A woman who needs no introduction, Bai Ling is a Chinese actress known for her work in films such as The Crow, Red Corner and Crank 2. She has also done some television work to include Entourage and Lost. Bai Ling was voted one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world by People magazine, and received the Spirit Diversity Award by The Hollywood Motion Picture Association. We sit down and talk about a variety of topics ranging from her upcoming films, her CD debut with her first single called “REHAB” out on iTunes now, and her first book called “Naked in Tibet” that will be published soon. Read below for the full interview…
We heard you just came back from Spain! How was it serving as a jury member for the international film festival? As a Jury member, you are now on the “other side”. How do you feel about this new position?
Bai: Spain is so beautiful, it was a honor to be the jury member for the San Sebastian International Film festival, and I was the only Asian in the jury! I am proud! I watched so many wonderful movies because I was the member of the jury, otherwise I would not be able to watch these many movies from all over the world in such a short time. It was a lot of work, sometimes we watched four movies [a] day, and we held a lot of implausibilities, because the filmmakers spent years making them and [it] is from their heart and soul. I love to be on the other side of this position, because it makes me much more objective and less indulging as just an actress. It also makes me feel it is so hard to make a really perfect movie, so it gives me an opportunity to appreciate much more as an artist because we framed in an art format of a moving painting, it’s beautiful to know the romance in films because I am not to involved in it. Because of this I was very generous when it comes to giving an award, because we all should win.
Is being a jury member just like being a student again? Where you see a film and analyze it similar to how actors usually study films when they start their careers?
Bai: Not really, because I was not there to learn to make a film, but to appreciate its perfection and emotions. Technical is easy, but the heart of the truth and the emotions of the raw passion are the keys to making a brilliant movie, or make any art brilliant, and that is the part that is interesting to me.
Over the years we know you became unhappy with the way the media portrayed you. Was it even harder trying to reverse that image knowing the ‘wild child days’ are behind you?
Bai: Yes, it is hard, because I do not really know what exactly is the right way to be Bai Ling, I am many parts, like all of you. I have eight little spirits that live inside me and influence me and play with me. It is a puzzle, also a wonderful mystery, [and] that’s why I am an excellent actress, because I represent all the complexities of life, of human beings, and the magic of our universe. But, I know in Society we have rules, laws, right and wrong, and I will just have to respect that and be the elegant Bai Ling I always am. Yes, I was dressed too sexy at times and too free, but now I know, I want people to know remember and respect me in an elegant intelligent way, because in that way I will have all the respectful wonderful roles that actor’s dreamed of. I will have to leave that little wild child behind me. Actually, now I found a perfect place for my wild child— my music! As you might know, I just released a song called “Rehab” which I am very proud of it, because I made it entirely by myself, from the music, lyrics and recoded all by myself within five hours. Such a joy and fun making music, and I want you [all] to listen to it because it’s so unprecedented. It’s a crazy fast beat club song but with a beautiful message behind it, as if I am your lover. Yes, it’s a touching love song as well:
In terms of how you approach films and what roles you play, what is your creative thought process now, versus a few years ago?
Bai: Very much the same, I am a person [that] believes in personal power, a unique gift we call talent. For me, acting is about trust, for actors you are playing a human being, it’s about the human emotions that we are expressing. Emotions are like wild rivers, there is no format, no rules and no boundaries. It is as free as our mind and our random lives, so I very much act on my instincts. Of course I know it’s not my journey, [and that] I need to know my character’s story, but it’s me who reacts when things happen. If I trust my truth, then my reaction will be correct for my character because I am in her journey and story. I am having fun when I act, I am free, therefor magic always happens, because I let room for it to happen, like real life. Acting to me is not really acting, I am giving you my truth, my life, and my raw emotions. It’s hard to do, but it’s the only way for me to secretly walk on fire.
14 years after starring in Red Corner, is there still some controversy lingering surrounding your role in your homeland?
Bai: China has changed so tremendously, I cannot even hide my crazy excitement every time I talk about China. It is so exciting now, every time I go back to China, just to see and feel the happiness in people’s heart and face, and most exciting is that I have so many fans who loves me. They are so excited to suddenly recognized me on the streets, from their windows, or in a restaurant, I am indeed their role model. It is moving to my heart all over the world, I always have fans who surprise me in a touching way.
