It's an A-list love story for the ages — the Hollywood heart-throb and the first lady of pop. As he prepares to marry Katy Perry, and with a baby on the way, Orlando Bloom sits down with Charlotte Edwardes.
I should have realised when I sat down with Orlando Bloom that something was up. There were the telltale signs — the efforts to suppress a raging grin, the faint air of restlessness, the darting eyes in response to questions about children or being "a good dad".
I'd put it down to pre-wedding nerves. And then when Katy Perry revealed via — of all showbiz platforms — her new music video that she was expecting their first child together, he let it flood forth. "This kind of joy isn't something you can put into words — or really wrap your head around," he wrote on email. "Obviously we've known for a long time before going public. As you can imagine, it's such an incredibly precious, private, yet commonplace moment to be sharing with the world. I've been trying not to get too excited and gushy, but I do keep catching myself listening to wistful music, everything from Bowie's Wild is the Wind to The Streets' Blip on a Screen — do you know that song? As well as my fiancee's new single of course." Of course! "The whole family is over the moon."
To which the only response is, bless you, Orlando. After the craziness of two and a half decades lived at a mad pelt — with the insane fame that attached itself to him after he played Legolas in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Will Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean, he appeared to be in a sort of Scottish reel down the red carpet, swinging through A-list partners: Jennifer Aniston, Kate Bosworth, Kirsten Dunst, Naomie Harris, Penelope Cruz and Sienna Miller, to name a few. He was married briefly to the model Miranda Kerr, with whom he has a son, Flynn, 9, and then he was back out there, single and swinging his hips, so to speak. Ultimately, it made him unhappy, he told me.
First, though, let's rewind. His main concern when we meet at a Shoreditch studio in February is the wedding. He and Perry are due to marry "very, very soon", he says. "But I'm not joking when I say that coronavirus might have a play in whether we put things on ice, because we're going to be travelling and we don't want anyone to feel uncomfortable." He proposed on Valentine's Day last year, throwing a surprise party full of heart-shaped balloons. "No," he protests, when I ask if that was cheesy. "Do you know what it is? She loves a theme, she loves a moment." She certainly does.
He's over from Prague, where he is filming the second series of Carnival Row, the Amazon television show he produces and stars in alongside Cara Delevingne. It's described as a "neo-noir fantasy"; Bloom plays an inspector called Rycroft Philostrate, who speaks in Guy Ritchie mockney, and Delevingne is his fairy ("fae") love interest, who has fallen in with a bad crowd.
The first series launched in August to favourable reviews, an uptick on his recent films such as Unlocked (2017) and Romans (2017), which met with lukewarm receptions. Put this in the context of his blockbuster franchises — The Lord of the Rings (2001-14) took almost £4.6 billion at the box office; Pirates of the Caribbean (2003-17), in which he starred alongside Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley, totalled almost £3.5b. There were other hits: Ned Kelly (2003) with Heath Ledger, and Troy (2004) with Brad Pitt. But early success has certainly overshadowed later life.
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Today, at 43, he's mellower than at his peak; he's slain some demons, he will tell me later. Both he and Perry have been married before: Perry to the now reformed lothario Russell Brand (Does she have a type? "Ask her!"). Bloom and Kerr split in 2013 after three years — "We weren't bringing out the best in each other," she said later — but remain close. Kerr has since remarried, to Evan Spiegel, the Snapchat founder, with whom she has two children. I ask, given the pain of divorce, why does Bloom want to marry again? He bursts out laughing. "Don't ask me that. I just watched Marriage Story and I'm like, 'This is a terrible idea, what am I thinking?'" In truth, he's a romantic, an idealist, a dreamer, as well — importantly — as an optimist. He has learned a lot in the intervening years, not least that relationships have to be worked at: "It's not a walk in the park." He talks about "evolving", "growing" and "paths", and that "the sum of two is greater than one".
When I ask if he's a good dad, he gulps air. "I love being a dad. I love spending time with my son." He does the school run in LA and FaceTimes every day. "I'm heartbroken that the show takes me away for such stretches, but I have four days off next week, so I'm flying home to LA. Does that make me a good dad?"
It's less heroic on the green front. He is neurotic about flying, recycling, keeps to a mostly "plant-based" diet, Instagramming praise for Greta Thunberg (who he calls "an alien" — in the sense she's come down to talk sense).
And then we get on to sexual politics. Bloom is an unexpected anti-pornography crusader. "Porn is super-disruptive to your sex life, to your libido," he says. "They've done the studies, they can't find any kids who don't watch it. When you watch multiple people at multiple times in one evening, how is your actual real-life partner going to match up? It's just so destructive."
While he grew up "with Playboy and Penthouse as magazines, and page three girls", it was a discussion with fellow actor Vincent Gallo that convinced him that porn films were the real evil. "He said, 'It's seeing it in motion, it can lock into your brain.'"
His relationships with women were a preoccupation. I suggest some might say he was a bit of a slag. He laughs. "There was an era." Actually, he is boringly monogamous and doesn't "mess around" once in a relationship. "But if I separate, I'm normally like …" he mimes grabbing the air. "Then that stopped as well." Women were not so much "destructive" as "distracting" in his life.
