The British actor is referring to…[being] photographed paddleboarding off the coast of Sardinia…
The paparazzi images of Orlando went viral. Did the hysteria surrounding his penis surprise him? “Yes, it was extremely surprising,” he says. “I wouldn’t have put myself in that position if I’d thought it would happen…I’ve been photographed a million times in a million ways. I have a good radar. We’d been completely alone for five days. Nothing around us. There was no way anyone could get anything. So I had a moment of feeling free.’
Had it been a woman exposed by the press there would have been outrage. Is it a case of double standards? “I didn’t take it that deep, darlin’,” he offers. “What can I tell you? Note to self: you’re never free. Ha!”
…At an alfresco bar in Malibu, California, he looks out towards the ocean, talking slowly and carefully.
…As he reclines, a small tattoo of an orange sun on his stomach peeks out from underneath his shirt. Joking aside, the paddleboarding photos alarmed Orlando. He prefers to keep his life private; his former home in the Hollywood Hills was burgled in 2009 by the gang whose exploits were portrayed in Sofia Coppola’s 2013 film, The Bling Ring….
“We’re friends,” he says of Katy, without mentioning her by name. “It’s good. We’re all grown-up. She happens to be someone who is very visible, but I don’t think anybody cares what I’m up to. Nor should they. It’s between us. It’s better to set an example for kids and show that [break-ups] don’t have to be about hate.”…
Orlando is new to social media, having avoided it for years. Although he has no Twitter account, his Instagram is public, and six months ago he signed up to Facebook. “I think the times are changing,” he says. “My mum kept an article from the mid-Noughties that said this kid had been Googled more than anyone on the planet for four years in a row.” He pauses. “And it was me!” He apologises, saying he’s concerned he sounds like a ‘knob’.
“I’m not a millennial. They live their lives through their phones. What happens to my son? How is he going to have a real relationship if it’s all happening on his phone?Disconnecting is massively important.”
Now that Orlando is older, he’s trying to make sense of the passing of time. He wants to have more children, he says, at the right time. As for his career, graduating from pin-up of the month to an actor with longevity is no easy feat. But, while some actors feel threatened by their advancing years, Orlando says he feels liberated.
“I’m just waiting for the age lines to get deeper in my face,” he laughs. “I’m excited about the prospect of the next 10 years. Actors do their most interesting stuff between 40 and 50. I mean, fuck – I hope that’s the case for me!”
This year, Orlando returns to the fifth instalment of Pirates of the Caribbean, and will play lead roles in British indie film Romans and action movie S.M.A.R.T. Chase, and stars alongside Noomi Rapace in the female-led thriller, Unlocked.
When asked what he looks for in a role, he struggles. “I had so much [success] in my twenties, most of my thirties was [spent] figuring out which way was up. I love what I do.” He takes a breath. “It came from that connection kids felt with [The Lord of the Rings‘] Legolas, or [Pirates of the Caribbean‘s] Will Turner. I’m looking for that thing again…” He appears to be unsure of where his career is headed, so I offer some advice. “I could see you as a good James Bond.” He lights up. “Thank you! I will make a good Bond… when they make Bond someone all the kids fall for.”
Age has changed Orlando. “You’re no longer number one in the world,” he says. “You look at everything around you and ask, ‘What is going on?'” Most recently, he’s been baffled by the differences between the UK’s and the US’s electoral systems. “What we grow up with at home is completely different. It’s like Star Wars over here.”
It’s his concerns for his son Flynn’s future that have led him to charity work. Since 2007, Orlando has been involved with UNICEF, visiting children in some of the world’s poorest countries. In 2009, he was made its Goodwill Ambassador, and in February this year, he returned from Niger, West Africa, where he was working with families who had escaped the violence of Nigeria’s militant Islamist group, Boko Haram. “We live in Disneyland.” He looks out to the waves again. “In Niger, children are living in grass huts on the side of the road. They see their parents having their throats slit. It’s beyond our comprehension. There’s an amazing Buddhist quote that has been in my life for years. And I’m going to butcher it: ‘There will be peace in the world when we have an understanding of what it means to make all mothers happy.'”
Orlando has practised Buddhism every day since he was 16. It helped him cope with his sudden rise to celebritydom, a process he describes to me as like getting inside a burning car. “You see these victims all around you: 15 minutes of fame, a YouTube sensation, whatever it may be. They don’t realize what it takes. What you want to do is learn how to suit up and get out of that burning car with grace, ease and integrity.”
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