It's been quite a week for British born actor Orlando Bloom. With two films -- Sympathy For Delicious and The Good Doctor playing before audiences (the former opening in theaters; the latter debuting at Tribeca Film Festival 2011) -- the 34 year-old actor has been seen in a different light from his Pirates of The Carribbean-tattered days. Bloom displayed his darker chops to good effect.
Born in England in 1977, his supposed father, Harry Bloom -- a South African civil rights activist -- died of a stroke when Bloom was four years old. Family friend Colin Stone and mother Sonia raised him and his sister but when Orlando was 13, he found out that Colin was actually his biological father. A dramatic beginning right there.
The 16-year-old Bloom moved to London and spent two seasons with the National Youth Theatre, and then trained with the British American Drama Academy. Like many young actors, he got a number of television roles to further his career.
When he attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 1998, he fell three stories and broke his back. Despite fears he would be paralyzed, he recovered and returned to the stage.
In 1999 director Peter Jackson saw the young Bloom in a show and asked him to audition for his new set of movies. After graduating, Orlando began work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy, spent 18 months in New Zealand and, in playing the part of Legolas, became a heartthrob and fan favorite. Once he starred in the Pirates series with Kiera Knightley and Johnny Depp, Bloom became a sought-after actor for both mainstream and indie films. Now married to actress/model Miranda Kerr, the couple have a young son and Bloom has gone from sex symbol to serious actor.
In Sympathy, he plays a rock star -- The Stain -- who embraces and exploits the film's flawed, wheelchair-bound, deejay-turned-mystical healer. In The Good Doctor, he plays an internist who goes from healer to a patient-obsessed sociopath. Both films revolve around eccentric, maybe even preposterous, premises that would challenge the best of actors.
On three different occasions, at both Sundance 2010, a recent roundtable and during TFF 2011, Bloom addressed both films and their peculiar demands.
Q: Why did you sign on to do Sympathy For Delicious?
OB: I'm a huge fan of Mark's [Ruffalo] like everyone else in the room. I sat down with Mark and as a huge fan of his as an actor, when he came over to the house, I wasn't sure if I was auditioning for him or if he was auditioning me or what was going on.
I just said, 'I'd love to work with you and be a part of this film." I felt very grateful for the experience. I feel that the opportunity that this character posed for me has sort of set me off in a whole interesting direction.
Q: What bands or singers did you look at or base your character on?
OB: I just really embraced the inner demon of the character. Honestly, some of the greatest bands that I listened to growing up were from the north of England, whether it be The Beatles or The Stones, but specifically for this role it was like The Gallagher Brothers and Ian Brown from the Stone Roses.
The Gallagher brothers from Oasis, obviously, and they have this attitude, like, "We are the best band in the world. If you don't know it you should know it," that kind of thing. So I thought that would play really well for this character and would help bring some truth to this character because that's truthful to them.
Even if it's showmanship and it's for the camera, I watched them, just doing interviews and stuff like that, particularly Liam Gallagher and Ian Brown. So I asked Mark, "Look, do you mind if I do this, with this with this slant on it?"
He was a little apprehensive on it, to be honest. He was like, "No. I want this. I want you." But he sort of came around. It really helped the accent, the dialect, but it helped me to create the truth of it because some of the dialogue was quite outlandish. It really helped. It was fun.
I just felt like he could be a really belligerent, kind of egotistical, narcissistic rock star if I placed him in the north, no offense to anyone in the north of England. It just worked really well. When I was looking at stuff on video of Liam and Ian and [the rest], they're so aggressive and out there.
Q: Did the lead singer from Mars Volta Cedric Bixler-Zavala provide your voice at one point in the movie?
OB: Cedric went in and came up with this kind of crazy vocalization, and then, they told me, "just go in there and riff on that." So that's what I did, and it kind of worked. Cedric wrote the lyrics right on the spot. it was amazing. He completely captured the character, the movie, and, I would say, an aspect of who we are. Amazing.
Q: Since Juliette Lewis has fronted her own band, did she give you tips on how to be a lead singer or did she keep those stories to herself?
OB: Of course, she was wonderful, but she would be horrified to think that our band, the band in the movie, was anything like a real band or her band, at least. So I have to clarify that. But she was great.
We went down to Guadalajara and did some singing for the movie with Omar Rodriguez Lopez, also from Mars Volta, and that was amazing. When we were in Los Angeles, we had a little studio that we rehearsed in and [Juliette} was really great at band motivation and telling me a few pointers on the swagger. She was just great.
[But] I don't think I'm going to be doing an album anytime soon, though I really enjoyed wailing around and having a lot of fun.
Q: As much as this movie is about fame, it's also about exploitation. How do you think your character perceived his responsibility and blame in terms of the exploitation he might've been involved in?
OB: The road to hell is also paved with ego, greed and hunger. For The Stain, when Ariel dies, I think it's a profound change for him as a human being, as a character in the movie, certainly. I think that in the end, when he's in the courthouse, I think that's when, really, it becomes very clear that he feels the responsibility of what's happened throughout the course of the movie.
