Bloom Grows Up in 'Kingdom of Heaven'

Orlando Bloom (search) is all grown up.

The still up-and-coming hot young star takes his first big-budget lead role this weekend in "Kingdom of Heaven," (search) an action-packed drama that takes place in 12th-century Jerusalem amid the roar of the Crusades (search).

"I played Paris, the younger, cowardly brother in 'Troy,' and I saw this as an opportunity for really going from being a boy to a man," Bloom told FOX News. "So I lifted a lot of weights — I ate a lot of food and I just tried to train so I could really make that transition."

Bloom previously starred in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Black Hawk Down," all of which helped him prepare for "Kingdom."

"I saw the way that Brad Pitt and Eric Bana carried their swords in 'Troy' and the way that Viggo Mortensen carried his sword in 'Lord of the Rings' and the way Johnny [Depp] did in 'Pirates,' so in a way it taught me how to carry my sword," he told FOX.

But "Gladiator" director Ridley Scott's (search) story of the Crusades has more than just a hunky star and a lot of action.

Bloom plays Balian of Ibelin, an educated young French blacksmith who fights to keep a promise to the dying father he never knew, a Crusader knight (Liam Neeson (search)) who recruits his son to Jerusalem to take up the family trade.

Meanwhile, Balian is questioning his faith amid grief over his wife's death.

"He is a man who has lost his wife and child. His wife has committed suicide; he's really in a nihilistic state of disillusion ... for Balian it's really a journey of spiritual discovery," Bloom explained.

"You know, he looks to God. 'I have lost — how could I lose my wife? How could you allow this to happen?,'" Bloom continued. "He goes to the Holy Land to find redemption and to find peace for that, and finds himself as a knight at the end of the movie defending the city of Jerusalem."

Bloom says the film has good lessons for today's times.

"Ultimately, I think there's a fantastic message of tolerance within the movie, and a great humanitarian message when Balian, in his real moment of heroism, decides that it's about the salvation of the people of Jerusalem. It's a great movie in that respect," Bloom told FOX.

"Kingdom of Heaven" also has enough mayhem and explosions for any summer movie fan — and making the huge battle scenes look authentic took money, coordination and some carefully deployed post-production.

"In any one shot that you see, there's 70, 50, 30, sometimes 130,000 people in one shot all functioning doing different things. I think the cloning and the process of digital work in this is the best I've ever seen," Scott told FOX.

Balian is also caught up in a soap opera of chivalry, betrayal and romance involving King Baldwin (Edward Norton), his sister (Eva Green), her power-hungry husband (Martin Csokas), an honorable knight (Jeremy Irons), the high-minded Saladin (Ghassan Massoud) and a bloodthirsty European warrior (Brendan Gleeson) whose atrocities rekindle Muslim passions to drive out the Christians.

In these uneasy times, you'd think a Hollywood epic about the Crusades would spark a major revival of hard feelings over the medieval religious wars in the Middle East.

But the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee came away greatly relieved after a "Kingdom of Heaven" screening arranged for them by Scott.

"It's one of the better representations of Muslims we've seen out of Hollywood," said Laila Al-Qatami, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based group. "We thought that he did a good job tackling a potentially volatile subject, and avoided doing a simplified, stereotyped story of Muslim vs. Christian."

But here's the other big question — will the movie draw crowds?

Bloom told FOX that's not his department, but he has faith in Scott.

"He really knows how to draw an audience into a historical epic film, but make it feel modern for an audience so they can experience the process of the film and watching the film and really be in that world."

FOX News' Mike Waco, Anita Vogel, Brigitte Quinn and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

"Kingdom of Heaven" is a 20th Century FOX movie. 20th Century FOX is a property of News Corp., which is the parent company of FOX News Channel, which operates

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