Orlando Bloom: is he really our greatest movie actor?
In the past decade, Orlando Bloom has been in more box-office hits than anyone else. David Gritten draws his own conclusions.
What an interesting week Orlando Bloom’s had. He got married to an Australian model named Miranda Kerr. (Congratulations all round.) And he came out top of a curious list compiled by the UK Film Council, showing that, of all leading British actors, he had made the most appearances in the 200 highest-grossing films of the past decade. (Er, congratulations. I think.)
He was followed by Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint (who presumably tied for second place), Ian McKellen, Christopher Lee, Jonathan Pryce, John Cleese, Ewan McGregor and Christian Bale.
Bloom, 33, wins because he appeared in three Lord of the Rings films as Legolas Greenleaf, and in three Pirates of the Caribbean movies as Will Turner.
But you do wonder about that list and its validity. The test is this: imagine sitting at home, scanning the week’s film listings and saying to your partner/friend/room-mate/whoever: “I see there’s a new film starring (name of actor here). Shall we go?”
Well, you can imagine people saying that about Ewan McGregor. Or Christian Bale. Or even an older person with specialised tastes in film saying it about Christopher Lee.
But most people don’t go to see Harry Potter films because of any one of its young co-stars. They go because it’s the new Harry Potter. And with the greatest respect to Bloom (who seems a pleasant enough sort), they probably went to the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the great story-telling and the phenomenal special effects. They almost certainly went to see three Pirates of the Caribbean movies largely because of a certain Mr Johnny Depp.
Does any of this matter? Only if you follow the reverse logic of the UK Film Council’s list, which implies these actors are box-office gold in their own right. Daniel Radcliffe discovered the shortcomings of that theory in 2007, when his presence in a mediocre Australian coming-of-age film called December Boys was insufficient to save it from disappointing box-office returns and sceptical reviews.
Bloom’s biggest lead role so far was in writer-director Cameron Crowe’s ghastly, self-satisfied, semi-autobiographical Elizabethtown (2005). That flopped too, through no fault of Bloom’s, and deserved to.
In the Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Pirates films, the franchise is the thing; the youngish actors in them are essentially bit players. They may yet end up having stellar careers, but it’s by no means certain. Radcliffe’s lead role in Hammer’s upcoming gothic thriller The Woman in Black will be an intriguing test case.
Robert Pattinson was the most recent to find the truth of this proposition. Drag him out of the Twilight franchise, and success is no longer automatic - as the lukewarm audience reception for his recent Remember Me illustrated.
This isn’t the worst thing in the world for any of these actors, who are still making a living beyond the dreams of most of their fellow actors. Just as long as they don’t con themselves into believing they’re bigger than their films. As Orlando Bloom is currently on honeymoon, that thought is hopefully far from his mind.