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— by Larry Carroll

A wavy-haired, brown-eyed young man stares out across a battlefield roiling with thousands of enemies anxious to take him down.

He has overcome an extraordinarily difficult childhood and the type of physical challenges that would have crushed lesser men, and he has elevated himself from insignificance to a position of power.
MTV Overdrive Exclusive: Watch a scene from "Kingdom Of Heaven" featuring Orlando Bloom leading his army into an epic battle, and check out clips from an MTV interview with Orlando.

Now, after making a name for himself through associations with the most legendary warriors of his time, he readies himself for his destiny: fame, riches and power.

The storyline will no doubt ring familiar to fans of Orlando Bloom, the 28-year-old star of such classically influenced ensemble films as "Troy," "Pirates of the Caribbean" and the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Thanks to a high-profile relationship with the actress Kate Bosworth and a steady stream of big-budget blockbusters and "sexiest man" list appearances, Bloom has attained a position that has made him the envy of Hollywood. Now, with the upcoming Ridley Scott epic "Kingdom of Heaven," Bloom steps into his first leading-man role.

And according to him, the time is right.

"Ultimately, I've chosen work that's inspired me," says the actor, clad in a buttoned-down white shirt with a swashbuckling look increased tenfold by the actor's update on the Errol Flynn-esque goatee. "I feel like I'm very much at the beginning of my career, and there's a lot to do."

That may sound like a bizarre statement from an actor whose movies have taken in more than $1.5 billion domestically — an astounding average of nearly $200 million per film. Bloom's ongoing hunger is made more understandable, however, when you consider his tumultuous background: born in Canterbury, Kent, England, he was raised to believe that his father was dead, only to eventually have a family acquaintance step forward and admit his paternity. Battling dyslexia, Bloom struggled with traditional schooling, forcing him toward the arts. Even as his acting career gained momentum, the admittedly accident-prone young man had to overcome a Jackie Chan-like list of mishaps that resulted in a broken back, ribs, legs and three injuries to his skull.

Photos: "Kingdom of Heaven"

"Ultimately, a movie environment is a safe place," Bloom insists, ignoring the memory of falling from a helicopter while shooting "Black Hawk Down," the 2001 war flick that also teamed him with director Scott. "They can't afford to injure us for the next six months on the movie, and I'm always up for a challenge."

At this point in his career, such challenges include keeping a long-term relationship with Bosworth as private as possible, and making sure that his pinup notoriety doesn't subtract from his impact as a dramatic actor.

"It's part of the job," Bloom sighs, "so you try not to let that stuff get in the way. I think there's a very small window of being that sexy young guy, because it won't be long before there'll be another sexy guy coming up behind the ranks. You just sort of pass through that window with as much grace and ease as possible. All of that stuff comes with the territory; it's not something that I embrace. I try to keep myself out of that as much as possible, but ultimately there's only so much you can do, and you just have fun with it."

Bloom considers himself fortunate to have been surrounded during his career with respected Hollywood veterans including Ian McKellen, Brian Cox, Geoffrey Rush, Peter Jackson, Ridley Scott and many others. When it comes to dealing with all the heartthrob nonsense, however, he is especially thankful for a friendship with a star who once had to overcome the same obstacles.

"He's a very gracious man," Bloom says of "Pirates" co-star Johnny Depp, who successfully navigated the treacherous transitional waters between pretty-boy TV actor and perennial Oscar contender. "[He's] a great, great guy and he's very open and friendly and forthcoming with advice on all of those matters, so I definitely pick his brain."

Bloom has had plenty of time for brain-picking lately, as the stars are knee-deep in simultaneously filming two "Pirates" sequels, a job that will consume their efforts for the next two years.

"I signed up for the second movie for 'Pirates,' and I knew it was going to be the same people," reasons Bloom, admitting that he's now staring down the same type of epic shoot schedule that Jackson demanded for the "Rings" trilogy. "When I signed for the first one I had to do the second one, and to do them two back-to-back seemed like a good idea."

With those two films on the horizon, and his first contemporary effort this October in Cameron Crowe's "Elizabethtown" (Bloom compares Scott to legendary director Cecil B. DeMille, and Crowe to the late, great Billy Wilder), the actor has a long-term plan mapped out to show off both his diversity and his box-office clout.

For now, however, his focus is on "Heaven" and the character of Balian, a lowly blacksmith whose adventure begins when he realizes he was misled about his father's identity. Bloom, appreciating that the film's plotline parallels his own, believes moviegoers will also find themselves identifying with the 12th-century hero.

"That was one of the things that I loved about the character," Bloom insists. "A man who has got his own inner conflicts going on. He goes on a journey of spiritual discovery, if you like, and in the process it's a coming-of-age story for him.

"It's kind of the typical questing-hero story," he continues. "[He] is reborn, in a sense, in a new land, and tries to overcome and right some of the wrongs of his past."

A familiar story, for sure — and one with special resonance for a young man from Canterbury aiming to take his place among Hollywood royalty.


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