Bai Ling: Siamese Dream

It’s to imagine how one woman accomplishes so much and travels so far to fulfill her destiny, but not for Bai Ling.  At fourteen, she served 3 years in the People’s Liberation Army in China, later exiled for her role as a justice-seeking public defender in Red Corner.  She sought refuge in Hollywood, and has since been in over two dozen films, including Oliver Stone’s Nixon, Spike Lee’s She Hate Me, and most recently the Sci-Fi hit, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. But Bai Ling has more in store for her audiences: a new book soon to be released entitled A Clock Falling From the Sky: Dreams of Tibet, a pictorial with Playboy, a role in the final installment of Star Wars, and her movie still in production, Man About Town.

Her acting talents landed her a nomination for Taiwan’s coveted Golden Horse movie award for best supporting actress in Three Extremes. Light-hearted, wise, and evocative, Bai Ling is one of the sexiest people alive according to people magazine and with good reason.  I spoke with Bai Ling on the set of her upcoming movie to discover this multifaceted beauty is more than a sex-symbol.

TC: How do you like Vancouver?

BL: I like it very much. It’s very cold and raining, but somehow it’s kind of romantic.

TC: I understand you had your beginnings serving in the People’s liberation army in China.

BL: Yes I served for three years. My book, a clock falling from the sky: Dreams of Tibet, which will be out soon, is about my experiences there.

TC: And from there you had a bout with depression that put you in the hospital?

BL: Well, it was a big transition in my life. When you’re fourteen, you don’t understand a lot of things. You get tortured, because you’re supposed to be open and talk to everybody, but the reality is much more harsh than that. So I began to go back to myself to question why. My body did not adjust very well to the coldness and harshness of the high altitude. You had to get up very early to train and it was really tough on a fourteen year old girl.

TC: From there you became a Chinese movie star.

BL: (Laughs) Yeah! When I think back on the journey of my life, it seems like a miracle. Everything just…happened and for me. There was just this tenderness of love to nature, music, and poem. That’s basically what I grew up with. Those three things formed me and I’m really sensitive and appreciative of those things. I think these things gave me reach into this inside world, giving me the sensitivity and passion to give back to others through my acting. I found it as a gift I had to give. Because of that I think I’m lucky because of my goal and what I’m doing is so pure and real and passionate. And the path just unfolds for me by itself, by nature.

TC: You worked with on stage with Andrejz Wajda on “Sansho the Bailiff”, what was that experience like for you and how is it different from working on movies?

BL: In a way, Acting is acting. Every moment that I’m on stage, I am quite truthfully there in the moment. There’s no game and from the stage to the screen it’s the exact same way in experiencing the truth there. Except on stage, of course, you have to speak louder (laughs).

TC: You first received international attention with “Red Corner”, where you co-starred with Richard Gere and the Chinese government took offense to this movie for the civil liberty violations this movie exposed. For the role you played as Chinese public defender, they cancelled your passport and exiled you. Has the situation changed?

BL: Actually, about two months ago, an article in the Chinese newspapers stated that Bai Ling has a very good attitude towards the government and they extended their warmth and apologized. Through communication and many years of trying, I can go back to China and work there.

TC: Do you ever get homesick? Today, I got nominated for the Taiwan Oscar, but I can’t be there. But I made a little speech saying that I feel lonely and sad like a gypsy in the western world, but then I see that so many people care for me and support me over a long distance. When somebody cares for you but you don’t even know it, I feel very thankful. As I grow older, I become much more innocent, simple and grateful. I’m just basically living in the moment, and I leave the things that belong in the future because I’m not supposed to know it. I’m existing in this moment as a gift to me, because in life I have the opportunity to love, to give, to work, to enjoy, to smile. All these wonderful things. I’m very positive and enjoy a simple and beautiful way of looking at life.

TC: The book, the movies, the photo shoots I think would take a lot of energy. How do you relax?

BL: Well, actually, sometimes I feel like I’m not here, that I’m not really connected to the reality here. I feel like I’m hanging in the air, floating. You know, What I really enjoy doing nothing and take a long time to take one step or stand there and watch the wind go by or watch nothing. Just to sit there, doing nothing. I like that.

TC: So generally, do you think in Chinese or English?

BL:  When I’m thinking, I’m lost in my thoughts so I don’t know! But when I dream there’s no language. In my dreams, there’s usually only music or silence. My mind is oddly formatted, and I think in my previous life I was a wild animal. As a child, I was extremely shy. I still have a shyness, but I’m challenging myself to overcome it and be open. But in my nature when I was 10 or 12, I might say two words a day. I just didn’t talk, and I found this beautiful inner world. In acting, I found there was a lot of fear in me. When I figured out why, I realized when I was a wild animal running around in nature, I had a lot of privacy. Then I became adopted in human form with this body, but I don’t know how to behave because of society’s rules. But as I grow more comfortable as a human being, I learn to adapt. So that’s what I’ve learned from my journey, that I was a wild animal transforming into a human body but still carry that wild, sexy, animal side. And with humans I’m kind of shy and don’t know how to behave–sometimes break the rules and say things that are weird or outrageous.

TC: I’ve noticed you talking a lot about nature and personal paths that brought you to these points in your life. I was curious to know if you had any philosophical leanings. LB: Yeah, I think that miracles happen when you deliberately pursue your dreams. If you’re really passionate about something, then you are destined for that purpose. We all have that inner world, we all have that inner reason and special talent. I feel lucky to have found that and be able to express emotions in different characters in the moment and in a truthful way. If you trust your true self, there is a gift there. And then things happen to you like…like, every time I play a character it’s like this mysterious, invisible being that’s changing you. It’s a romance, it’s a love affair, it’s a tango together. You just have to be careful and let it happen to you. I believe in fate. I believe that for the individual, it’s already there. Your job is to be there and be good enough to take that role and shine the best you can.

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