Scott christens ‘Kingdom’ knight

Bloom to star in pic that takes place during Crusades

Director Ridley Scott has set Orlando Bloom to star in “Kingdom of Heaven,” an epic love story that he will shoot in Morocco beginning Jan. 12.

Scott’s banner, Scott Free, developed “Kingdom of Heaven” and will produce the film. Twentieth Century Fox is financing.

Bloom will play a peasant who becomes a knight, saves a kingdom and falls in love with the princess of Jerusalem. Scott saw Bloom’s potential when he cast the then-unknown thesp to join the ensemble of “Black Hawk Down.”

” ‘Lord of the Rings’ hadn’t yet come out, and Orlando proved himself to be an excellent actor in a strong ensemble that included Josh Hartnett, Eric Bana and Ewan McGregor,” Scott said. “I’d wanted to do a film with knights in armor, but thought why do some homogenous story when screenwriter William Monahan came up with such rich history? He based this drama on accurate research, which he spent 19 months compiling and writing.”

The film, which takes place in the 12th century during the time of the Crusades, will be staged on a scale that Scott described as being slightly larger than “Gladiator,” his Oscar-winning epic.

It continues a remarkable run for Bloom, a 26-year-old British actor who had just completed his studies at Guild Hall School of Drama when he was cast by Peter Jackson to play Legolas in “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.” He has become a cornerstone of that franchise, which concludes in December with “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”

Bloom followed that trilogy by starring in the blockbuster “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” and has signed for the sequel.

Then he was cast by “Troy” director Wolfgang Petersen to play Paris, whose courtship with Helen of Troy triggered the Trojan War. Warner Bros. releases that film next summer with Brad Pitt and Eric Bana starring.

For “Kingdom of Heaven,” Scott sparked to using the lush locations of Morocco, where he shot parts of “Gladiator” and “Black Hawk Down.”

“There was a lot of support from the Moroccan government and film community to make the film happen,” Scott said. “They understand the value of making big films, and the locations are wonderful.”

Bloom is repped by ICM, the Firm and London-based Fiona McLoughlin.

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