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Orlando Bloom turns to theater stage and David Storey play

After starring in two megasized Hollywood trilogies that have taken him from unknown to A-list ("Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Lord of the Rings") Orlando Bloom is walking away from movies - temporarily.

"It's been an incredible ride," said the 30-year-old, sprawled across a sofa at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. "And it's been wonderful but I'm sort of psyched to do something completely different."

Hence, he's returning to the theater - the London stage, to be exact, to appear in David Storey's play, "In Celebration."

Sailing straight from London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama into Hollywood's spotlight was "huge" and "surreal," Bloom said, an experience that moved him "to go back to the beginning, as if I've just come out of school again."

Inspired by movies and theater, as well as the street performers in his hometown of Canterbury, England, Bloom chose his career as a child.

"When I realized that if I was an actor, I could be any character I wanted instead of just one particular, I was like, `Wow, that's cool,"' he said.

He joined London's National Youth Theatre and won a scholarship to train with the British Drama Academy. His learned his craft on the stage. But his first job after graduation made him a movie star: the brave elf Legolas in "Lord of the Rings."

Since then, he's become a heartthrob, one of People magazine's "Hottest Bachelors" and "50 Most Beautiful." At the "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" premiere at Disneyland recently, women and girls swooned as Bloom walked the red carpet. Some had painted their faces and T-shirts with "I love Orlando Bloom."

He shrugs that off, saying his mother and sister tease him endlessly about his sex-symbol status - then stretching his arms overhead to reveal a perfectly toned stomach adorned with a tiny sun tattoo.

Bloom's Hollywood immersion also gave him instant leading-man potential. He brought the perfect blend of innocence and gravity to his "Pirates" character, Will Turner, said director Gore Verbinski.

"In the first movie, I needed somebody who could be two things. One, sort of a blossoming leading man, but also a little bit awkward ... Then we're going to germinate that and grow that, and he's going to ultimately become as complex and as dark as the rest of the characters in the movie," he said.

"Pirates" producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who previously worked with Bloom on 2001's "Black Hawk Down," took his praise of the actor one step further.

"He could be this generation's Errol Flynn. No doubt in my mind," Bruckheimer said. "He's handsome, he's debonair, he's a good actor, he's got a great smile. He's smart. It's all about choices, if actors make the right choices. He's got the talent, so it comes down to what he picks and the directors and people he works with."

Bloom's burgeoning Hollywood clout has already brought him ample opportunities, he said, from Ridley Scott's "Kingdom of Heaven" and Cameron Crowe's "Elizabethtown" to the chance to return to the stage.

"I'm looking forward to continuing working on movies and making choices that excite me, and right now that is doing some theater," he said, though he expects to be "rather terrified."

"Actors don't really get into their stride until they're in their late 30s and 40s. ... So when I think of the bigger picture, I've got a long road ahead and I think it's going to be important for me as an actor to work on my craft in this way."

Bloom didn't use his star power to snag a leading role, either - although he acknowledges he probably could have.

"I'm just part of what will be a great company of actors," he said, occasionally chewing at his thumbnail. "I just really wanted to have a very organic experience. I didn't want to feel like I was in a star vehicle yet by any means."

One arena where Bloom is taking on a more prominent role is environmental activism. He recently returned from a trip to Antarctica, where he "shared a bathroom and a toilet with 27 other guys," along with dishwashing and laundry duties.

Bloom saw how "tragically fragile" and "precious" the ice caps are and was inspired to speak out.

"It can be all doom and gloom when one talks about the environment ... like the ice caps are melting and everything's gone to custard, but the truth is that's not the case," he said. "Life is about balance, and we all have to make the effort in areas that we can to enable us to make a difference."

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