Bai Ling has always caused some sort of controversy wherever she goes. Whether it’s slipping out of her dress, posing in Playboy or singing off-key, she’s always managed to maintain a cool and calm demeanor. Now you will see Bai in a more serious light as she shows off her acting talent in a spot on one of the most popular shows on television today, Lost. I got a chance to catch up with Bai Ling at a Golden Globes’ after party where she looked sleeker and sexier than ever.
ASIANCE: What are you working on now?
Bai: I just finished shooting Lost, which comes out February 21st. It was something really fun. You know what’s funny? I don’t watch television. I was flying back from Germany and I only had 2 or 3 days here. I was totally jetlagged. I had no time to prepare and my agency told me this was a good audition.
I had to prepare to get this job. I got there and there were 20 or 30 girls there. I was uncomfortable. It was a strange audition. The casting director came out and I felt like I was jetlagged in space, like I really wasn’t real. I was in a fantasy world, like I was in a dream. So I just did it and they were impressed that I gave so much emotion and depth to the character.
I felt kind of uncomfortable, like I was emotionally naked being observed by others. Later when I was reading the script, I didn’t really understand what I was reading. The following day I got the part and was flying to Hawaii. I was supposed to be a judge for the Rio Film Festival and flying that day. I already had the ticket and spent over a month with them preparing for this trip. I was looking forward to it after shooting Shanghai Baby but I had to cancel this trip after I got this job. I told them honestly, I hope you understand but this was for work. I decided 3 days before not to go, but that’s life.
If people try to trash me, they should also try to celebrate me. All these people who try to portray me as this trashy stupid girl don’t even know me.
Everyone in the Lost production was so nice. I kept thinking how lucky I am to be on the white sand beaches with the blue ocean. I was being paid to do the job that I love to do. Hawaii is so much more laid back and people there are generally happier and calmer. Everybody there was so nice.
When I was shooting Shanghai Baby I had to go to the hospital. They asked if I ever watched Lost and I had never seen it before, although it was really popular. It’s very popular in Asia too. I think what they are doing is better than other shows. I can’t wait to see it. They’re doing a huge promotion for it too.
I also just filmed Southland Tales, which was a modern, hip, futuristic musical. I played Serpentine, a modern day Greta Garbo who is sexy, funny, magical and mysterious. The movie has a unique pop culture direction and stars a top ensemble cast with Sarah Michelle Gellar, Justin Timberlake and Mandy Moore. We’re all recklessly connected and it was directed by a young, hip, handsome director. This was the first film I did that was in competition at Cannes. The European audience loved it. Sony is releasing it in April.
ASIANCE: Tell us more about Shanghai Baby.
Bai:I just finished the lead in Shanghai Baby. It is based on one of the best selling books from China. It has already been translated into 36 languages. Basically Shanghai Baby is totally different from the book. I wanted to make her extremely intelligent and hip and a 22nd Century woman, reflecting what Shanghai is today. Shanghai is one of the most fascinating places in the world right now. I also recently was the host on CNN’s show, The Scene, and I am basically the spokesperson for Shanghai. You can look up what I did on cnn.com. It highlights everything that I love about the city. There are pictures, restaurants, hotspots, night clubs and interviews.
ASIANCE: How do you feel you identify with the lead character of Shanghai Baby?
Bai: I cut my hair, and basically the director was more conservative than me. The spirit in me felt like I had to do something different. I went to Frederic Fekkai and had my hair chopped really short. So when I arrived in Shanghai, I was kind of nervous since the producer/ director hadn’t seen what I had done. I wanted funky hair, so this German hairstylist put in leopard spots. The costumes were really sexy. I wanted to make the character a modern day woman. I wanted to make her young, beautiful and intelligent, but also as glamorous as a model.
She’s part of a western future modern young woman in Shanghai and Berlin. Her character is openly naked showing her struggle. She doesn’t know what she wants. She has her own struggles in her complex personality. It’s a bit like me. I gave her so many colors and spirits that I have. I can’t wait to see it. It’s beautiful. There’s a lot of struggle. She is lost and confused
A lot of people and the media want to trash me. One time I wore a dress that was too big and my nipple showed. As a young woman, I should be able to wear what I want. Yet there is another element about me that people don’t see, one that comes through my work.
If people try to trash me, they should also try to celebrate me. All these people who try to portray me as this trashy stupid girl don’t even know me. They don’t even know 5% of me and I feel like the media pushes me to a blind extreme which is totally wrong. They don’t talk about how many movies I’ve been in or the number of top directors I’ve worked with or the range of my body of work. I’m not worried because I’m a very colorful and versatile person and that will come out. I’m good at what I do, but I’m portrayed sometimes as this dumb girl from China who has no job. Its 2007, I can do what I want. But unfortunately, a lot of people are mean spirited, but it will eventually damage their life because I’m still going to be me and do what I love.
Right now I’m writing a book about my life and I’m going to make a movie about it myself. Mean spirited people will only make themselves more unhappy and jealous and envious of other people.
For me I have the potential of being a model, singer, and actor. I’m very happy to do whatever comes along my way. I’m very lucky. I love the camera. It is fascinating to show the camera the truth. Sometimes I trust the camera, especially when that moment is frozen in time and you can’t duplicate it, only the camera captures it. It’s kind of fascinating.
