The Straits Times December 2001 

Sweet Sweet Fantasy 


Forget muscle-bound action figures like Arnie and Stallone. The men who are ruling the silver screen and stealing girls' hearts today are the lithe, pretty-boy stars of fantasy epics like The Lord Of The Rings, Harry Potter and Star Wars. CLARA CHOW reports

ORLANDO BLOOM, Hayden Christensen and Sean Biggerstaff.

No, these are not nonsense words from J. K. Rowling's dictionary, but young, fragile-featured actors with soft down on their peachy faces.   

Orlando Bloom stars in the fantasy epic, The Lord Of The Rings. They are the names of three young men now making their mark in big-budget Hollywood franchises. Their weird real-life monikers sound right out of the fantasy genre they star in, and all three have quickly garnered a loyal teen following, making them the new darlings of magazine covers. 

With the exception of Christensen, 20, who landed the plum role of Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones, Bloom and Biggerstaff play supporting roles in their movies. But they have managed to steal the thunder from the leading men. 

Biggerstaff, 18, plays Gryffindor's Quidditch captain Oliver Wood in Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone. He appears on screen in only about four scenes. But already, he is sending schoolgirls' hearts aflutter. 

He is expected to have more screen time in the subsequent Harry Potter movies as his character develops. 

Bloom, 24, who plays elf archer Legolas in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, charmed audiences with the way he drew arrows from his quiver gracefully. By comparison, Elijah Wood's Frodo the Hobbit fell far short. 

In an online popularity poll at TheOneRing.net, he came in second to established actor Ian McKellen, receiving 20.6 per cent of the votes. Orlando Bloom's Oasis, an online fan club founded in May, currently has 495 members. 

Ms Janice Tay, 39, marketing director for 20th Century Fox Singapore, sizes up the three hunks: 'All three are unknowns, not having appeared in many films. Hayden Christensen seems to have enormous talent. He also has a harder job because of his meatier role. He has to make his character develop from a young boy to stepping over to the dark side.   

Sean Biggerstaff wows audiences with his looks and boggles minds with his name. 

'As for Biggerstaff, he did a brilliant job in Harry Potter because everybody remembers him. He has captured the imagination of girls worldwide. But it's hard to judge his talent because he didn't appear very much.' 

She adds: 'The younger girls will certainly be very interested in Biggerstaff, and older women will go for Bloom. Bloom as Legolas has a quiet confidence, skill and grace in battle. He's an eye-mind kind of hero.' 

Star Wars: Episode II is a 20th Century Fox film. So what exactly is the appeal of these boys from Middle Earth, Hogwarts and Tatooine? 

In films over-run by male action, fantasy elements and special effects, having a good-looking character sweetens the movie for female fans. 

And as an observer on The Snitch Forum puts it: 'Maybe everyone found Biggerstaff so attractive because everybody else in the film was about 12-year-olds.'   

EVIL NEVER LOOKED THIS GOOD: Hottie Hayden Christensen plays the role of Anakin Skywalker, the good Jedi Knight who later morphs into the evil Darth Vader. 

Episode II casting director Robin Gurland might have hit the nail on the head when he spoke of the Christensen mystique: 'He's on the verge of adulthood, so his face still has this innocence, but in the eyes, there's this intelligence that's so knowing, so mature.' 

As female film audiences become more emancipated and confident, studies have surfaced about how they are eschewing the rugged handsome looks of movie stars like John Wayne and Paul Newman for delicate, sensitive types like Leonardo DiCaprio. 

Says Dr Timothy White, 50, a senior lecturer in film studies at the National University of Singapore's English Literature department: 'If you compare actors today with those popular in the 1940s and 1950s, they're a lot younger now and prettier. 

'It may be a symptom of the fact that back then, movies were for everybody. Today, the audiences are younger.' 

He adds, citing Tom Cruise as an example of the appeal of the baby-faced actor: 'I think the trend will continue. A lot of actors are about hype and packaging. They get stereotyped. Movie producers will use these same actors again in the same genres.'   

The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring and Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone are showing now. Star Wars: Episode II - Attack Of The Clones will be released worldwide on May 16. 

Getting bigger 

Fantasy Hunk: Sean Biggerstaff. He is Scottish, so maybe that explains the sexual-innuendo in his surname. 

Plays: Gryffindor's Quidditch captain, Oliver Wood, in Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone. Wood's part will become meatier in the second and third instalments of the tale. 

Hair: Brown 

Eyes: Brown Height: 1.75 m 

Demographic Appeal: Teenage boys and girls and some young-at-heart women. According to a Lycos popular user search report last month, Biggerstaff got 76 per cent more searches than Daniel Radcliff, star of Harry Potter. He also received more searches than boyband O-Town and Buffy actress Sarah Michelle Gellar. 

Hunk Credentials: Born in Glasgow, on March 15, 1983, he began acting at five and joined the Scottish Youth Theatre (SYT) when he was 11. In 1996, he acted in The Crow Road, a short-lived mini-series. The Big Break: Discovered by Alan Rickman while acting in Macbeth with the SYT, he then starred with Rickman and Emma Thompson in The Winter's Guest in 1997. Rickman then got Biggerstaff a London agent, who landed him the Harry Potter gig. 

Other Stuff: Not much else is known about this elusive teen idol, except that he used to play guitar in a band named Crambo. 

Out Of Hogwarts Robes: Looks exactly the same. 

Marital status: He says: 'I'm devilishly good-looking and single!' 

How To Snare Him: Become a guitar-rocking babe. Hang around his college, or something. 

Coming Up: More Harry Potter films.