|January 13, 1977|
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Born Orlando Jonathan Blanchard Bloom in Canterbury, Kent, England on Jan. 13, 1977, Bloom was raised by his mother Joan and father Harry Saul Bloom, a lawyer and acclaimed novelist who spent time in jails in his native South Africa for protesting the apartheid government. Years after Harry Bloom's death in 1981, the teenaged Bloom discovered that his biological father was in fact a family friend named Colin Stone because Harry Bloom was unable to father children. His friend, Stone, then stepped in, making the arrangement unique, to say the least. Whenever Bloom would give interviews in later years, he would refer warmly to both men as his father.
Bloom struggled in school due to dyslexia, gravitating instead towards creative endeavors like sculpting and recitations, for which he won several prizes. Acting also caught his fancy, and by the age of 16, he relocated to London to study with the National Youth Theatre, through which he landed a scholarship to study with the British American Dramatic Academy. While in London, he also began auditioning for film and television roles, winning bit parts in TV series like "Casualty" (BBC, 1986- ) and "Midsomer Murders" (BBC, 1997- ). He made his film debut in 1997 with a small part as a homosexual prostitute in the historical biopic, "Wilde," starring Stephen Fry as playwright and author Oscar Wilde.
Bloom continued his dramatic training at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and while there in 1998, he suffered a traumatic back injury after falling three stories from a rooftop. The damage was so severe that it was thought Bloom would be paralyzed, but after extensive surgery, he made a complete recovery. In a curious parallel with his own real life experiences, Bloom's supporting character in Ridley Scott's controversial war drama "Black Hawk Down" (2001) - about a doomed battle between American and British forces and Somalian fighters in the mid-90s - suffers a fall from a moving helicopter and breaks his back.
In 1999, Bloom auditioned for New Zealand director Peter Jackson's epic three-part film adaptation of the fantasy novels, "The Lord of the Rings." Bloom was interested in the role of Faramir (the brother of Sean Bean's Boromir), but Jackson cast him in the larger and showier role of Legolas, the elvish prince who becomes part of the nine adventurers who set out to destroy the Ring. Bloom's boyish good looks and physical prowess helped catch audiences' attention, even in a film populated by such powerhouse talent as Sir Ian McKellan, Viggo Mortenson, and Cate Blanchett. Perhaps sensing that viewers would take to Bloom, Jackson gave him a show-stopping physical set piece in each of the films. In "The Fellowship of the Ring" (2001), he subdues a rampaging troll like a bucking bronco, while in "The Two Towers" (2002), he caps a ferocious fight scene by planting his feet on his shield and "surfing" down a flight of stairs while firing arrows. In the last installment, "The Return of the King," he single-handedly dispatches a war elephant and its rider. Male viewers were impressed by his cool demeanor and fighting skills, while female fans swooned over his pin-up-ready features. Thanks to the "Rings" trilogy, Bloom became a star overnight.
In 2003, Bloom picked up a sword once again to star opposite Johnny Depp and Keira Knightely in Jerry Bruckheimer's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl." Based on the venerable Disneyland ride, the film was initially viewed as a colossal miss, due to its subject matter - pirates having been box office anathema for years - but to nearly everyone's surprise, "Pirates" was a colossal hit. However, critics were less than impressed with Bloom's performance in this picture; crediting much of the film's success to both Johnny Depp's scene-stealing turn and to its impressive visual effects. Though Bloom picked up a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Ensemble in for "Return of the King," some in the industry were grumbling that his luck and skill seemed to be based on his ability to hold a sword.
It was possible, however, that some of the negative press hurled in Bloom's direction came as a result of his relationship with the attractive American actress, Kate Bosworth. The two became an item after meeting in 2002, and their pictures were seen regularly in tabloids on both sides of the Atlantic. Both became followers of Buddhism in 2004, but by 2005, the challenge of maintaining a healthy romantic life long distance and major film careers for both proved too much for the couple. They split amicably that year. His ability to remain cool in the face of such a loss undoubtedly infuriated his detractors even further, as did his public appearances with such post-Bosworth beauties as Spanish actress Penelope Cruz.
But the naysayers were emboldened by the failure of Bloom's post "Rings." His turn as the vain Paris in Wolfgang Petersen's "Troy" (2004) was met with audience indifference and "Ned Kelly" (2003), based on the legendary Australian outlaw, barely saw a release in America. "The Calcium Kid" (2004), a lightweight English mockumentary in which Bloom played a milkman turned boxer, had been made prior to the "Rings" trilogy and saw no Stateside theatrical screenings. Bloom forged ahead with his career, but whether he was toting a medieval weapon - as in Ridley Scott's expensive "Kingdom of Heaven (2005) - or not - he played an American attempting to reconnect with his family and roots in Cameron Crowe's critically maligned "Elizabethtown" (2005) - he seemed unable to recapture his former success.
Then came the inevitable "Pirates" sequel, "Dead Man's Chest," and Bloom's fortunes seemed to be on the rise again. Though pilloried by critics for its overblown production and unnecessarily baffling storyline, "Dead Man's Chest" surpassed its predecessor in terms of ticket sales, allowing Bloom to once again show off his knack for action scenes in an eye-popping fight atop a rolling water wheel. The scene was so impressive, Bloom would take home a 2006 Teen Choice Award for this particular set piece. The film was shot back to back with the third entry in the "Pirates" franchise, "At World's End" (2007) released in time for the highly competitive summer movie season.
After the hysteria over "Dead Man's Chest" died down, Bloom helped produce and star in a small independent thriller called "Haven" (2006). As a white resident of the Cayman Islands who falls for the sister of a local black gangster, Bloom showed grit and depth in his performance. Sadly, few got the opportunity to see it due to the film's limited release. However, a larger viewership enjoyed his self-deprecating turn as an impossibly vain version of himself on Ricky Gervais' comedy series "Extras" (HBO, 2005-) that same year.