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Orlando Bloom: ‘I got really good at hiding myself’

"I see a lot of dead bodies around me. I give myself props just for sitting here today," the star tells the Big Issue in his Letter To My Younger Self
Orlando Bloom stars in TV series Carnival Row. © Armando Gallo / Zuma / eyevine

He’s one of the world’s biggest actors and, unlike many of his contemporaries, been around for quite some time. But what do you actually know about Orlando Bloom? 

Here, talking to The Big Issue’s Jane Graham, the Hollywood star pens his Letter To My Younger Self, where he opens up about longevity, luck and loss. 

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When I was 16 I left Canterbury and moved to London on my own. I was very determined. I wanted to be an actor, I knew it was the only thing I wanted to do. I felt like I had outgrown Canterbury and I wanted to get to London. I wanted to join the National Youth Theatre and I also just wanted to be out living a bit. When I think back now, 16 is quite young to leave home. But I’d been in boarding school for a few years, so I’d already found some sense of independence. And I was full of the enthusiasm and excitement and energy that you might imagine a 16-year-old Orlando would have.

Because of my determination and desire to have a career as an actor, I didn’t stray too far into drugs and alcohol and the things that could potentially have derailed me. I managed to keep a steady eye on the horizon, as they say, because I knew I wanted to fulfil a dream. I also found a Buddhist practice when I was 16. I’d been confirmed in Canterbury by the Archbishop of Canterbury, which was a pretty big deal. But when I moved to London I didn’t have a church, and didn’t look for a church. But in the course of a sculpture class I was taking at college I met this artist, and when I was drawing he’d be chanting in the other room. He taught me how to chant, to get down on my knees, think about what to say… that was the beginning of what is a religious practice of course, but I think of it more as a philosophy. It’s been a part of my life ever since, and it’s really helped me.

2002: Orlando Bloom in his breakthrough role as Legolas in The Two Towers, the second in the Lord of the Rings trilogy
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Year : 2002 Director: Peter Jackson Orlando Bloom Based upon Tolkien's trilogy
2002: Orlando Bloom in his breakthrough role as Legolas in The Two Towers, the second in the Lord of the Rings trilogy

If you met the 16-year-old me you’d see someone gregarious, with joie de vivre – a happy go lucky, up for a bit of fun and up for bit of trouble kind of person. I was really up for it. I was a bit of a clubbing kid to be honest, and there were some amazing clubs going on in London then. I was part of a great mix of people and we had great fun. I had friends who worked in the post office, and they’d save their money to buy an outfit to wear that Saturday night. I had these silver tops, and John Richmond shoes. It was sort of like my idea of what Studio 54 might have been. London was really having a renaissance then, in the mid-90s. I remember Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis walking through one of those clubs one time, and there was Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista… it was a real scene. It was almost like going to Notting Hill Carnival every weekend, and there was so much love put into it.

If you’d told the 16-year-old me that one day he’d be in a film of Lord of the Rings, he just wouldn’t believe you. I remember when my agent first told me I’d got that part [as Legolas in The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001 and the two sequels] – oh my god, my mind was blown. I called her every day for about a week, checking that it was definitely right; I was like, is it still me, is it still me? The 16-year-old me wouldn’t have believed it, but at the same time, I had such a desire to work in film, some part of me might have gone, ah yeah, that sounds like the path I want to tread.

There was a window when I was in my twenties, when we didn’t have Facebook or Instagram, but there was still so much heat and attention on me.

It wasn’t until I was about 16 and at drama school that I felt like I got a real education. I had struggled with dyslexia at school and I just didn’t find a method of learning. I weirdly had quite a high IQ, but I couldn’t find a way of educating myself. I’ve subsequently learned many different ways to get things done. I’d tell the younger me to learn a language. I’d say, learn a language man, it’s a passport to the planet. And then I would say, you know… I was sort of very gregarious, and loving, and I definitely had girlfriends and girls who were friends. And that was always really beautiful. I had a couple of big relationships between the age of 16 and 20 that taught me a lot. I wouldn’t change anything about that time really.

In terms of preparing my younger self for ‘fame,’ I would honestly just say you can’t take that stuff seriously. And you can’t let it stop you living your life. There was a window when I was in my twenties, when we didn’t have Facebook or Instagram or anything, but there was still so much heat and attention on me [usually focused on his relationships with other famous women, including supermodel Miranda Kerr, to whom he was married for three years]. I got really good at hiding myself because I was really, painfully, trying to live, without being just looked at the whole time. I would say to my young self, just appreciate it and enjoy it, and know today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s fish and chip paper, especially with those kind of [celebrity] magazines. And don’t take it personally. Because I’m very sensitive, actually, so a lot of things I took really personally, I felt very attacked. But I had my Buddhist practice which definitely anchored me.

I see a lot of dead bodies around me, a lot of careers that are just over so quickly. I give myself props just for even sitting here talking to you today. It’s been more than 20 more years and I’m still here. I give myself even more credit for being excited about the next chapter, because I feel I had this huge opening in my twenties and now I’ve got this chapter which could be even more exciting because of the lessons learned. I was never malicious, I wasn’t trying to take or hurt anyone, I was just trying to live my life. But that degree of fame… I don’t have many people I can talk to about that.

2018: With his fiancée, pop icon Katy Perry. Photo: David Fisher/Shutterstock
Monte Carlo Gala for the Global Ocean, Opera de Monte-Carlo, Monaco, France - 26 Sep 2018
2018: With his fiancée, pop icon Katy Perry. Photo: David Fisher/Shutterstock

This is gonna sound crazy, but if I could have one more last time with anyone… I lost my dog Mighty last year. A dog my fiancée [Katy Perry, who gave birth to their daughter last August] gave me. And that dog was not just a dog, that tiny dog taught me about the way that beings who live and breathe relate to each other. He just wandered off and he never came back – it turned out a coyote took him. I found him after seven days of searching… I found parts of him anyway. It was so painful, it just changed my whole… Does that sound crazy? It really affected me in a profound way. That dog taught me so much about love and loyalty and relationships. I’d had him for four years and he was never away from me, literally never out of my sight. He was just the best. But I didn’t understand the depth and the pain I might feel at his loss until he was gone. I got his name tattooed on my chest afterwards. It sounds funny but l would love to just kiss him one more time and say I love you.

If I could go back and live any time in my life again, it would be the three months working and living in New Zealand leading up to production [of the Lord of the Rings trilogy]. The feeling of excitement, the anticipation of what we were about to step into, the opportunities it might bring, the people I was meeting, the friendships which were forming. I was not famous, I could go about my life and nobody would stop me for an autograph or a photo. But I felt secure on this path I was on. I’d gone from saving up to buy an outfit for the weekend to suddenly having a house and a car, and an electric garage. I remember pressing the button to open the garage door, and I was like, wow, this is the coolest thing in the world. I mean, if people knew what I got paid on Lord of the Rings their jaws would drop because it wasn’t a big money gig. I mean, for me it was a huge amount of money, but people think, oh, millions. No. But it was never about that, it’s never been about that for me. It’s been about the experiences, and that feeling, at that time… whew, you can’t really beat that. It was just electric.

Retaliation is released digitally in the UK on March 26