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Duke special

By Will Lawrence

Saturday, October 08, 2011

IN THE four years since he last set sail in the realm of big-budget filmmaking, voyaging with the Pirates of the Caribbean to World’s End in 2007, Orlando Bloom has been adrift on quiet waters.

The 34-year-old Lord of the Rings star has since tackled his first-ever professional stage production; has appeared in a number of low-budget independent films; and has finally settled down, marrying his girlfriend and starting a family. Now, though, Bloom is back, and once again he’s riding the waves of swashbuckling adventure, taking up the role of the ill-famed Duke of Buckingham in director PWS Anderson’s 3D re-imagining of The Three Musketeers.

"It is great to be back," begins Bloom, "especially in a role like this." Ever since he broke through as the pointy-eared elf, Legolas, in The Fellowship of the Ring back in 2001, the English actor has invariably been cast in the role of whiter-than-white hero. "And I love that in Three Musketeers they didn’t ask me to play D’Artagnan," he continues. "I’m not sure I would have wanted to play D’Artagnan. I wanted to play the bad guy."

In the character of the moustached dandy Buckingham, Bloom has got his wish. "Bad guys seem to have so much more fun, and it is totally liberating," he adds. "The way that the Duke of Buckingham carries himself, he’s a bit like a big, petulant child in many ways. To me, the film feels like a very contemporary telling of the story."

The film, like the many Alexandre Dumas adaptations that have come before, is still set in the 17th century, although here director Paul Anderson bids to inject extra spectacle into the timeworn fabric of the tale — watch out for the Leonardo Da Vinci-inspired airships.! The director has also assembled a fine cast of villains to oppose the Musketeers and D’Artagnan (the latter played by young American actor Logan Lerman). Standing alongside Bloom are Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz and the director’s wife and Resident Evil star Milla Jovovich, who puts a high-kicking action spin on the enigmatic character of Milady de Winter.

"There’s plenty of great action in the film," beams Bloom, "although the crazy thing is that after doing three Pirates films, the next film that most people are going to see me in is The Three Musketeers. They’ll probably go, ‘He is just doing another swashbuckling movie’. But since I finished Pirates I have done four or five movies and they are all very different. It’s just that they’re not the types of movie that people queue around the block to see."

Those movies include a role in the ensemble piece New York, I Love You (2009) and in the directorial debut from American actor Mark Ruffalo, Sympathy for Delicious (2010). He has also shot the films Main Street and The Good Doctor and has made his professional stage debut, at the Duke of York’s Theatre, working on In Celebration back in 2007.

"It was very revealing just to get up on the West End and never having done any theatre since drama school — and certainly not anything professional — I really loved it," he says. "For eight to 10 years I’d just been doing really big movies and in doing that you sometimes loose your sense of perspective. You cannot see the wood from the trees."

After finishing the play, Bloom began to question his professional path. "I’ve had a lot of luck, and I loved those big movies, but you cannot stay in that world for ever." His career to that point had been defined by high profile but time-sapping roles. Alongside his two big franchises, he also appeared in Troy (2004) and as the lead in Ridley Scott’s crusader picture Kingdom of Heaven (2005).

"It was like, ‘How did I find myself in this position and what am I going to do about it?’" concedes the actor. "So I started to look at some of the material I had read, some of the smaller scripts, projects that I had read and felt passionate about and I wondered if I could get these off the ground. In terms of experience this has been a great period for me. I wanted to be not so under the spotlight."

During his time out of the spotlight, Bloom met Australian model Miranda Kerr, and the couple announced their engagement in June 2010 before marrying two months later. The couple’s son, Flynn, was born in January this year. "My priorities have changed, not just in work but in life, settling down, having a kid; my priorities have shifted and I think now it’s more about not taking oneself too seriously and just enjoying the ride."

Indeed, since settling back into big-budget filmmaking, Bloom has agreed to return to Middle Earth, signing on to reprise the role that made him famous, Legolas, in Peter Jackson’s two-film adaptation of The Hobbit. The director plans to use material from The Silmarillion and elsewhere to bridge the gap between the end of The Hobbit and the start of Tolkien’s much-loved trilogy.

"It’s in my veins," he says. "I’m really looking forward to The Hobbit and I think it is going to be wonderful. I still have all my notes from when we made the first films and my headspace is right — I’ve already thought everything through." Bloom is currently filming with Jackson in New Zealand. "I’ll miss the fact that people like Viggo Mortensen are not going to be there, and the original hobbits aren’t going to be there, but it’ll be great to work with Peter Jackson again and Ian McKellen and all the crew."

Once his Hobbit duties are complete, Bloom will film Cities with Clive Owen for director Roger Donaldson, and hopes to shoot the independent picture The Mandrake Experiment. "Looking back, I wouldn’t change anything," concludes Bloom, "but I am glad that I took time to let the dust settle and to see more clearly in which direction I should head. The last few years have been a real education."

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