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In Full Bloom

An unknown no longer, Orlando Bloom braces himself for stardom in The Two Towers, the second installment of The Lord of the Rings

Most actors wouldn’t be more than five feet from a copy of Variety (or at least the E! network) in the days leading up to what could be the biggest film of their lives. But when The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring stampeded into theaters last December, Orlando Bloom was on vacation. “I was on a beach in India, winding down from the whole process of putting out the movie,” says the 25-year-old actor, who plays the fellowship’s lissome (some would say dreamy) elf member, Legolas. “In hindsight, I think I would have enjoyed it, but they hadn’t [yet] released it in India, and there was no access to newspapers or magazines.”

These days, it’s unlikely even a South Asian seashore could hide him: As The Two Towers, the second chapter in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic trilogy, arrives this month, the British-born Bloom can consider himself on equal footing with more established costars like Elijah Wood, now that he has three leading roles under his belt and more than two dozen online shrinesin his honor. (“That’s kind of a lot, isn’t it?” Bloom asks when alerted to the number of websites. “That’s just mad.”) All this despite the fact that he had to play his breakout role beneath the cover of a blond wig.

“I was lucky because of the wig,” says Bloom. “I can still ride my bicycle around London. It’s not like I can’t walk down the street.” Hairpiece or no, he was spared the glut of attention that accompanied the first Rings film, the kind that typically devours young starsas quickly as pop culture can serve them up (where have you gone, Matthew McConaughey?). Instead, Bloom’s media blitz consisted of asupporting role in the war drama Black Hawk Down and a Gap commercial in which he was depicted, ironically, being chased by a mob of fans.

Following the success of Fellowship (which earned more than $300 million in the U.S. alone), Bloom was picked to appear alongsideHeath Ledger in The Kelly Gang, about the infamous 19th-century Australian outlaw Ned Kelly. He also recently finished work on TheCalcium Kid, in which he stars as a milkman who’s asked to fight a world-champion boxer when the leading British contender breaks hishand on Bloom’s milk-strong jaw. Just as his role in Rings required him to train extensively in order to look like a credible archer,The Calcium Kid presented its own set of physical challenges, which were at least offset by the fact that his character is supposed tobe a lousy boxer. “You watch two huge guys slugging it out and you’re like, ‘Well, okay,'” he says. “But when you actually stand in thering and try to punch for three minutes, it’s exhausting.”

This month, Bloom begins shooting the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced Pirates of the Caribbean, which has the distinction of being the firstfilm based on a Disney World ride to star Johnny Depp. (Depp plays a pirate captain with a heart of gold; Bloom is a sailor who joins hiscrew.) Though the role means he’ll once again miss out on most of the hobbit hype, Bloom sees it as a means of living out the last of hischildhood fantasies. “Growing up, I would play at being a pirate, a boxer, a soldier at war,” he says. “I feel like one of the luckiestboys alive.”