On an unseasonably chilly evening in the summer of 2009, superstar actor Orlando Bloom’s home was targeted by a group of thieving teenagers. At the time, Bloom’s films were among the biggest box office hits in history, and the 32-year-old movie star had commemorated each project with a rare Rolex watch. When the Bling Ring made off with a $500,000 dollar score that night, Bloom was forced to make a choice: trust in the investigative prowess of the LAPD, or gather the evidence himself—infiltrating Los Angeles’ underground luxury watch market while wearing a wire. He decided on the latter. “I have a pretty high tolerance for things, which probably helped me survive this long,” Bloom says. “You could do a movie about me getting my watches back—I met some really interesting characters along the way. Honestly, human beings are fantastic and fascinating to me. Everyone’s just trying to survive and get it done, right?"
Orlando Bloom feels very much the Pollyanna—and for the uninformed, she is the orphan heroine of the eponymous novel, who remains positive even when crippled by a car—which bears a certain similarity to Bloom, who relishes both in adversity and attitude. The actor’s Wikipedia page is littered with broken bones: nose (rugby), right leg (skiing), left leg (motorbike), right wrist (snowboarding), ribs (shooting). “You know he broke his back and was told he was never going to walk again,” says an admirer of Bloom’s, who once had his poster pasted to her wall. I did not know this fact, but it checks out. Meanwhile, in his youth, he was told he’d never walk again, Orlando Bloom instead learned to fly.
In fact, Bloom’s ascent was one that few actor’s survive, occupationally or literally. Lord of the Rings (the first job he landed out of drama school) and Pirates of the Caribbean raked in a combined six billion dollars, while offers rolled in for romantic comedies, and even a Broadway run as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet. Soon, Bloom’s ubiquity extended to the ends of the Earth—unable to travel unnoticed even as far afield as India or New Zealand—while his dating history read like a Vogue shoot call sheet. As Orlando Bloom’s star rose, his contemporaries and co-stars alike found themselves facing the court of public opinion—or just court. So he hermitized, “hiding [himself] from the world.” “It’s like getting into a burning vehicle, right?” Bloom explains of the fame game. “Like, okay, just make sure you got a safety team, cause basically you’ve got to have a fire retardant suit on, a helmet, the gloves, you’ve got to get into the suit and everyone’s going to go, ‘Oh my god, it’s on fire, look at it.’ Anyone who tells you different, I think, has maybe either drunk the Kool-Aid, or bought the wrong ticket, cause it’s a job.”
Remarkably, Bloom has managed to spend over two decades fanning the spotlight’s flames without incurring any severe burns—a real accomplishment if you consider our quick-draw culture of condemnation. Instead, by filtering fame through the lens of Buddhism, the actor traversed high profile roles and relationships alike without public reproach. It’s not a well-trodden spiritual path for a 70s-born Brit—especially not one confirmed by the Archbishop of Canterbury—but Bloom’s Buddhist practice became an internal smoke alarm, ever-ready to warn him of his proximity to the sun.
“It kind of landed for me more than being confirmed in Christianity,” he says of discovering the Eastern doctrine as a young actor. “I respect all religions—and you can’t knock Jesus—but ultimately, I think that the responsibility of my life lies within me, and I’m not going to look outside of my life for somebody to say, “Yeah, you’re saved.”
In conversation, Bloom is so effervescent that, at times, it’s as if he might bubble over. He traverses subjects quickly, penduluming between introspection and anecdotes, all the while re-expressing his gratitude for time, questions, insight. His unending positivity is likely annoying to many, Bloom admits, especially because both his fellow countrymen and colleagues consider suffering as a badge of honor and complaining, a point of connection. Moreover, Bloom knows general “joie de vivre'' inspires envy—an emotion he himself has spent years trying to avoid, on both sides.
“I think there’s a lot of competition in our industry, absolutely, but I’ve never been trying to compete with anyone other than myself,” he explains. “[Someone like] Tom Cruise is the head of this crazy arrow that is that sort of movie star idea, and that’s a life that I’m not sure what it must be like sometimes for his mind... I try to have understanding for everybody’s process, because mine has been really unique also.”
Creatives have a natural tendency to season their stories with impressive names, but Bloom speaks of fellow actors as if they are the ingredient fundamental to his personal narrative. While some seek validation by association, Bloom presents more so as a fan in search of another. As such, he refers to the likes of Peter Jackson or Geoffrey Rush with such reverence, it’s easy to forget these men were ultimately his, well, co-workers. In fact, it was out of sheer respect for Rush that a dubious Bloom even read the script for Pirates of the Caribbean—then a concept based on a Disneyland ride—before the “king of cool” Johnny Depp brought it all home. “Johnny was the bench for any kind of artistic endeavor,” Bloom says. “I was like, ‘Oh, just to be on set and see how this cat operates would be an education.’ I got a huge education from Ian McKellen, and Viggo Mortensen was a mentor to me in many ways—I saw how he just lives and operates as an artist. I started this career in these amazing movies, and yet I was very inexperienced in many ways, and relatively new to everything. There were real growing pains.”
It’s from his perceived underdog status that Bloom seems to grate the most zest for life. Even now, as a bonafide blockbuster action star, he can still feel out of his depth—a theater actor not equipped for camera acting. It’s perhaps for that reason that his return to acting via Amazon Studios show, Carnival Row—now premiering its second season—felt like a “chess move” for the star. “Everything in my life right now, in the last five years, has been strategic. Like, ‘Okay, let’s do a fantasy, let’s bring people back cause I’ve taken some time, I’ve raised a kid, I’ve got married, I’ve got divorced and I need to remind people of who I am and the world that I’m from.’ Now, I’m feeling seated. There’s a depth that I couldn’t have brought prior, an element of life experience that I could never have brought prior.”
Three years ago, the future of Carnival Row seemed uncertain. The show was shooting in Prague in March 2020 when Orlando Bloom contacted Jen Salke, the head of Amazon Studios. “Listen, I’m not afraid of this thing (COVID-19) at all,” he recalls saying. “If you want us to hang, I’m down, because I love what we’re doing and I don’t see it as a big threat.” But Bloom’s optimism was no match for the spread of COVID-19, and within weeks, he was quarantined in a two-bedroom with fiancé Katy Perry. Together, as the pair navigated Perry’s pregnancy and birth of their first child, Daisy Dove, Bloom considered his next move. “I kind of felt the fear all around me, this palpable sense of fear in everyone, that was also being proclaimed through social media and over the news. I wanted to explore what it means to be on the edge of your life and basically confronting fear, because I was feeling this fear around me and not wanting to buy into that.” What transpired was “a real kick in the nuts.” Bloom’s initial idea was an unscripted series that would see him travel Blue Zones, learning from the elderly about confronting death.
At every turn, studios rejected the idea. So, he changed tact. What if Orlando Bloom, the action star, the seeker of self-actualization, the adrenaline fiend whose unshakeable alacrity alone seemed to heal his broken back, was pushed to his absolute limit? Would you enjoy watching Orlando Bloom consistently confront the edge of his sanity and, at times, his life? Yes, said Peacock TV. Orlando Bloom, on the Edge (working title), forced the 46-year-old actor into the most harrowing circumstances known to man. He learned to free dive, reaching 102 feet. He parachuted, and wingsuit flew (the hobby where the death rate is an alarming one in every 500 jumps). Ironically, Bloom’s major takeaway has been that he can’t “wing it” like he once did. Protocol and procedure have proved paramount, and education has meant more than tempting fate. So, now that Orlando Bloom has conquered physical fear, what still scares him? “That’s like something my therapist would ask,” he laughs. “I think not making good on a promise I’ve made to myself, that really scares me. To fulfill what-ever that mission is for myself and to maintain a sense of dignity, and not to let the wheels fall off.”
As for “baby mama and life partner” Katy Perry’s take on Bloom’s life-threatening antics, well, she’s “stressed.” Still, Bloom credits their success as a creative couple to understanding each other's need for evolution, both as artists and individuals. The pair’s goofiness has been well-documented online, setting key-boards ablaze when it comes to their relationship timeline, costume coordination and shared love notes. “We’re in two very different pools,” he says of their success as a creative couple. “Her pool is not a pool that I necessarily understand, and I think my pool is not a pool that she necessarily understands. Sometimes things are really, really, really, challenging. I won’t lie. We definitely battle with our emotions and creativity, [but] I think we’re both aware of how blessed we are to have uniquely connected in the way that we did at the time that we did, and there’s definitely never a dull moment.”
One of the primary challenges for the couple and Bloom’s life in general, one imagines, is distance. Carnival Row’s European shooting schedule and Bloom’s unscripted adventures aside, the actor has also been a highly visible UNICEF representative since his mid-20s, even traveling to the Ukrainian border as tensions with Russia began to escalate. What hit closest to home was watching the torture of mothers—often with a baby in one arm and a toddler, close in age with his own daughter Daisy, in the other—hauling suitcases across cobblestones as they leave their husbands behind to fight. “It’s a perspective you can’t unsee,” Bloom says.“You just go, ‘Wait, what? What are they going to do?’ You can’t fathom. It creates an imprint in your soul and your heart that you hold onto, and then you navigate the moment that’s right in front of you. It forces you to take a 50,000 feet view, look at it all and go,‘What more can we do there?’”
What more can I do? is the prompt with which Bloom seems to probe every area of his life. What more can he do, beyond a billion-dollar box office trajectory and acclaimed Broadway stint. What more can he do, to succeed as a partner and parent. What more can he do, to become not only more conscientious but exceedingly self-aware—a trait rare among both the men in Hollywood, and his generation at large.
Variations of the word “survival” appear no less than eight times throughout the transcript of our interview, but Orlando Bloom has managed to do much more than merely survive over the past four decades. Long before the summer of 2009, Orlando Bloom decided to make a case for a constant and full life, no matter how painful. So far, the evidence is compelling. “I think we’re all just humans navigating,” he concludes. “We have to learn to accept each other. And I think everybody’s fallible. Everybody’s flawed and everybody’s just looking to improve. I’m personally trying to evolve... attain enlightenment in this lifetime. I’m trying. I’ll keep trying. Here I am.”
Photographed by Kurt Iswarienko
Styled by Monty Jackson
Groomed by Lori Guidroz
Producer: Garett Quigley
Coordinator: Ryan Wanat
Digital Tech: John Schoenfeld
Location: Casa del Mar Inn
Flaunt Film: Yong Kim