Life really is beautiful for Chinese actress Bai Ling. In a recent interview with Blast, she filled us in on her “eight little spirits” (self-proclaimed multiple personas) and her new film, “A Beautiful Life,” which premiered October 2nd in select cities.
Fresh off the plane from New York City, Ling was still giddy and giggling about the highlight of her press junket trip – appearing on the Howard Stern show. A video on her website, shows how she unabashedly dressed like Stern and “danced around like crazy” for him. What does a Stern look-a-like wear, one may ask? Well, this free-spirited actress’s Stern interpretation involved a large afro wig, a midriff-baring red silk top and tight-ass leather pants.
“Watch me and join me on the shiny dance floor if you are depressed baby, I will light your fire and make you laugh!” Ling said on her site, directing fans to the Youtube video of her provocative little shimmy with Stern. It was like watching an episode of “So You Think You Can Dance” gone wrong. It is clear Bai Ling is a carefree personality with a deviant indifference to the judgment of others.
Ling literally orchestrated this interview, which was unsurprising after watching her dominate the larger-than-life personality of Howard Stern.
That persona, she says, (one of her eight), is “the one you see on the red carpet- this crazy, out of her mind little girl who just wants to have fun and dress sexy and show herself in public.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Bai Ling, the loquacious and energetic actress with whom I am speaking. This Bai ling, she says, is profound, intelligent and sophisticated. She is the serious professional who takes every role she lands to a new, unique level.
Successful actors become someone else when they are good at their craft. The line between acting and reality is blurry in the life of Bai Ling and her “eight little spirits”. The consistent irrationality of her being(s) is both captivating and endearing.
In Alejandro Chomsky’s “A Beautiful Life,” Ling plays Esther, a woman struggling to realize her dream of becoming a rock star by working as a stripper to pay the bills. Ling said she gave this character “a delightful innocence of fun.” Despite tough circumstances, Ling portrayed Esther as a life-loving woman. She sang for the first time in a film, wore no makeup and embraced taking off her clothes.
“I gave her many colors” she said.
The film deals with sexual abuse, violence and love. When asked if it was difficult for her to be in such an emotionally taxing and heavy film, she said both yes and no. Ling said that it is sad but important to learn about, witness and deal with “demons and tortures.” She briefly alluded to tortures she witnessed in Tibet as a 14-year-old army artist in the People’s Liberation Army while entertaining in the musical theater. A book about her life experiences in Tibet is coming out soon.
Ling says she does not identify specifically with her character, Esther. She didn’t have a lot of time to prepare and acted mostly on instinct.
“I wanted the audience to see different dimensions of a woman – complex personalities,” Ling said. “Very vulnerable and provocative and very innocent.”
Acting was always in the cards for Bai Ling. It came naturally to her; she yearned to move people and show them the beauty and complexity of a woman. Ling’s father taught music and her mother was a dancer. They formatted her soul, she said, with nature, poetry and music. She calls herself a passenger, blindly following her journey.
“It’s not about Bai Ling,” she said. “It’s about this gift I have to give.”
Her life journey took her from China to Hollywood via New York, where she briefly landed, neither knowing a word of English nor one person in the city.
“People thought I was crazy,” Ling said. “For me, I don’t see the obstacles. I just see the beauty I want to express.”
Eventually making her way to Tinsel Town in the early nineties, Ling has since had many major and minor parts in titles including “The Crow,” “Anna and the King,” “Entourage,” and “Lost.” She posed for Playboy in 2005 (or, shall we say, the sexy crazy Bai Ling did) and also appeared on VH1’s reality series “But Can They Sing?”
In her next role, Ling will portray a man in a boxing film that will shoot in Houston, TX. Ling was given the choice of two roles: the hero’s girlfriend (“kind of boring” she said), or the owner of a UFC type organization. She chose the latter. Ling has actually played several parts that were originally written for different actors, including Esther in “A Beautiful Life,” which was originally intended for Denise Richards.
“I enjoy these things because they were not written for me,” Ling said. “You have to have some magical power to pull off these roles. You cannot just be a little girl. You have to have something other worldly, magical.”
Other worldly? Perhaps. Bai Ling is certainly no plain Jane. She’s very open (maybe a bit too much so) about her natural talent. One might consider her arrogant. But with Bai Ling it’s different. Like her characters, she is complicated and multifaceted. This will always be the cornerstone for her approach to acting which is to seek more challenging roles in which she can portray the diverse aspects of a woman.
“Maybe it’s something to do with the sexuality and the modern openness of freedom that I have” she said. A modern day Casablanca would be her dream come true.
While passionate and spirited, Ling is sweet and honest. She loves her family and misses them, especially around the holidays. All are in Asia, where she says the communist reality is beautiful. She prefers the freedom in America and enjoys unhindered travel between the two locations.
“U.S. is like my lover or boyfriend,” Ling said, “and China is my grandparents.”
Following the screening of “A Beautiful Life” in New York, a tearful gentleman came over and squeezed Ling’s hand. He told her she moved him, a mere stranger, so deeply. She couldn’t believe it, but I most certainly can. After chatting with this fascinating woman for quite some time, it is clear to me that this unique talent she speaks of certainly has a bright and promising future.
“A Beautiful Life” premiered October 2nd in limited release and will be in all theaters in late 2009.