In 2016 he endured a self-imposed, six-month abstinence from sex, which ended when he met Perry. "I did a lot of weird things," he admits. "Years of therapy," he chuckles. "Do I sound like it?"
It was his surfer friend Laird Hamilton who suggested celibacy. Bloom had told him he "wasn't happy". "Laird said, 'If you want to be serious about a relationship, go celibate for a few months and figure it out.' It takes away the idea of going to a party and thinking, 'Who am I going to meet?' I was suddenly, like, 'Oh, I can have a relationship with a woman that is just friends.'"
Previously he hadn't had proper female friends, even in London as a young drama student before he was sucked into the vortex of Hollywood. Sex always got in the way. "If it wasn't in my eye, it was probably in theirs. I was a pretty boy, so wherever I went there was a bit of [frisson]. And I loved women."
Six months, though? "I was going to do three months, but I was really enjoying the way I was relating to women, and to the feminine within myself. I know that sounds crazy." It's here that I ask if pornography was a substitute. "No. I didn't even …" I think he wants to say masturbate. "Completely nothing. It was insane. I don't think it's healthy. I don't think it was advisable. You have to keep it moving down there."
Who knows how long his abstinence would have continued if he hadn't gone to the Golden Globes in 2016 and met Perry. They had "crossed paths" before, but this time "we actually hung out and connected. She's very surprising. She's witty and smart and intelligent. She's charismatic, but she's direct, too, and this dynamic was intriguing to me." The relationship has had its moments — there was a brief "amicable" split — and also the infamous naked paddleboarding photograph in 2017. (He has gamely said the camera angle was flattering, but he would rather the whole thing went away.)
He's the first to admit that he's "not the target audience" for Perry's music. But there's no escaping her pizzazz: her love of costumes, makeup and theatre is as legendary as her upbeat, sugary-saucy pop — I Kissed a Girl, California Gurls. "So there's Katy Perry," Bloom continues, "and there's Katheryn Hudson, her real name. Katheryn is the woman I'm really intrigued by. It's like, I'm a boy from Kent and you're a girl from Santa Barbara. That's what I'm focused on, not the bells and whistles." They "play the game", he says, turning up at events, "looking spiffing next to each other, smiling for the cameras". But what's more important is "what you talk about when you are passing the potatoes. Or 'What's on the news?' or 'What are you reading?' or 'What are we watching?' Or how we spend our Sunday."
She likes to "do, see and experience things", he says. "She's amazing at arranging things. My son put it so well. I asked, 'What's it like with Mum and her husband? How's it different to us?' He smiled. 'You're the fun couple.'" Just as I'm thinking this emphasis on "fun" sounds exhausting, Bloom says that most important to him is a relationship that will "go the distance … Maybe because I didn't have it growing up."
His childhood was certainly confusing. He and his sister grew up thinking their father was Harry Bloom, the anti-apartheid novelist, who died when Orlando was 4: "I created an idea of Harry Bloom. The father figure in my mind was probably an amalgamation of characters I read about and watched on TV and in movies like Indiana Jones and Superman."
At 13, his mother told him his biological father was actually a family friend — Colin Stone. "We would always spend weekends with him. He was trying to be there for me in his own way, but he was busy. When I first found out, I was like, 'Great, when can I move in with you?' But that didn't happen. He was married. And that was quite hard for me."
This complicated background spurred his drive, he believes. Plus, he was always a boy in a hurry — there's a litany of broken-bone stories throughout his childhood. Aged 16 he moved to London, alone, for his A-levels. He collided with the reckless, drug-fuelled club scene of the early 1990s and "dabbled", but weed made him "paranoid" and only mushrooms were "interesting". Moreover, he was introduced to Buddhism, which became his focus and life-long practice.
More than anything, he wanted to be an actor: "I had a crystal-clear vision." He won the part of Legolas in 1999 straight from Guildhall drama school, and when the first instalment of The Lord of the Rings was released, he was hurtled to instant fame — an experience he once described as like getting into "a burning car". He was tailed everywhere, wore hats and became good at hiding. "If I hadn't had my Buddhist practice, I would either be dead or somewhere in a ditch. I was very intimidated by the attention."
Reflecting on his career trajectory, though, he's wistful. He wrestles with his decision to turn down a series of films, including An Education with Carey Mulligan, and took time off when his son was born. "You know I said I had crystal-clear focus? I let that go. I was like, 'My son.' Because of my dad issues, I wanted to be present. I'm grateful I have a relationship with him over another movie."
But he adds: "I was overwhelmed and I couldn't cope. I took a real hit, especially in the British film community." If he could advise his younger self? "I'd be like, 'Listen, kid, get focused, even if it's exhausting and you are stressed out, go and do that play, squeeze it in, or do that little part in that British movie, so you keep yourself.' I look at the [British] movies, and I look at all my peers who win awards and think, 'Good on them.'" Couldn't he still achieve that? "Yeah," he says, not sounding sure. "But it's timing and opportunity."
Carnival Row series one is available on Amazon Prime Video; series two will be available later this year.