Orlando Bloom’s Journey From On-Screen to Real-Life Adventure

The actor's new docuseries, "Orlando Bloom: To the Edge," premieres this week on Peacock

April 14, 2024 8:45 pm
Orlando Bloom in his new Peacock series "To the Edge"
Younger than he seems at 47, Orlando Bloom might be the most adventurous man in Hollywood.

On April 18, Orlando Bloom — he of Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, Black Hawk Down and other action-packed films — will return to our screens not to battle orcs, buccaneers or soldiers, but to face his biggest challenge yet: himself.

In Orlando Bloom: To the Edge, the 47-year-old promises to peel back actorly artifice and reveal a side of himself we’ve never seen. What’s the show about? Well, as Hunter S. Thompson famously wrote: “The Edge… There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.”

Still, we’ll try our best. According to Peacock, the streaming service behind Bloom’s big adventure, “Orlando will face mental and physical challenges that will not only test his endurance, but his resilience in the process.” Over the course of three episodes, we’ll see him hotfoot it from Moab to Santa Barbara then all the way to the Bahamas, spending time with professional skydivers, world-champion freedivers and a one-armed mountaineer. Can Bloom learn from the best while learning something about himself along the way? 

It’s easy to approach such a show with a degree of cynicism. After all, Chris Hemsworth and Zac Efron recently embarked on similar, mind- and body-expanding adventures in their own TV series. The thing is, with Bloom, it feels less like a vanity project, and more like a genuine extension of the life he’s always lived. 

A Quick Injury History

Before diving deeper, here’s a quick and necessary accounting of Bloom’s decades of maladies (not counting the naked paddleboarding incident). The man has flirted with danger his whole life.

  • Early ‘90s: The usual schoolboy pranks, including a broken arm, cracked skull and broken nose sustained as a result of rugby. 
  • 1998: At the age of 19, Bloom scales a drainpipe until it breaks and he falls three stories, crushing his spine. Calling it one of the “darkest times” in his life, Bloom explained that “I was very fortunate to survive the fall because my spinal cord was still just intact.” He added, “That was really the beginning of what was a long and painful journey for me into recognizing and understanding some of the patterns that had been in my life that had led me to having numerous accidents. And the culmination was breaking my back, which was a near-death experience.”
  • 1999: Fully recovered now, Bloom lands the role of a lifetime in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings adaptation. While filming The Fellowship of The Ring in New Zealand, he falls from a horse, breaking a rib. 
  • 2018: Bloom reportedly crashed a Formula E race car after taking it for a spin during his 41st birthday party in Marrakesh. 

He’s also broken his right leg while skiing, broken his left leg in a motorbike crash and broken his right wrist while snowboarding. In other words, he isn’t afraid to put his body on the line in search of a thrill, despite nearing 50.

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The Experts Who Trained Him

“You want to know what kind of guy Orlando is? I can sum him up in a simple story,” says Luke Aikins, a professional skydiver, BASE jumper, pilot and aerial photographer who worked with Bloom on the show. “We had just wrapped the skydive episode, and my wife and I were saying goodbye. Orlando grabbed my phone and recorded a personal message to my son about his own experience with dyslexia to tell my son Logan that he is actually being forced to use different parts of his brain and someday he will benefit from that.”

Outside of being a nice dude, it sounds like Bloom was all-in on the physicality that To the Edge demanded, too. Learning to fly using a wingsuit usually takes at least 200 jumps and months of practice. Bloom had two months.

“Orlando pushed himself to the limit of what is possible in my world. He is an athlete,” says Aikins. “When things didn’t work as planned, he always made the correct safety decisions. The parachute landing pattern proved to be his nemesis, but when it mattered for the finale, he crushed it.”

Mountaineer and adaptive climber Maureen “Mo” Beck was also tasked with helping Bloom reach new heights, but this time on land.

“I think that Orlando discovered what climbing is really about,” Beck says. “It’s not necessarily the hardest, most badass moments. The best part of climbing is spending endless hours on a cliff face with no distractions.”

“Orlando was a natural when it came to moving on rock, and for most of the trip I thought, dang, this is too easy for him,” she adds. “I think he thought that too — he seemed a little disappointed that a lot of the training we were doing was on easier terrain. On that final day, I finally saw him scared. There was a short section of climbing that was very exposed, and very high consequence if anything went wrong. Orlando paused for a long while before committing to the moves. Part of me that wondered if he would have turned around had it not been for the cameras, but after watching the grit he put into this climb, I don’t think that turning around is his style.”

“Sweating and Shaking”

As might be expected from one of our most-injured A-list actors, there were times when Bloom tried to surpass his limits. In one scene, William Trubridge, a world champion and world-record-holding freediver, has to physically restrain Bloom from going too far.

“It was really fun to hang out with Orlando, and to see how he thrived on this challenge that was entirely new to him,” Trubridge remembers. “He’d never free-dived before and dove into it figuratively and literally with everything he had. I literally had to hold him back on one of the dives because he was going too deep and he was going to injure his ears if he continued on descending. I was following him down and could see he was going for it so I raced to catch him and grabbed his leg. It was probably a good thing that I did because when we came back up, he’d already strained his ear and had to have a few days off.”

Grounded, Bloom insisted the dive team push him another way. “I gave him the hardest thing that he could attempt,” says Trubridge, “one of the harding training protocols I do. He gave it everything he had, to the point where he was sweating and shaking and like gritting his teeth. Afterwards, he burst into tears. He said it had been a ‘confronting experience’ — extreme and life-changing. That was just kind of a measure of how much determination and resilience he had.”

Probing the “Celebrity Adventure” Genre

While it sounds like Bloom gave the show everything he’s got, one question remains: why are we so obsessed with seeing actors and other celebrities take on real-life adventures? If it’s extreme content we want, why not check out the professional exploits of the experts, like Trubridge, Beck and Aikins?

“I think we’re attracted to the allure of adventure and exploration because it’s the antithesis of what we’re spending a lot of our time doing these days,” Trubridge says, arguing that exploration is the furthest we can get away from our office jobs, and that living vicariously through others is the closest a lot of us can get to it.

As for why we’re suddenly hungry for actors to adventure on our behalf, he thinks it’s because it allows us to see behind the mask, revealing a different side to a person we assume we know well.

“We think we know actors [like Bloom and Efron], but we never know their true self,” he says. “Seeing them in a show like this, not only is the show itself really interesting, we’re discovering more about their personality and coming to know them as a true human being instead of just this mythical elf or pirate, or whatever kind of role. It makes them more human.”

There’s a degree of irony in the fact that we’re turning to actors to satisfy the very real need for adventure that many of us feel. There’s something slightly Ballardian about it. What’s next? VR choose-your-own-adventures with Brad Pitt as your guide? But maybe that’s overthinking it. Maybe the best thing is to just set our brains aside, lead with our heart and adrenal glands, and follow Bloom into Adventureland.

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