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Orlando Bloom.

the star market

The Star Market: With Three Musketeers, Can Orlando Bloom Fight His Way Onto the A-List?

For the better part of the aughts, it was possible to measure time in Orlando Bloom movies; each December brought another Lord of the Rings installment, and then every summer, a new (usually pirate-related) action-adventure. Between LoTR and Pirates of the Caribbean, his two big-ticket franchises, the handsome Bloom was all but unavoidable — which made his consequent disappearance from major movies, starting around 2008, all the more puzzling. In The Three Musketeers, opening today, Bloom, now 34, restarts his once burgeoning career, but will he still be able to compete for the leading roles he once commanded so effortlessly? To find out, we spoke to industry insiders to answer the question: If Orlando Bloom were a stock, should you buy, sell, or hold?

Stock History: Bloom had no real credits to his name when Peter Jackson cast him in 2001's Fellowship of the Rings as Legolas, the blond warrior Elf. From Middle Earth, Bloom jumped straight to the Caribbean, where he played straight man to Johnny Depp's scene-stealing Jack Sparrow in the first of the wildly successful Jerry Bruckheimer blockbusters. Though Bloom's roles were somewhat expendable, the billion-dollar megasuccess of both LoTR and Pirates of the Caribbean buoyed him to the top of casting lists, but seemingly only for period action-dramas, and nothing set after the thirteenth century. After a supporting turn as the sniveling Paris in 2004's Troy, he led his own crusade in Ridley Scott's 2005 medieval epic Kingdom of Heaven. Cameron Crowe was the first to see how Bloom fared as a modern man, casting him as the lead in his critical disaster Elizabethtown, which grossed only $26 million domestically and sent Bloom back to the leading-man sidelines. The 2006 and 2007 Pirates sequels (Dead Man's Chest and At World's End) have been his only major movies since.

Peers: Once upon a time, Bloom would have been listed in the same breath as Ryan Gosling (30), Chris Pine (31), and Tom Hardy (34) — one of Hollywood’s hotter young actors on his way to becoming a leading man. But now, reps say, Bloom’s peers are harder to identify, because while he must still compete with the aforementioned crowd for roles, he’s not thought of before any of them. Worse, say agents, Bloom must now also contend with other comers who are actually hot right now, like Clash of the Titans star Luke Evans (32) and the German-born, Irish-raised Michael Fassbender (34). Being at the hindquarters of that large and handsome pack, as one agent puts it, “is an awfully hard place to be right now.”

Market History: Aside from a few indie nonstarters like Mark Ruffalo's directorial effort Sympathy for Delicious (and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo in the Beastie Boys' Fight for Your Right Revisted), Bloom has been mysteriously out of view since 2007's At World's End. (He was left out of last summer's fourth Pirates movie.) Three Musketeers marks Bloom's return both to the big screen and to swashbuckling, though still in a supporting role, and next year he'll reprise his role as Legolas in Peter Jackson's Hobbit, which again is more a result of being grandfathered in rather than an active casting. But Bloom has still only had one successful mainstream, non-franchise vehicle to his name: 2005's Kingdom of Heaven, which topped out at respectable, if not earth-shattering, $152 million worldwide.

What Hollywood Thinks: Whether Bloom has a future as a leading man in movies remains to be seen, depending on which agents you talk to. “He was cast in Lord of the Rings right out of drama school, which is kind of insane when you think about it,” notes one, adding “Doing Rings, Pirates, and Troy all in the span of just a few years? It’s crazy, and it gave him all these opportunities he probably should not have gotten — like Cameron Crowe’s movie [Elizabethtown], which through no fault of his was just horrible.”

The poor critical response to Elizabethtown and 2005's Kingdom of Heaven likely drove Bloom back into safer harbors of Pirates of the Carribbean, a franchise that made him both rich and comfortable after appearing in back-to-back sequels in 2006 and 2007. But that’s part of the problem, reps say. “He needs to shake it up and break out,” says another rep at a top agency, “Playing the same part in somebody else’s franchise is a dwindling return. Right now, he’s not even a stock; he’s a CD.” This second agent believes that Bloom’s slow fade from the limelight (which began in 2008 and has more or less continued until this weekend) means that at the least, he hasn’t embarrassed himself.

“He doesn’t feel relevant anymore, but that could be his salvation,” says our second agent, “The last interesting things that happened with him was that he got robbed [Bloom’s Hollywood Hills home was burgled by — what else? — a reality-TV starlet in the summer of 2009] and he knocked up a model. And by that, I mean at least he didn’t appear in lackluster, desperate attempts to retake his position; he just kind of disappeared in subtle, unremarkable ways. He hasn’t failed grandly or spectacularly. He’s viable, but vanilla.”

A third agent notes that Bloom is “an appealing guy” who “has his looks” but laments, “These period pieces! The Hobbit? Three Musketeers? Enough! No one’s going to pay to see him in that. He needs to break out of that and do something light and fun and sexy. But I don’t know if he has a sense of humor that will allow him to do something lighter than what he’d [already] done.” (To be fair, he was gamely self-mocking in his guest stint on Ricky Gervais's Extras.)

The Analysis: Though he's not a critical laughing-stock, Bloom's one-note repertoire and lack of exposure make for a challenging ascent to the A-list. It's not impossible, claims one of the reps we talked to. “I’d sign him in a minute,” says this agent, “Because he’s viable, and he has foreign value." His low profile, in certain lights, could be seen as a successful navigation through the landmines of fame. “I do feel like he doesn’t have any strikes against him,” notes one top-tier publicist. “He never had the pressure of carrying a film and it just bombed. He never peaked and came down from it. I don’t feel like he’s overexposed at all, and he’s not locked into a screen persona or typecast.”

But a quick glance back at his competitors highlights the major issue: There's a short list for these leading parts, and Bloom isn't on it. What's more, his next two movies put him right back in the Costume Drama Zone that our experts so emphatically recommended he avoid. While his peers duke it out for the juicy awards bait, Bloom is reinforcing his decade-long reputation as the “Pretty Guy in Tights,” and with no buzz and or unexpected roles on the docket, he’s likely to stay pegged as such. The best possible outcome, according to one of our agents, is through lowered expectations: “I don’t know what he delivers for a film — he’s kind of ‘beige’ — but I think he’s a ‘long-term hold’ in the hopes of getting a TV series.”

Rating: A sell as a film star, but a long-term hold for TV series prospects.

Photo: Dave Hogan/Getty Images