Orlando Bloom faces his daredevil fears and asks, "What is the thing you consider to be your edge?"

The "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Lord of the Rings" star spoke to Salon about his risk-taking adventure series

Published April 18, 2024 5:59PM (EDT)

Orlando Bloom: To The Edge (Peacock)
Orlando Bloom: To The Edge (Peacock)

In his inspiring new reality series, “Orlando Bloom: To the Edge,” the actor takes risks and tests his limits by training for and participating in three extreme sports, wingsuiting, free diving and rock climbing. The idea is for Bloom to face fear and push himself mentally, emotionally and physically. For Bloom, the closer he gets to death, the more alive he feels.

It is a very “don’t try this at home” series. Bloom trains for weeks with professionals who teach him skydiving, and he practices a breathing technique for free diving called a “death table.” He is guided by experts who monitor him, and he calls his partner Katy Perry every night to assure her that he is OK.

"In some ways, I feel comfortable in a hurt locker that’s familiar to me."

The three hour-long episodes showcase his adventurous spirit well, and they allow viewers to live vicariously through his passion. He does have a few scary moments, but also some fun ones, like a tandem skydive with his 80-year-old uncle (who is an experienced skydiver, and who proves you are never too old to jump out of a plane if you want to and are properly trained.) 

Bloom’s ability to find comfort in discomfort is compelling. He spoke with Salon about his new series and going “To the Edge.”

What made you decide “I want to go wingsuiting, free diving and rock climbing, and I want to record my experiences?” I thought about skydiving once as a way of conquering a fear of falling, but you take it to the edge!

COVID was a very challenging time for everyone on the planet. We were all confronted with fear, and I felt the fear around me. It was palpable in my environment and in my life. I wanted to come out of that. I wasn’t super afraid, but I was aware of the fear, so what would be a cool thing to do? People who are living clean, simple lives – there are people who live in a Blue Zone. We didn’t get any hits on that from a studio, so how about we throw you out of plane or down to the bottom of an ocean or send you up a mountain? That played to the narrative in my life of being somewhat of a thrill seeker. The opportunity for me to confront some of those fears allowed me to learn a lot from the people in the show, like [skydiver] Luke Aikins, [free diver] Camila Jaber and Mo Beck, this wonderful adaptive climber. It was set for me to go on a journey of self-discovery and learning. I used my Buddhist practices to help me overcome the moments of fear I was experiencing. That has been a great tool in my life.

In the series, you appear to be an adrenaline junkie. Where did this risk-taking begin? And why do this when you indicate you have so much to lose?

I think in my early life, I enjoyed the feeling of being on the edge as it were. Probably undiagnosed ADD and being slightly impulsive. I was working with the best of the best in their fields and learned to be less impulsive and more considered, and educated, and follow protocols. Adrenaline junkies are supreme athletes. They dedicate their lives to the thing they do. You may see a 15-second clip on social media, but you don’t see the hours, months and years it takes to execute some of these daredevil feats. Maybe it feels like there is a screw loose, but they are experts, and I looked up to them and I welcomed the challenge whilst shaking in my boots at times and being terrified.

I couldn’t do it! What is your threshold for pain? You acknowledge you have had lots of injuries over the course of your life, including breaking your back. Why do you find comfort in discomfort?

Part of that is my particular path through this lifetime, but I did have my fair share of accidents and injuries in my childhood. I think in some ways, I feel comfortable in a hurt locker that’s familiar to me. Without going into some giant therapy session, we are imprinted through our childhood, and I am a result of some of that. Going on this journey with the show is taking charge and taking responsibility for most of that — overcoming my impulsive nature and attempting to become more considered in my actions. That was necessary for me. Breaking my back at a young age and feeling that physical pain was a life-changing thing that I survived. When you overcome obstacles in your life, they become badges of honor in some ways and inform your process as you move through the world. That has been true for me. If I can survive that, I can do this.

That which does not kill us makes us stronger.

All those adages seem to make sense because they’ve been around a long time. 

Why keep doing this, especially as you get older? I find I’m less mobile as I age and take less risks. Is this your last chance to do these things? Your 80-year-old uncle jumps of out a plane with you, so I guess you are never too old!

Age didn’t really come into it. It was more overcoming the fear and the obstacles and getting the lessons I needed. That was something that revealed itself for me to do at that time in my life. It was on my path. The opportunity presented itself, but initially, I hadn’t thought of doing a daredevil experiment. It was more about meeting Blue Zone people and seeing people who learned to simplify things down to the essence, and therefore, were living more content and happy lives. In a way, it did hyperfocus me to be in the present in any given moment, but obviously in those extreme circumstances, you are forced to be supremely present. But the takeaway is being present for my life and the people in it and endeavoring to do that more. 

It’s obvious because we are speaking that you survived, but what about failure? You talk about being intimidated by some of the activities you pursue but also that failure is not an option. Your buddy Kris says in the series that he would stop if he was in the same situation. You are very hard on yourself. Very demanding. If you don’t accomplish your goals, how do you cope with that? 

"I had stage fright as a kid which I never talked about that much. That was my greatest fear."

I think the most interesting lessons in life come through the mistakes we make and the obstacles we overcome. It is not how you go down, but how you get up. In my daily life I am constantly making mistakes and I am hard on myself. I’m learning to be less so. It’s a daily struggle probably for all of us. The show will hopefully inspire people to do something that pushes them to their edge. I can get lost in an algorithm on my phone and having the self-discipline to stop and be here now is an ongoing journey. 

Failure is something that is unique to each person. Seeing the opportunities for growth through the challenges we are presented with is the thing. My Buddhist practice — I’ve been chanting since I was 16 — has taught me we are born, we are going to grow old, get sick and die. that’s a given, so how do you navigate that with grace and accept that there is no easy path? There are so many things where I think, “I did so much work on that, and it didn’t land.” Well, get up and try again. That’s what you are here for. That’s just how I am.

How does facing your fear and conquering it help you as a person or even in your acting?

I had stage fright as a kid which I never talked about that much. That was my greatest fear, and I used to conquer that every time I went on stage. When you push yourself to the edge and reveal to yourself your greatest challenge — whatever it may be. You said you would never do any of these things. What is the thing you consider to be your edge? Make that a habit and lean into that and through overcoming and pushing your edge you get that clarity of mind or that moment or that feeling that I can tick that off the list. Maybe it didn’t work, but I gave it my best shot.

"Orlando Bloom: To the Edge" begins streaming Thursday, April 18 on Peacock.

By Gary M. Kramer

Gary M. Kramer is a writer and film critic based in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter.

MORE FROM Gary M. Kramer

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Daredevil Free Diving Interview Orlando Bloom Peacock Rock Climbing Skydiving To The Edge Tv Wingsuiting