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Orlando Bloom is in an affable mood. Tanned and relaxed in dark T-shirt and jeans, he looks half his 40 years, and his open, down-to-earth manner belies his movie star status – until the subject of paddle-boarding comes up.
It’s not the mention of the sport that rankles, but rather the snaps that emerged of him paddle-boarding naked with his then-girlfriend, pop star Katy Perry, while holidaying in Italy last year (she was wearing a bikini).
The photos, which left nothing to the imagination, nearly broke the internet. But today Orlando fails to see the funny side. His publicist, who has been circling warily, quickly intervenes to steer our conversation back to safer ground.
After all, we’re here to talk about his two new films – a terrorist thriller, Unlocked, which also stars Toni Collette, and the latest instalment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Dead Men Tell No Tales, in which Orlando revives his role as dashing Will Turner.
Ten years since his last outing, Orlando’s Will is still cursed to be captain of the ghost ship The Flying Dutchman. His son Henry [Aussie, Brenton Thwaites] sets out to save him, alongside Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow.
Although his involvement in this fifth chapter of the swashbuckling Disney juggernaut amounts to just a few small scenes, Orlando says he didn’t hesitate to accept the role. “There was no way I could ever turn that down. What kind of idiot would that make me?” he says, laughing.
Still, he stresses he appears in just a few short scenes, at the beginning and the end of the film. “I was only on it for a few days, down on this huge, epic set. They asked if I would come back to introduce my son, and I loved that idea of passing the torch to the next generation, who goes off on his own adventure.
“I sort of bookend the action. I’ve seen the movie and I’m very happy to confirm it’s bloody fantastic.”
Surely he says that about all his films? “Well, sometimes your expectations aren’t necessarily met,” he admits. “I’ve actually been pretty lucky but, yeah, it does happen.”
He says this latest movie takes Pirates back to its roots, to what made it shine when the franchise launched 15 years ago. “In the subsequent chapters, the special effects took precedence, stole focus in a way. Now we’re back to story front and centre, what the Pirates movies are made of,” he says.
“It’s a very similar narrative to the first, which, controversially, I think is the best of the bunch. That’s the one that launched it all, I think everyone would side with that one. Hopefully this one will compete.”
There was another compelling reason to accept the role, too – his son with Australian supermodel Miranda Kerr, six-year-old Flynn.
“He loves these films, he loves them,” Orlando says. “Dad’s a pirate. It implodes his mind. Big fan. When we went to get his first Lego set, he was laser-beamed on the pirate ship. No fighter planes, no spaceships, it was a pirate ship for him.
“There was never any question. If they wanted me back, if they wanted Will Turner back – I’d accept for a multitude of reasons – but, purely for the fact that I know he would love it, I was all in.”
In fact, Orlando says, whether or not Flynn might enjoy a film has become a key consideration when deciding on a role. “I think, in certain ways, I get more excited knowing I’m working on something he’ll love. There’s a real kick in that.”
He says his priorities have shifted since he became a father, and even more so since his split from Miranda Kerr in 2013, after six years together. That shift, he says, is one of the main reasons we haven’t seen him on the big screen since 2014’s The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies.
“It was because of my son, quite honestly,” he says. “I’ve been focused on him. He’s six years old, he needs his parents around. What’s more important?
“There was a period of instability when his mum and I were separating and we both made conscious choices to be around as much as possible to help that whole transitionary period. That was our responsibility.
“Now things have settled nicely, everybody is in a good place. There’s a rock-solid security there and therefore more freedom to explore professionally than I have had in the past few years. So that’s why I’m taking chances and risks, working in genres and arenas that offer up new challenges.”
One of those challenges was a role in Michael Apted’s latest film Unlocked, a low-budget thriller, yet to be slated for release in Australia. The film, which focuses on a terrorist threat against on London, is a far cry from the big-budget blockbusters where Orlando made his name. He says it was a relief to work on something a little more low-key.
“I started out in really, really big, huge films with massive audience share, and I was still learning,” he says.
“I was cast in Lord of the Rings a couple of days after I left drama school. And that’s a very public spotlight to be under when you’re still unsure of your footing. I feel like my mistakes were clear for the world to see, highlighted by comparisons alongside Viggo Mortensen and Ian McKellen, easily the best actors living and breathing today.
“I needed to retreat away from that exposure and work on smaller projects, do theatre. I did some smaller movies – some were so small, they didn’t even see the light of day,” he says, laughing. “But each one of them helped me on this journey and in my craft, and that has been a huge, huge benefit. I’m so grateful for every one of those opportunities.
“I feel I’m better equipped now from those experiences; I hope I’m better at my job. I really haven’t done that many movies, if you look at my body of work.”
While Unlocked is a departure for him professionally, Orlando says the central theme of Britain facing a terrorist attack was only too familiar, given recent events in his native England and around the world.
“We shot this two years ago and, even since then, it’s shocking how much more relevant this story is in terms of our everyday existence,” he says.
“In the past two years, look at the atrocities, at the acts of carnage, Paris, Nice, Westminster, it goes on. It’s something so terrible and so fundamentally part of our day-to-day.
“But I also grew up taking the Tube, and we lived through the IRA bomb scares, they happened all the time. You were getting taken off the Tube, evacuated, so it’s not totally alien to me. There was tension then, and it’s here now. But you can’t allow it to rule your life, we might as well give up otherwise.”
He says becoming a father has made him acutely attuned to the increasingly dangerous world in which we live. “I think it’s universal for all parents,” he says. “If we’re in a busy public place, if we’re on the bus, if we’re in the park, on Oxford Street, it might flash across my mind for an instant, ‘Are we vulnerable? Where’s our escape?’ Yeah, it’s weird.
“But, like I said, you can’t be worried all the time. I don’t want to ever pass my fears down to him. Kids are like sponges, they absorb so much more than we realise. I don’t want him to be scared. You try to keep a balance, don’t you?”
While Orlando is keen to hone his craft on smaller, low-budget films, he seems unlikely to escape the pull of the blockbuster. His name has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Daniel Craig as the next 007.
Is he keen to throw his hat into the ring?
“I don’t know,” he says. “I feel like there’s been all this talk about Tom Hardy and Tom Hiddleston and all that. Is my name being bandied about?”
Perhaps not as much as theirs, but yes, it has been mentioned. “Why am I not in the running for James Bond?” he quips. “I’m quite insulted by that!”
So he would be interested? “Yeah, I’m game, I’m on it. Tell me who to talk to.”
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is in cinemas now