The other day I was in a store trying on clothes and a woman walked in and asked if i was Bai Ling. I said “yes”, and then she held my hands and tears rolled down on her cheeks. She said: “Bai Ling, you don’t even know how many people you have touched, how many people you have helped, and how many people that you don’t even know that love you. You inspired so many, you are the voice of the silent”. Yes there is no reason not to welcome me to China, because I love China, and I am doing everything to scream to the world that whatever I have contributed, it is all because of Chine and the beautiful Chinese culture that is in my soul. When the Chinese American film festival is here, the government officials always invite me as their VIP guest. I am grateful. [As a] matter of fact many directors invited me to work in their movies in China, so you will find me in Chinese movies very soon.
Can you tell us about some of your projects you have coming out? We are especially excited for Corporate Cougars, a dark comedy about reverse sexual discrimination involving a powerful, sexy female boss. We are hoping you play this sexy boss!
Bai: I have a frew projects in the process, all are strong solid roles. One is called “Padora’s Box”, and I play a psychiatrist. Very intellegant, sexy, dangerous woman! It’s a muder mystery, like “Dress to kiss”, and another action movie I play a body guard, and my own project “Rose 13” is in the process. Yes, “Corporate Cougars” is a wonderful project, I am so excited to play the role and the film is in the final process. Life is smiling to me and doors are opening, but mostly, I enjoy being Bai Ling. The new, fresh, healthy, sober Bai Ling, we need to enjoy life besides work, that’s our mission and gift in life everyday and every moment.
We know you know what you want to present to the world in terms of your acting and what kind of roles you want to grab in the future. But, would you ever revisit any films you did in the past? For instance, if a script for Crank 3 was written and your character came back, would you be open to something like that?
Bai: In art I am open to anything, its all a fun and joyous. Plus, I got the gift for it! Yes, if “Crank 3” come along and has Ria back, my character, I will make her even more brilliantly crazy and funny as she is already is. So much crazy fun, in fact I think she must come back, because lots of people watch the movie many times because they like her.
Director Steven Soderbergh plans to retire from filmmaking to focus more on his art. As an actress who juggles songwriting and music, as well as acting, do you ever feel exhausted and feeling compelled to focus more on film or music? Or do you enjoy working on both?
Bai: Steven Soderbergh should not retire, because I haven’t worked with him yet and he is one of the directors I really want to work with. I do music, it is because its easy and purely fun for me. Like I said, it gives my wild child something to do. I will continue to do so as I already have some wonderful ideas. But film is my heart, [it] is where my true gift is, because I can create any role that will move your heart to laughter or in tears. I touch hearts, that’s my gift because I give everything and I am real. Also you might not know, I write books too, I have a book almost done called: “Naked in Tibet”. It’s about my experience when I was 14 in Tibet as a soldier for three years.
So, we were curious to ask if you would ever consider doing voice acting for an Anime film and/or series?
Bai: Yes, I would love to do voice for a movie and TV series. Voice has its own life and charm and power, as I would like to do some big animation films, because I have an alluring sexy voice. [I] think it will make any character powerfully seductive….. I did a TV series and I gave my voice to a Panda. Yes, panda baby! I made her so cute.
We usually end each interview requesting you tell any up-and-coming actress some advice on how to better themselves and their career. For you however, we know you’ve gone through some big life changes and we want to know if there is any single piece of advice you could share surrounding your new outlook on life and how to remain positive?
Bai: Life is a gift, we are very lucky to be just alive, to breath the magic air we are not even aware of. To keep my life and thoughts positive, is to really appreciate life and appreciate what we have and who we are. If I will give any advice to the young actors, I would say: follow your heart, do not do it for fame, do not do it for money, because that will never get you there. Do things you love and the things that you naturally have talent for, that will make you a star. [It] does not matter what that is, because we all have a special gift that no one has, so find that gift and give the gift away, all the way, then you will find your dear dream and be so happy. And in life there are two words I would like to share: Give and forgive.
Want to keep tabs on the many projects Bai has going on? Follow her cookie crumb trail below: