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"I don't think Orlando necessarily feels like a sex symbol," says pal and Lord of the Rings costar Dominic Monaghan of 28-year-old Bloom. "But if it's going to enable him to keep working, then he's going to play along." The Canterbury, England-born actor is one of PEOPLE's 50 Most Beautiful 2005.
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OVER THE HUMP
To play a 12th-century blacksmith in the new movie Kingdom of Heaven, the wiry Bloom (on the Morocco set) beefed up by about 20 lbs. "I've never eaten so much," he says. "I had six meals a day, from protein shakes to steak and chicken."
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Bloom cites his Pirates of the Caribbean costar Johnny Depp as a role model: "Any actor of my generation will tell you: Johnny Depp. We look at him and go, 'He's one of the best-looking guys, and he manages to morph into the characters he plays.' " The duo are reteaming for the swashbuckling movie's two sequels, due out in 2006 and 2007.
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The actor has his share of famous female fans – including Lindsay Lohan, who gushes, "He's gorgeous." But Bloom wasn't always comfortable in his skin. He packed on weight as a child after breaking his leg skiing at age 9 and wearing a cast for a year. "I was a porker," he says.
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Bloom has a green streak: He showed his support for environmental group Global Green USA by arriving at a recent Hollywood benefit in a fuel-efficient hybrid car. "People can choose to change the way they drive to help reduce our impact on the environment," he explains.
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KEEPING IT REAL
Bloom hopes to defy his sex-symbol image, as his Troy costar Brad Pitt (pictured with Bloom and Eric Bana) has done. Pitt "created a heartthrob thing, then went against it," says Bloom. "You kind of have to."
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BEST OF FRIENDS
After almost three years together, Bloom and girlfriend Kate Bosworth parted ways romantically in January. "They did decide to take some time apart due to their upcoming work schedule," their rep told PEOPLE at the time. But that hasn't ended their friendship: They later attended the Vanity Fair Oscar party together, where Bloom was spotted crooning in his ex's ear.
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"He has a good heart, he's compassionate and has a great sense of humor," says Bosworth of her former beau. And he's also a gentleman: His Troy love interest Diane Kruger says of filming their semi-nude scene, "When the cameras cut, he would give me my robe, not looking at me."
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Bloom has a soft spot for animals. While on location in Morocco for Kingdom of Heaven, he adopted a stray black Labrador mix, whom he named Sidi. Master and pup were temporarily separated in February when Sidi was lost in L.A.'s Runyon Canyon, but they were eventually reunited.
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Bloom, pictured with mom Sonia and older sister Samantha, experienced family drama early on in his life. When he was 4, the man he thought was his father – South African writer Harry Bloom – died. Eight years later, he learned that his biological father was actually family friend Colin Stone.
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"People are drawn to him," says Kruger. Troy director Wolfgang Petersen remembers seeing a crowd of screaming admirers outside the hotel where he first met Bloom: "They were going nuts. (I thought,) 'Oh my God! I'd better cast this guy!' "