Monday, June 09, 2008

Can Orlando Bloom Act?

Silly question right? Because if you know who Orlando is, you probably already think you know the answer. Either it's "of course!" or "hell no". My answer is a counter question: does anybody really ever want him to? Or ask him to?

First a disclaimer: I love Orlando. No, not in a tin-hatty way. I just think he looks absolutely gorgeous. And also because of Legolas. No surprise there right? Except I really didn't think he was teh hotness with that blond wig on, but I did think he looked like an elf. Or how I had imagined an elf I suppose. I still remember the first time I saw the teaser trailer for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. I'd gone to see some movie I didn't really care about, just to see that trailer. (Roll your eyes all you want!) It was the trailer where the big showpiece is the fellowship filing past somewhere up a mountain. I was so excited I was jumping up and down in my seat and then I saw Legolas. Shivers ran down my spine. I got goosebumps. This was an elf. Surely. A living breathing elf right out of Tolkien. And at that moment my belief in that the un-filmable books might actually end up being one hell of a movie was strengthened. And I was right.

So yes, I do have a sentimental attachment to Orlando for looking so perfect in the LOTR movies. Of course, once the first movie was out, his fandom (and the LOTR-fandom) just went into hyper drive. Anyone who was even marginally touched by that knows what I'm talking about. A fan-frenzy only further fueled by the extended DVDs with all the extras and interviews and cast-goofiness and all that. It was the best of times, it really was. And Orlando rode that craziness into the stratosphere, kind of like Legolas boarding down the back of an oliphaunt. You know what I mean! He got LOTR, the Pirates franchise, all the girl mag covers, all the nutso fan-sites and fan fics, all the tin-hats claiming he was Viggo's soulmate or Sean Bean's true love or that he was a real hobbit-lover... It was insane. Literally.

And he was in a lot of movies. LOTR, and Pirates of course, and then other high profile stuff like Elizabethtown, Troy and Kingdom of Heaven with some smaller stuff sprinkled in: Haven, The Calcium Kid, Ned Kelly.

So can he act? My real answer to the question is a resounding "hell yes". Though (unfortunately or fortunately?) I also think he didn't necessarily need to be able to act when he broke through. He was so hot with so many fans and so good-looking and so good at the physical stuff like bows and arrows, swords, jumping oliphaunts and the like that I think on some level his acting talent didn't really matter. I'm sure casting him felt like money in the bank for producers. Another thing: it's not like Legolas was really a showcase for verbal acting. Let's face it. Legolas is about the physicality, the look and the way you make people believe that you are a perfect being who can really shoot three arrows that fast. And he made people believe that. He was also saddled with a lot of rather unwieldy dialogue, and got it out admirably, but it's really the physical acting that sticks with you: the smile to Gimli when he's killed more orcs, the look at Aragorn when he returns Arwen's necklace, the running, the stance, the eyes, the way he stares along the arrow before he shoots... perfect stuff.

After LOTR he did take on some rather tough stuff. Troy may have been a flop in many people's eyes, but I frikking love that gorgeous piece of cheese. (I also think its sensibilities were in many ways a lot closer to Homer's Iliad than many people would like to think, but that's a subject for another long, rambling post). And Orlando does some major in it. Yeah, I know: for a lot of the movie he "just" poses nearly nude and stuff. But that one scene, the one where Paris, the coward, crawls away from battle with Menelaos to hug his brother's leg? Awesome. Brilliant stuff. Look at his face, the sheer terror in the eyes... Beyond that the script didn't really ask him to act a lot. More physical stuff, more looking good, and he did it well.

But the big movie which proves he can act when someone really asks it of him is Ridley Scott's The Kingdom of Heaven. This movie was butchered, gored and gutted for its theatrical release. I liked it even so, but it did feel like big chunks of story were missing. Then the Director's Cut came out (thank you Ridley, Lord of the Extended Editions!) and oh man, that's a movie. A classic even. If you haven't seen it, do. If you've seen the theatrical version, even if you didn't like it at all, please get the Director's Cut. Very often a director's cut is just the gravy, but in this case the theatrical release was gravy without any meat, potatoes, bread, salt, pepper, plates or cutlery. And Orlando is so good in the real version of this movie. Again, very good at the physical stuff: the fighting, the being nearly naked, the riding, the kissing... but also good at everything else. In a way, the movie really belongs to Eva Green (her role was most wretchedly cut down and nearly destroyed in the theatrical cut), but Orlando is right there with her.

I guess the reason for the butchering of this movie was that the movie company didn't really want a big, sweeping movie about the Crusades. They wanted Gladiator 2: The Crusading. And the movie and all those involved took a hit because of that.

But back to Orlando. I have a lot of favourite Orlando-scenes in KoH, but two stand out. One comes at the beginning, when he's in his forge, all silent, working away as his brother the parish priest comes to talk to him. The anger just barely contained, the pain, the sorrow... all perfectly legible in his face. The second is when he gets to Jerusalem and goes to the hill where Jesus died and there is nothing but silence: for him and for us, the viewers. Again, it's all there to read in his body-language and his face: the loss, the yearning, the emptiness. I think Orlando would have made a great silent movie star. Not because there's anything wrong with his way with dialogue, but because he is able to convey a lot without words. Lots of actors may be a lot better speaking dialogue than he is, but there is something about, again, his physical presence (beyond being so damn pretty) that really translates well on the big screen.

I also think Orlando would make an absolutely wonderful comedic actor. Action and period pieces seem to be what comes his way and what he picks, but if you've seen him on the British show Extras (and in Pirates where he's a wonderful straight man for Depp), you may know what I mean. If I were picking roles for him, I'd pick comedy and lots of stuff where he gets to play mean, selfish bastards. As much as I loved him as the elf and the knight, I just have a feeling that he'd really excel at those kinds of roles. But maybe he's too good-looking to be offered a lot of those kinds of parts? Anyway, here's the clip from Extras for some Orlando comedy.

To sum up: Can he act? Hell yeah! Does he need to to make a living? No. Do people ask him to when they give him a job? Well, at least sometimes.

Pics top to bottom: some sexy-shots from who knows where from back when "Orli" was every one's pinup; behind the scenes shot of Orlando and Sean in a compromising position; a production still from Kingdom of Heaven.

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