Bai Ling shares the incredible journey that has led her from Tiananmen Square protester to star of April 17’s Crank: High Voltage.
Jason Stratham stars alongside Ling with Amy Smart, who’s also returning to the Crank sequel. As we left Smart’s on-screen boyfriend in the last film, he was falling out of a plane with no parachute. We won’t spoil the details, but as the sequel begins, there by Stratham’s side is Bai Ling as Ria. Stratham’s Chev Chelios saves Ria’s life and, as the old adage goes, now she owes Chev her devotion.
From Tiananmen to Hollywood
Ling’s journey to her blockbuster starring role began in the People’s Republic of China. Few are aware that the young actress entered the military at 14 years old and was sent to Tibet to entertain the locals, as well as the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. After three years among the Tibetan people, Ling came back to the mainland a fierce fighter for democracy.
She was front and center in 1989 at Tiananmen Square as the tanks rolled in to quash the democratic mini-revolt. Ling moved to Los Angeles in 1991 in hopes of parlaying her performance skills into a Hollywood movie career. By 1994, she had secured a starring row in The Crow.The 42-year-old actress is especially proud of her work in 1997’s controversial and thought-provoking Red Corner. Ling played Richard Gere’s Chinese attorney assigned to defend him in a biased Chinese courtroom.
Since Red Corner, Ling has been busy starring alongside some of Hollywood’s hottest, including Ben Affleck (Man About Town), Adrian Grenier (Entourage), Jude Law (Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow) and in 48 other film and television projects.
SheKnows: What is it like for you joining the world of Crank for the sequel?Bai Ling: The world of Crank led me to a rollercoaster of fun with all the surprises, dangers and delightfulness â€” a crazy ride with no protection. I just thought, ‘They are so crazy and so free.’ When we were making the film, we had great times, and the audience will have great times too. It is a wild, exciting ride.
Cranking out hits
SheKnows: How was it working with an actor like Jason Stratham, who is at the top of his game?Bai Ling: I think he is doing a lot of action, of course, but he is a very good dramatic actor. I spent most of the movie glued to him. In the film, he saves my life. From there, I tell him, ‘You saved my life. I’m yours.’ I do all kinds of crazy things with him all through the film. His character has lost his heart, and he has that single goal to find it no matter what it takes. That determination breaks your heart. When I was filming with him, he made me feel it was so real. That’s why I think he has so many more qualities than just as an action star. I think that’s why audiences care for him, because he’s real.SheKnows: Did you get to work with Amy Smart?Bai Ling: Yes,I really like her! She’s down to earth, a very nice person. In the movie, she’s Jason’s girlfriend. My character is following him around trying to be with him; obviously, Amy becomes an obstacle. So what do we do? We have cat fights all the time. Using martial arts, we fight over him. I do some awesome moves, and she hits me. It’s just fun. I get to say the worst possible words you could say to a woman. My character is from ‘the ‘hood.’ I have high-heel shoes but one heel is gone. Mentally, I run through the film like that while I’m trying to help Jason. Amy, too, is crazy. She gets hit, and she gets right back up.SheKnows: Does it depend on the film whether you do your own stunts? I know for Crank: High Voltage, you performed all the stunts.Bai Ling: I always ask for it. I’m naturally athletic because, in my previous life, I was a wild animal. I just knew; it’s easy for me. I tell them, ‘You don’t need a stunt double for me for that.’ If the director is as crazy as I am, he says to go for it. I’m a danger-staring wild child.SheKnows: A part like must be great fun. The thing about a sequel is, they have to make it bigger, faster and better. I can’t think of a better person to be by Jason’s side for the movie than you. Do you feel any pressure personally as a sequel like this comes out?Bai Ling: No, I have no fear. I have no awareness of fear doing my job. I’m just naturally very good.
Ling’s Tao of Tibet
SheKnows: You started performing at 14 for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army…
Bai Ling: Yes, I was a soldier who entertained soldiers and the Tibetan people in Tibet for three years. I lived in Tibet.SheKnows: How did that help you hone a performing craft? What was the experience of walking with the Tibetan people like? That had to be life changing.Bai Ling: I’m actually writing a book about that next year! It was a fascinating experience â€” the most precious in my life. I was only 14. I didn’t even understand the relationship between a man and a woman. When I first got there in the morning, I was handed a book. It was on the rules of relating between a female soldier and a male soldier. For example, you can’t be alone. You can’t talk to a male soldier without any reasons. You just cannot. There were a lot of dangers there, a lot of strict rules for women. We had to carry the water from the river for miles for the whole camp every morning. It was harsh. But, it was also beautiful â€” so beautiful there in the village. It really enriched my soul. I’m a free spirit because of living in that land â€” such a great culture.
SheKnows: You have almost 10 movies coming out or in production for 2009. So how does it feel at this moment to be Bai Ling?
Bai Ling: I’m really grateful for life. I’m really grateful for the people who respected my talent enough to work with me. I’ve been working constantly, non-stop. On the other hand, there’s one thing I hope â€” even though I’m grateful: I think other roles I have been offered are not near the level of my talent as an actress. I’m hungry for those great magical roles like Kate Winslet gets. Like my role in Red Corner. I also won an Asian Academy Award, but here, those roles don’t come along for me. I can make magic. Magic is a beautiful gift as an actress to play all these different characters. Those opportunities, I am open for. In the meantime, I feel great. I celebrate life. I’m single, my heart is open, and I’m delightfully looking forward to every day unfolding.
Exclusive clip from Crank: High Voltage
Bai Ling brings us an inside look into the world of Jason Stratham’s Crank: High Voltage.