The night before Orlando Bloom met with journalists covering his upcoming Crusades movie “Kingdom of Heaven,” the British actor attended a U2 concert in Los Angeles.
Bloom, 28, praised the band’s lead singer, outspoken humanitarian Bono, as a good example for the world’s youth. Bloom was impressed by the fact that the concert featured a display of the United Nations’ 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” states Article 1 of the declaration. Given Bloom’s role in “Kingdom,” which opens nationwide May 6, it’s not surprising the young actor expressed such affinity for Bono or the declaration. Bloom plays a 12th-century knight named Balian of Ibelin who tries to save lives by defending Jerusalem against attacking forces.
Bloom read the “Kingdom” script after completing filming for “Troy,” in which he played Paris. He liked the part of Balian and saw it as a departure from his previous work (e.g. “The Lord of the Rings,” “Pirates of the Caribbean”), even though it was another historical piece.
Bloom told reporters that Balian, who leaves France to follow his knightly father (Liam Neeson) to the Holy Land, is on both a physical and spiritual quest.
“Ultimately, he’s a man on a journey,” said Bloom. “It’s a coming of age story for a man on a journey of spiritual discovery trying to understand the bigger questions in life.”
In the film, Balian goes from being a blacksmith who loses everything to gaining, reluctantly, a huge responsibility. That responsibility involves tough decisions that test Balian’s conscience.
“He’s a human who is flawed, like all humans,” said Bloom. “He’s in pain, but he’s on a journey of discovery to be a better man.”
The film’s director, Sir Ridley Scott (“Gladiator,” “1492”), echoed Bloom’s comments, getting even more specific about the nature of the spiritual journey.
“The character is on a spiritual journey to reinforce—or not—his doubts about the existence of God,” said Scott, who spoke about his own religious inclinations and experiences.
“I’m agnostic,” he said. “The idea of agnostic is valid. … It’s a question.”
“I decided fairly early on that I wasn’t certain about this,” Scott continued, “and I wasn’t getting specifics and I wasn’t getting voices.”
Bloom also talked, generically, about his spiritual path.
“I’m 28 years old and certainly coming of age, and certainly I’m on my own journey of discovery in one form or another,” he said, adding that he learns a great deal from working in movies alongside older, more experienced actors.
Bloom referred to another character from the movie, the Hospitaler (David Thewlis), who acts as a sort of mentor to Balian. The Hospitaler reminds Balian that godliness is about daily action above all else.
“Ultimately what screams across from the movie, what is very clear,” said Bloom, “it is about right action. It is about what you do each day.”
“I believe that,” he continued, “and I believe Balian believed that. It’s about what you do each day.” Bloom said godliness really required “being thoughtful to your fellow man.”
“We share this place, and we should be able to live in harmony,” enthused Bloom. “Surely that’s what any God, whoever your God may be, will tell you—that it’s about humanity.”
“That God, whoever that God may be, would never tell you to take the life of another man for the sake of your own good,” Bloom argued.
French actress Eva Green, who plays Princess Sibylla, made similar comments about humanity’s responsibilities, especially in light of the Crusades.
“People are too narrow-minded sometimes, and it just shows that war is particularly futile and is not an answer,” said 24-year-old Green. “People use religion as an excuse for bad behavior, and it’s just ridiculous. They just use it for their own purposes.”
“Unfortunately, we don’t seem to learn from history, do we?” said Scott. “That’s one of the lessons in the story, that here we go again.”
But that lesson doesn’t stop Bloom, whose energy and passion were as real in person as they appear onscreen.
“If it isn’t about humanity and your fellow human beings, whoever they are, then what is it about?” wondered Bloom. “Ultimately it must be about life and preservation of life and peace.”
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.
The movie’s official Web site is here.