Before he had even reached the age of 30, Orlando Bloom was a star of two of the world’s biggest ever film trilogies. The Kent-born actor was only days out of drama school when he was cast as Legolas in The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring – his first film. And, he says, “the studio sold me as a heartthrob”.
The immortal elf did indeed go on to become a pin-up type character, and Bloom’s fame soared. Along came his role in The Pirates Of The Caribbean, and a period when “he was just going from a movie to press conference, for year after year”.
“I was so young, and I had the energy and the optimism,” says the now-44-year old. “I have an insatiable appetite and energy; that’s who I am. But, if somebody says to me now, ‘There’s this and this,’ I’m like, ‘Well, how’s that going to stack up and how’s that going to look in my life?’ I have a family, I have other responsibilities.”
Because of the Hollywood success in his twenties, the father-of-two (he has Flynn, 10, with ex-wife, model Miranda Kerr, and baby Daisy Dove with his fiancee, popstar Katy Perry) missed out on what many young actors experience in their early career: making low-budget, British indie films.
However, as Bloom explains proudly, his latest film – Retaliation – is “a movie made in the UK, for a British audience”. Reflecting on the role, he says: “It was me attempting to try and be a part of a film community that I guess, in many ways, I just circumvented, through the career path that unfolded for me, that wasn’t even really chosen. It just so happened. I mean, I’m grateful for it, but it just was like suddenly I was doing other things and I really wasn’t in the UK.”
Retaliation, which is written by Geoff Thompson and directed by brothers Ludwig Shammasian & Paul Shammasian, explores what Bloom calls a “critical” subject matter. He plays Malky, a demolition worker whose latest assignment is to tear down the church where he was molested by a priest as a young boy. When a fragile Malky meets the now elderly priest at a local pub, the past rears its ugly head, and he is sent into an emotional tailspin. It’s up to him to decide whether to seek revenge against this priest or find another path.
It’s a tough watch at times (there are some hauntingly graphic scenes) but many critics are calling it a career-best performance for Bloom – and rightfully so. “To be honest, I’d given up on whether this movie was ever going to see the light of day,” admits the charismatic and talkative star (it premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival back in 2017 but is only being released in the UK now).
“It is lightning in a bottle getting movies made, and this one was made for around £1 million, and it wasn’t an easy thing to get done. There were complications across the board but, thankfully, it seems everything was resolved in one form or another.”
He was taking meetings in the UK for different projects some years back – “I’d flown over and met people, BBC, Channel 4 or whatever, just to say, ‘Look, I’m up for something’ – when his agent sent him the script. “I got to page 20 or something, and it was like this very brutal moment that Malky goes through, which is one of the more intense moments of the film, and I was spun out. And I thought, ‘Oh maybe I can’t do this, what’s this?’”
Then came a “really remarkable series of conversations” with Thompson, who Bloom notes has “written really beautifully, compassionately and courageously about his own experience with abuse that he suffered as a boy”.
“The arc of Malky’s character is true to Geoff’s own story – although it wasn’t a priest he was subjected to. Geoff was a really charismatic and really powerful communicator and I think you can see it in his writing; there’s no fluff, there’s no bells and whistles, it’s just presented very powerfully. And I just knew I had to do it.”
To help Bloom understand certain scenes in the film, he called organisation 1in6 – the name represents the statistic that at least one in six men have experienced sexual abuse or assault, according to leading research. And they explained to him how some of the actions and behaviour we see displayed by Malky is “a way of reclaiming a moment that was taken from them”.
Unsurprisingly, the role was “pretty challenging” and “a brutal experience” for Bloom. Malky’s vulnerability was what felt different from other roles, he suggests, noting the shame his character experiences from the trauma he suffered. And there was nothing to hide behind during filming: “There was nowhere like, ‘Oh, there’s going to be an explosion over here’ or, ‘There’s a clever camera angle and we’re going to edit it like this’.”
“I mean, in the last sequence, I had an 8-minute monologue. I’d finished my takes and I was like ‘Are you going to shoot the priest now?’ and they’re like, ‘No, we’re going to play it all on you’. That was really shocking.”
He continues, thoughtfully: “Listen, I think it pays off. But it’s really polarising and it’s uncomfortable, and you sit and watch this movie and you go, ‘Wow’, you know?”
Retaliation will be released digitally on Friday, March 26.