''It was very nostalgic coming back after 10 years and seeing Wellington again, and [it] being remarkably unchanged actually.''
Orlando Bloom says this as he seats himself in one of the numerous caravans - or trailers as Americans call them - on the lot at Sir Peter Jackson's studios in Wellington.
''Wellington's been massively resistant to the onslaught of technology and just of life and the world. It's a bit like Brighton in the sixties...Anyway, it's really reassuring in many ways.''
It's May, right in the middle of principal shooting on The Hobbit trilogy, and wet and cold for the past few days. But as Bloom settles in for the interview sporting brightly-coloured Nikes, the sun comes out. Maybe it helped kick start the reminiscing.
Bloom, now 36, is an A list movie star and sex symbol. He owes it all to Sir Peter Jackson taking a punt more than a decade ago on casting the Englishman in The Lord of the Rings. At that time Bloom had only appeared in one film - a small part as a rent boy in the Oscar Wilde movie Wilde, and a little television.
He first auditioned for the role of Faramir in The Lord of the Rings - which went to Australian David Wenham - and was instead cast in the more prominent role of Legolas the elf, one of the members of the Fellowship of the Ring.
Bloom, then in his early 20s, spent months in Wellington and around New Zealand during filming. He learned the hard way to be an action hero - including cracking his ribs while unhorsing in a scene. But on the release of The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001 Bloom quickly became one of the breakout stars of the trilogy. He particularly appealed to young women.
By 2003 Bloom was snapped up for big roles in other blockbusters, including Pirates of the Carribean and Kingdom of Heaven and has had a strong career. Not only is he an international star but a celeb and paparazzi magnet, especially during his marriage to Australian model Miranda Kerr.
In October Bloom and Kerr announced they had separated but during filming of The Hobbit Kerr and their young son Flynn, then 15 months old, were based in Wellington.
Legolas doesn't appear in JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit. But in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug he has an important part to play. Like Liv Tyler as Arwen in The Lord of the Rings, where she had a small presence in the books boosted to a prominent role in the films; or the invention of warrior wood elf Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lilly for Smaug; it actually feels right to see Legolas again.
But it did mean that Bloom never imagined he'd revisit Middle-earth. ''I had no expectation whatsoever. Never thought of it, actually.'' He hadn't even managed to get back to New Zealand after the premiere for The Return of the King in 2003.
But Jackson and co-writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens convinced him. ''They never really stray at all from Tolkien's vision, from his idea. But of course, I [also] think for a movie like The Hobbit there was an opportunity to entertain an audience with the possibility of Legolas coming back.''
Bloom pauses. Despite being in Wellington several weeks, it's as if he still can't believe he's back.
''It's certainly been interesting to see familiar faces. It really has been like returning to family. And seeing how the studio, this crazy little parking lot that we're in right next to the airport. [It] has developed in many ways, and yet reassuringly, as I said, stayed the same.''
Bloom says he had to get his head around the fact he'd be playing a younger Legolas - the story is set 60 years before the events in The Lord of the Rings - when he himself was 10 years older.
''Elves, really, are ageless in many respects, but he would certainly have [a] youthful quality.''
Bloom says when he was asked to reprise Legolas, one of the aspects he did like was the connection to the story. In The Desolation of Smaug we meet his father Thranduil, played by American actor Lee Pace, and we get to see the differences between wood elves who live in Mirkwood forest and those we saw in The Lord of the Rings.
''There was an opportunity to create a father-son, a prince versus king dynamic,'' says Bloom. ''And also to show the rivalry between the elves and the dwarves that could feed into that relationship you see between Legolas and Gimli [the dwarf] in The Lord of The Rings.''
Yes, he says, he did have to brush up again on archery and sword play. ''It was a great way back into the character, to get back into firing a bow and arrow, getting out the white knives and doing some movement, and then the dialect and working on the Elvish, and just re-immersing myself in the character.''
Bloom says he genuinely enjoys archery and sword fighting. The fact he's done so in several other films including Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven, is more ''opportunities that have presented themselves to me''.
Then there are the little things. Yes, Legolas' long hair does get in the way. ''It does, actually. Infuriatingly. If it's hanging forward and you're running through the shot, then it suddenly blows back, and if you're doing a sword fight or pulling your knives out, it can be frustrating, the old hair.
''But it's a great part of the character, so kind of enjoy it.''
He grins. The sun is still out.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is screening now
- © Fairfax NZ News
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