I’m doing this book with a German photographer. We’re having an exhibition in February in Berlin. It has beautiful pictures from Shanghai. Hopefully Shanghai Baby will be selected for the Berlin Film Festival and hopefully I’ll be there for it.
I may be going to the French Tahiti Film Festival, but right now I’m really concentrating on finishing my book. It started when I was shooting Shanghai Baby, especially when it was about a best selling book. So many people were curious, so I think I’m responsible. I have a voice about my shooting that will be fascinating for the audience. We were shooting everyday, sometimes for 16 hours a day. I felt like I had no life. I even had to go to the hospital and enjoyed being in the hospital so much even more than the luxurious suite I had. I was so happy there. I had an IV. The nurse would bring me breakfast. I looked outside the window and saw normal people. I felt so happy. It was away from the chaotic shooting set, it was too much work, too much stress.
Then we went to Berlin to shoot. I was thinking that my life is so much larger than the story of the book. I used my life as a setting. It will be called “My Life as a Movie Star”. It’s a fascinating look at the psychological fantasy of the movie set against what is going on in my real life and my love life. It’s all tangled together. As an example, my costar in the movie is madly in love with this guy. They have to be intimate and make love. I thought, “How am I going to adjust, how am I going to do this?”, when in real life we keep a distance from each other. I’m not sure why. But when we’re on the set we have to do this, how am I going to do this scene as an actress and be intimate in front of all of the crew members. I felt like I was a bit dirty and was betraying myself because intimate love between two people should be private. In order for other people to see it you must make it public, it messes with your mind.
Actors are very vulnerable. They have a lot to lose and become confused. Everything I’ve experienced I have written down since September very truthfully and very magically. When I was writing it, I was thinking I wanted to make it into a movie, very innovative, modern and contemporary, like a new genre of a movie. I feel very frustrated as an actress. I feel like I want to share this gift but there is no place for me to display this gift. I feel very limited. I feel like I should do it myself.
Life has a way of working things out. Yesterday this producer called me. I told him about this book and making this film. I told him I’m going to write it, direct it and star in it. This is something I need to do because I don’t want to waste my life partying or waiting for a phone call. In the meantime I’m writing this book, I don’t have a publisher but I hope someone will approach me. I don’t want my book to be highly edited either. I want it to read the way I’m writing it. This is something I’m very excited about.
ASIANCE: Who are you dating these days?
Bai:Whatever I say, it goes into the public and could get me in trouble. I’m such a romantic. I hope eventually I’ll have the love in my real life because I want to have a family more and more. I feel like I’m living the life of a movie star but I’d love to have somebody that can be with me and have a simple beautiful love and a normal family.
I felt like,”Why am I here?” He was pushing me to take pictures and finally I ran into Steven Spielberg. Then I felt like it was worth going.
I’m really grateful for whatever happens. I’m very appreciative of what I have. I’ll keep working. When you read my book there will be controversy there. I don’t know how it will work out. Hopefully the opportunity will present itself to me. I reveal a lot of things that are personal and dear to me. I’m confused and things I cherished so many things so precious to me lot of love, beauty sadness struggle and tender heart there its very poetic.
I started before Christmas and so far I have 130 pages. It’s quick. I write everyday. If I didn’t go out so much I would already have a book done. When you go out you don’t have time to write, you have to force yourself if you don’t have a deadline. I don’t want it too long. A simple book, 150 pages, an easy read. It would be fascinating. You never think about it but that’s how it really feels. It’s really interesting. I start to learn about things I wasn’t aware of. Hopefully I capture a lot of wisdom and people can learn something
ASIANCE: What did you think of the Golden Globes?
Bai: I didn’t want to go to the Golden Globes. I felt like since I didn’t have any film there, I wasn’t going to go. I was comfortably dressed. I was going to write my book here at Starbucks. Suddenly, a friend called me who already made an offer to me and he wanted me to go to meet a writer and director. He thought we could talk about the film at the party. When I got there, I saw this sea of people. I didn’t feel like I needed to be there. I felt like why am I here? He was pushing me to take pictures and finally I ran into Steven Spielberg. Then I felt like it was worth going. Sometimes there are things you have to go through in order to find the beauty in life to find the gold. You never know. I saw him and this was the first time I ever met him.
He had these very soulful eyes, almost like he was innocent and vulnerable. I said to him that I am a great admirer of your work, and I would really, really love to work with him one day. And he looked at me and said, “I am great admirer of your work.” I looked at him and I was shocked. I was very appreciative that he said that to me. He didn’t have to say anything to me. He could have said, “Thank you” or whatever. I feel something very positive and beautiful. Hopefully one day we will work together and create some beautiful art. I felt like there was some force making me go there to meet him. I believe in that. You have to believe in fate. I am always a great admirer of scientists. They are the true celebrities. People should worship them. Like the telephone and internet. Without them, look how different our lives would be. You can get all the information you want so easily. I feel like all the scientists had a dream and created magic. I want to dream beautiful things. When I won the diversity award I was so nervous. I feel like there is so much you can give as an actress. It’s something I really want to give that’s precious and beautiful.
Photos by Luke Duval www.lukeduval.com