WELLINGTON, NZ – Can you really go home again? Orlando Bloom is finding out as he returns to the world of Middle Earth in Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” Bloom reprises his role as the Elf with a bow, arrow and long luxurious blond hair, Legolas, that he originated in the Oscar-winning “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. And, frankly, it’s not bad timing.
Currently, Bloom is earning raves for playing one half of Shakespeare’s tragic lovers in a new Broadway incarnation of “Romeo and Juliet.” When we spoke on the set of “The Hobbit” (which was supposed to be a visit for “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” until the novel was split from two films into three), Bloom was in the middle of a major break from the big screen. He did not return for “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” (lucky in the long run) and before “The Hobbit” beckoned his only major release was the abominable “Three Musketeers.” Basically, Bloom spent the last four years starring in a few indies that barely saw the light of day. Thank heaven for Peter Jackson.
Now, Bloom’s decision to reprise his “Rings” role (and his surprise raves on the Great White Way) may just kickstart his career all over again. When he sat down to talk to some journalists who’d traveled half-way across the world to chat with him, well, it was all still a bit odd…
What was your reaction to stepping back into this world the first day?
It was sheer joy. It was also a little bit of, “Oh, my word. This is 10 years later, I’m 10 years older and how’s this all going to work?” I quite literally was like, “Can I just try on my old costume just for posterity of it all?” It was amazing that Pete was back at the helm of this movie, and it was amazing that I got a call to say “we would love you to be a part of the film.” I was just full of excitement. I was obviously like, “Ooh! This is going to be interesting to make the transition as an Elf being 10 years older as myself, as an actor, going in to playing a character that would be younger, but as Elves are kind of ageless anyway we’ve managed to bridge the gap.
Is there much difference between Legolas in “The Hobbit” versus Legolas in “The Lord Of The Rings?”
No. Not massive. Essentially the Woodland Realm Elves, which is where Legolas is from, and my father being Thranduil, the king of those Elves, are a particular type of Elf as described by Tolkien to be… I’m not going to quote him correctly, but they are different from the Lothlorien and the Rivendell elves. They’re more militant if you like. Legolas in “Lord of the Rings” was sent as a bridge from his people into the world of dwarves and humans and wizards and everything else. This is an introduction into the Woodland Realm Elves. Obviously we meet my father, Thranduil, who is a very powerful and strong character who is very particular in his vision of who the Elves are, who the Woodland Elves are, specifically. They are kind of, like I said, a militant group, the Woodland Realm Elves. So I think that the opportunity that Pete and Philippa and Fran and the writers and Pete saw was to create… I think there was a desire for Legolas to come back. They felt that the fans would appreciate seeing Legolas in the Woodland Realm, and there was an opportunity to create a father-son, a prince versus king dynamic that would be interesting and serve the story.
Knowing how successful the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy was, and also the fact that Legolas isn’t actually in the “Hobbit” novel, was there ever any hesitation on your part about taking a role in this film?
Not after I had spoken to Peter. Their ideas, which I have explained, were made to clear to me about how it could be made seamless and effective. Not after I’d had that conversation. It was definitely something that anyone would think. There’s a big love for these books and these films and these stories. I think in the hands of Peter, the fans, I would hope, would feel rest assured that he will deliver a movie that will both entertain and [that they will] enjoy and will be in keeping with Tolkien’s vision of the stories. They never stray at all from Tolkien’s vision of what the world is, and for me it was exciting to think of returning to Middle Earth and to be a part of something. This is Pete in his element, doing what he does best. So it was just very exciting.
Peter pushed the boundaries of technology on the first three films, but on this one it seems with 48 frames per second, the slave motion cam, that it’s going to another level.
I’ve never been a great one for technology. What I can tell you is that Pete is always going to push the boundaries and especially in a movie like this. The way that Pete explained it to me really at the beginning of the movie was when he talked about it, and it slightly went over my head, but at the same time it was very simple. It was that shooting at 48 frames a second in 3D was going to make the experience for a movie-going audience much more pleasurable and natural and seamless, and make it all very much more real. In terms of an actor experiencing the slave motion aspect of it is interesting. It is definitely new technology that can sometimes be challenging. But once you grasp what is required, from what I’ve seen it looks amazing. It looks incredible. A lot of what we did on “Lord of the Rings,” what Pete did, it was just perspectives and shifting things. It was very rudimentary in comparison to what’s being done today. I’m as excited as you are, and I hope audiences will be able to see how that all gels and I know that it’s something that Pete and his team will be doing — working extensively on it to make it just the best experience that you can possibly have in the theater.
Because we know that Legolas and Gimli form this bond in “Lord of the Rings,” does his dislike of dwarves strengthen that bond by seeing how different he is?
Yes. This is a precursor and certainly you will understand where the rift has come from. Absolutely.
Do you look at things that are locked in part of this universe and say, “If I act this way, given the full effect of watching all these movies, it’ll mean something different?”
I don’t over-think what has happened. I’m taking really what has been presented in terms of the script and the story and if it rings true to me and for the character, which it has done — because as I said, the writers and Pete are very conscious of that — then I don’t really have to over-think it, because it was their intention to lay the groundwork that would play into a movie like “Lord of the Rings.”
In “The Lord of the Rings,” Legolas gets to experience some pretty “holy [expletive]” moments. Do you have any of those this time around?
Yes. One of the great things about the character is the “holy [expletive]” moments, so I would hope that the audience will certainly appreciate a couple of those “holy shit” moments. Pete’s very conscious and we’ve been working on things for that purpose. Yeah, there’s some cool beats. There’s some cool beats. We did one the other day.
Did you have to retrain much for this? Is it all like getting on an old bike, and it just comes back?
No, I did. I came in early and it was a pleasurable thing to do. It’s a really great character to be in the middle of. I got back in to some of the Elven movement things and the physicality of the character which is very different how your human body behaves [10 years later]. And it was useful for me to go back and look at the Elven dialect and movement and to go back and do the archery and get my eye back in for all of those things. It was a really great, enjoyable part of embracing the character again for this, so yeah.
Have the newer actors in the cast come to you for insight or advice, being that you’re one of the veterans of these films?
To be honest we’ve got some formidable actors on this movie, all of whom have actually been here a lot longer than I have in truth. They were shooting the dwarves and all of those things, that world was shooting a lot longer, so they were all much more comfortable with being on set and stuff. There’s always that period before you ever go onto a movie where you just want to get one in the can, and once you got one in the can, then you’re like, “Okay, I’m good to go.” So I wouldn’t say that’s been the case, and it’s also very different.
Do you have any scenes with any members of the original trilogy? For example, Ian McKellen, have you been working with him at all?
Not as yet. But I believe there are plans afoot, so yeah, but not as yet, no.
Any dwarf tossing like in the last trilogy?
There’s some fun other dwarf moments coming up. I don”t want to give too much away, but there will be some fun interaction. It is different, though, because as it was pointed out earlier, the friendship that grew out of the relationship between Legolas and Gimli grew over a three-movie period. I’m more seeing the dwarves as I would have seen them prior to going in to the Council of Elrond, which is full of disdain for what I, fundamentally as an Elf, believe their purpose is in life. There’s not the same sort of thing, but there’s definitely some jibes and moments that are good.
Even sillier question, have you seen “The Avengers” yet, and did you like the Legolas shout-out in there?*
Oh, man, I have not seen it! I was going to see it last night, funnily enough. I didn’t get to see it. There’s a Legolas shout-out? That’s amazing. I really want to see it. I hear it’s very, very good. It’s amazing. Oh, that’s cool, really? That’s awesome. Good.
*Note: This interview took place at the end of May of 2012 after Joss Whedon’s blockbuster had just taken the world by storm.
Are you getting a lot of new pages during the production? Has a lot changed in the script?
The way that Pete, Fran and Philippa work is specific to them and there was often script revisions right up until the last minute [in “Lord of the Rings”]. It’s a huge undertaking. We started with a script that has been evolving, if you like, and improving as we go, kind of thing. That’s their goal and that’s why when there are script revisions, there can be script revisions right up before [shooting], but it’s essentially the tenant of the scene is the same . It’s just there are moments that are heightened or created. But yeah, there’s definitely a lot of movement within the script to keep moving it forward, but I think it works for them and it works for the story. I know that they take it very seriously. And their desire for it to be as good as it can be is what leads to there being revisions that continue on. That’s the way I see it, and I think everyone else does, too.
Can you talk about the dynamic a bit between your character and his father, and how much of that do we actually get to see?
I can, somewhat reluctantly, because I think it’s more interesting for people to see it. There’s definitely a bit of father-son rivalry, prince-king rivalry that forwards the story. I don’t really want to elaborate on it more than that, but it makes for a more interesting dynamic, Thranduil being the king of the Woodland Realm and, as I’ve said, those Elves being more of a militant group of Elves. Knowing that Legolas goes on to be a bridge, like an architect for peace between the Elves and the rest of the world, you might be able to guess there might be a little bit of me trying to understand more of what the plight of the rest of the world is and therefore somewhat coming up against odds with my father. Does that help?
At this point can you compare working on “The Hobbit” to “The Lord of the Rings?”
The experience of making the movie is completely different. It could never be the same, because there was no expectation. That was a unique thing. This, obviously, there is a heap of expectation. Actually the way that the movie is being filmed and shot, it’s really very similar to “The Lord of the Rings” outside of the key cast and stuff. There’s a sort of creative chaos that breeds, I hope, something really special that we saw on [“Lord of the Rings”]. There’s something about the way that the chaos that is created to make the movies that can lead — and we’ve seen it with “Rings,” and we hope to see it again — to something quite special and unique. It’s unlike any other movie experience for sure.
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” opens nationwide and in IMAX on Dec. 18.