Words cannot even describe our feelings when we were informed that our chief editor would be getting the chance to sit down with one of Hollywood’s very own during his trip to LA last summer. And while this interview took place originally in late July last summer, the words are still very fresh to us as if this had happened yesterday. From a little spot near Venice Beach, our chief editor had the chance to chat and have dinner with the legendary actress Bai Ling!
Bai Ling (born October 10, 1966 in Chengdu, Sichuan, China) is a American actress of Chinese decent. Making her Hollywood debut in 1994’s The Crow starring the late Brandon Lee, Bai Ling is one of the few Asian-American actors/actresses that has achieved a great amount of fame for their various character roles. From Anna and The King to Star Wars Episode III, from Shanghai Baby to The Key, Bai has taken on many roles over her career. She gave our chief editor the chance for a one-on-one interview over dinner the night he landed in LA last summer, so let’s see how it went!
For those who aren’t familiar with you, please briefly introduce yourself.
My name is Bai Ling. I’m an actress because I have a gift to give. My first Hollywood film was ‘The Crow’, alongside actor Brandon Lee. It was a very special and unique experience for me. At that time I didn’t even speak English. My first leading role was in a film opposite Richard Gere called ‘Red Corner’. My other films include Anna and The King, Wild Wild West, Crank 2 and more. My TV credits include Entourage and Lost. So you know a little bit about me now.
How have you been these days?
Lately I’ve just been enjoying life. I just came back from Moscow. I was a presenter for an awards show there. I was surprised to see how well known I am in Russia, especially because of the film I did there with Luc Besson called ‘Taxi 3’, which was very popular there. Even young kids are fans of mine there…it seems like I have more fans there than the local stars. These kids approach me on the street for photos and autographs. I ask them, “How do you know me?” and they answer “Taxi 3, Taxi 3!”. I feel very fortunate that I’ve done films in different countries…Chinese movies, European movies and American movies. I attended a boxing match in St. Petersburg as a VIP guest. I was also at the Moscow International Film Festival.
I want to backtrack a bit and talk about two roles you took on in the last couple of years. Last year you played the role of ‘the Mistress’ in Boned. What attracted you to that role, and what did you take out of it?
I think the fact that it was a comedy is what attracted me initially, because I love comedies. Also, because it was an independent film, I wanted to support that kind of film however I could. I feel for independent filmmakers because they’re making films from the heart. And they have this passion, this love to give to cinema through their stories. For this film, my role was that of a mistress with a lot of power, and who spoke very eloquently. My character I felt was so intense and crazy but charismatic. I was very surprised with the way it turned out when the film was finished. It was mischievously fun.
The second recent role I want to talk about was your role as Ida in 2014’s The Key, opposite David Arquette. What was it like working with him? And what was it about the script that interested you?
I’m glad you mentioned this film. It was based on a prize winning novel. Every single line in the film is very polished, like literature. It’s very beautiful. I went to the premiere, got popcorn and thought to myself ‘I’m gonna enjoy the film’. From the first line, it felt very personal. I couldn’t even eat my popcorn. It felt like David (Arquette) and I were inviting the audience into our characters’ private lives, into our bedroom. It was very intimate. Interestingly enough, originally my role wasn’t actually meant for someone of Asian ethnicity, but it was adapted well to fit me. The film takes a look at what sort of inner struggles and passions people have, especially couples. It definitely makes you think on many levels, how beautiful and ugly one’s mind could be…almost like a game. I really hope people watch this film, and I hope it will help those who are married in particular. David and I worked really well together. We just had fun with the roles. I’m very happy to have been able to play this beautiful character.
You’ve played a variety of roles over the years, allowing you to be very multifaceted. What have been your favourite roles so far? Is there as certain character type that you would like to play next that you haven’t had the chance to play yet?
I just watched Star Trek Beyond recently, and as you know I was briefly in Star Wars Episode III. It amazes me how advanced technology has become. I’d love to be in another sci-fi movie. I feel like I fit those kind of films well because I think have this mysterious energy. In terms of roles I’ve played, to me every experience is life experience. No matter how long I was filming for, I’m giving my life, my time, my experience to these roles. I think they all carry significance in their own way. I’m very glad I played all these roles that I’ve had so far.
I read in a recent interview that you’re working on a script. Talk about that a bit.
As I mentioned earlier, my mind is very different. I feel like I landed from the moon. It’s like I think about things differently. This idea came to me out of a frustration of the lack of good roles for Asian actresses in Hollywood. I was just sitting one day, and it just came to me…this idea. I just followed my instinct, I didn’t want to know the outcome, and I wanted not to spend lots of time thinking about it. I finished the script in 15 days. I literally just sat there, not even going for my usual Starbucks runs, just working away for 15 days. I remember when I worked with George Lucas on Star Wars Episode III, and I remember everything being so hectic. But George, he was so calm. I said to him, “This must be so complicated for you, all this craziness on set.” And he said to me, “Bai, this is nothing”. When I finished the script, I finally understood what he meant. It’s a very different genre of film language. I think you just allow nature to work through whatever gift you have, magic can happen. You just have to be open to it. I don’t know how it will go, but I’m excited because it’s something unique.
What else do you have planned for the rest of the year in terms of other projects?
I have a Chinese show currently called ‘The Bai Ling Show’ which you can search on Baidu (Chinese search engine). It’s about positivity of life. Very simple, very spontaneous. I have this film opening soon called ‘The Lord of Shanghai’. I guess you could say it’s the equivalent of ‘The Godfather’ in China. It’s a period story based in 1905. I play this this nightlife queen in Shanghai during that time, from when this character is 26 years old until she’s 80, and seeing how much her life changes during that time. I also recently got a couple of offers on the table which are being negotiated right now.
When you have spare time, what do you do for relaxation?
I live near the beach so I love going there, watching the waves and sunset. I love nature. I’m also a big lover of spas, jacuzzis and massages. And these days I’m also continuing the work on my script. Sometimes I find it’s also important to slow down and do nothing, to just take a break from the craziness of life around you.
Current guilty pleasure?
I eat dessert every day! Sometimes twice a day.
Any advice for aspiring actors?
If you want to be successful, you have to go back to your heart and true core of your being to find that gift to share with others. It shouldn’t be for vain reasons that you want to become a star, but because you have a gift you want to share with the world. If you’re just trying to be a star to receive things, you’ll never make it. Give and you will receive. Find who you are and what you’re passionate about and you can be a star in your own way, regardless of occupation.
Any final words for the readers/fans?
I always want to share positive words with those around me. Two words that I have said over and over again are what I want to leave with your readers today, and that’s “give” and “forgive”. To give is to forgive. Thank you.
Many thanks to Bai for some of her time to talk about her career and future projects. We look forward to what’s in store! Until next time, this has been a rhythm.connection exclusive!