently, Bloom returned to New Zealand for additional filming on the final installment to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Return of the King. “Yeah, I was back there about six weeks ago, actually. It was really an emotional sendoff. I’d sort of donned the foam wig and pointy ears for the last time. I was like, ‘Wow.’ It was really sad, and they gave me my bow and arrow and the catapult from the last shot. They put a little clip together for me of stuff that I’d done in the movies, to music. It was really sad to say good-bye to it in that sense. Obviously, there’s going to be the release of the third film, but it was a life-changing time in my life, and an experience and a project that I will never forget. Obviously I can’t, but I mean, I will forever be grateful to Peter for having given me the opportunity.”

Orlando shared how he prefers to spend his spare time when he’s not filming. “If I’m in England I see my friends and my family and just catch up, you know? Like, I love to see theater and movies, listen to music, and just relax, really. Just try and take it easy. It’s quite hard to do, though.”

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is now playing in theaters everywhere.

-- donated by Theresa

-- photos added by Zone editors