Q: Was working with an actor/director who knows what it takes to be an actor and can communicate on that level offer a better directorial approach?
OB: It was amazing. There was a shorthand. There was a sensitivity to the process of being an actor, being directed by an actor such as Mark. It was amazing because he really understood the process and it was immediate. There was a feeling, like, he knew when ... actors have moments. Even sometimes before the take they're ready to go or right after the take they're still going, and there's a moment.
Mark could make sure that we were rolling and he caught those moments. He'd continue rolling and he caught those moments that continued in the moment after it. He just knew when we were in the pocket, as it were. The direction was just immediate. That shorthand was fantastic.
Mark's so sensitive to the process that we would go through. I was terrified about how to say some of the lines that had been beautifully crafted for the character of The Stain, like "I am the lord by wad of cum," and the singing aspect of it and the performance aspect, and I've never felt like I had somebody's support so much. It enabled me to feel like you could just really drop all your inhibitions and just go for it, and I think it comes through.
And he takes you inside the world. Sometimes you can watch movies and you really feel like you're an observer. In this movie you're there, you're right with Delicious D and skid row, you're right with Mark's character, you're with the band, you're in there, you're in the room. And I was like wow, I really felt like I had that experience. It was cool.
Q: Now that you've worked with a first time director like Mark, do you have plans to direct a feature, and even perhaps be in it if you did?
OB: I'm still learning to be a better actor. I've got quite a long road to go there, but it was very inspirational seeing Mark work. He made it look easy. He really did make it look easy.
Q: To see you play a doctor and a rock star and turn those two classic archetypes around, that was an accomplishment. What went through your head in subverting these two icons and make them different from what our expectations are?
OB: I just really wanted to have the opportunity to shift, I guess, the perception that had been created, not necessarily a bad perception, but having worked on huge movies for the majority of my life, for the majority of the first half of my career, I should say a couple of big trilogies, I was just yearning for a different kind of experience in filmmaking.
I talked about the opportunity of working with Mark at the beginning of this. It's like I really wanted the opportunity to work with him because Mark as an actor, he's phenomenal, but as a director there's a certain shorthand. So he just knew when any of us were in the pocket in terms of the process and was like, "Get the camera on them now. We're going."
That was wonderful, to have someone so in tune and so understanding of the anxieties that can come up when you're trying to be a performer. With The Good Doctor I just read the script. It terrified me and I put it down and thought, "I can't do that. I don't even know where to start."
I was kind of talked into it by my producing partner, Sharon Miller, and I talked to Mark about it as well at one point. I talked to people that were important in my life about what I would do with it and whether it was a good idea and it was just an opportunity to do something completely different, flip a perception completely on its head.
So to have a rock star and then this weird, introverted, controlled sociopath of a doctor, for me it's all about expanding my range, I guess, and growing and showing that there's more than just a pirate in my heart.
Q: Out of the many characters that you've interpreted would you consider this to be one of the hardest?
OB: The hottest? Yeah, he's smoking hot. One of the interesting things about this is the script. John Enbom wrote an amazing script and I thought that he wrote an amazing character, and really an interestingly complex character.
I think it's easy for people in life to have that one little thing snowball out of all control into an area that they never thought that they would have control into an area that they never thought it would go into. Before they know it they're into too deep. I thought that was something that would be fun and interesting and weird to try.
Q: The film does such a good job of portraying the horror of being a young doctor. What research did you do to capture that?
OB: In order to get my head around this character I went and did some rounds in L.A. at the hospitals, at UCLA. I actually started off doing rounds with surgeons and it was interesting because surgeons are like rock stars in hospitals. They go in there and cut people, like, "Yeah, I fixed them."
They're heroes. Internal medicine, what Dr. Martin Ploeck is, they're like detectives. They kind of think it through and piece it together and are like, "Okay, this is going to work."
So it was very interesting to see these completely characteristics of those types of doctors. I have a lot to thank doctors for actually because I broke my back and I wouldn't standing here if I didn't have a doctor to fix me up. It was a very interesting process for me to meet doctors.
My take is that they're like eternal children in a way because they're always studying. They're always working. They never really experience life. They're never outside. Maybe I'm wrong, but that was my take on it. They just work so hard. They're sort of very into it. So there were some very interesting internal jokes and how they talk about patients and things. It was very kind of revealing.
Q: In the end, will the character do it again?
OB: I'm looking at The Good Doctor 2 and 3 and thinking it's a blood bath. When we settled on what the ending was going to be, I think that happens. It can happen. I think this can happen in life.
Movies portray that the bad guy always gets caught and the good guy always gets the medal at the end of the day, but I think that isn't always reflected in life. I think he probably goes on to be the best doctor that he can be.
Q: Until he falls in love again?
OB: Until he falls in love again, yeah.
Q: I wondered if there were any plans for a Good Doctor 2?
OB: We only do trilogies over here. We thought that it could be called The Good Inmate.
For more stories by Brad Balfour go to: filmfestivaltraveler.com