Photos by Paul Sun, The Social Trust.
Writer Liz Kim continues her exclusive interview with actress and provocateur Bai Ling as she discusses her role in Alejandro Chomski’s A Beautiful Life and what else is in store. Part 2 of 2.
Audrey Magazine: How did you get involved with A Beautiful Life?
Bai Ling: I got called in the last day before shooting. Denise Richards’ contract didn’t work out and the producer who saw me in Living & Dying thought I was going to be great in it. I met the director at 6 p.m., and we talked. He was very intelligent. He liked me and I liked him. The next morning at 6 a.m. I was sitting in the makeup chair. I just jumped in without reading the script and that was it. Pretty cool. I was pretty brave, but I really like that because sometimes when you have too much time in your hands you start to… I’m a very instinctive actor. Even when I have a script I don’t like to learn it until the last moment. I’m always in the moment.
AM: How do you pick your roles? Is it because you like the producer or director?
BL: I think for me when I’m not thinking I’m a genius and when I’m thinking I’m an idiot. I go by my instincts. I take my chances. I meet the director and see if the energy is going to work. Not the producer, but the director. Because for him, he has a white woman in mind so when I come in, I’m totally different. If he can’t adjust to me, I can’t do it. And I have to feel his energy, and see if I like him. I never think before I work. I just leave my whole body, like an abstract Chinese brush painting, keeping the paper and my heart white and pure. There’s nothing on it. I’m here just to feel the director or the character. Would they make noise, sound, and music in my heart? If I feel I can dance with it, I go. Very instinctive. I also believe that your journey is already there. So if they call me at a certain time and I take the call at that time, there’s a reason. I leave my fate to the world. Like the producer that I knew, he called me and I took the call, and I ended up with this movie. I play this beautiful character, I sing and dance, and I give her all these colors. If I don’t take that step and don’t trust, I’ll never know what gift is there for me. So I trust all the opportunities that come to me as beautiful gifts. So I give my gift as an actress, give my talent to it, and then I receive those gifts to testify.
AM: How does the experience from this movie rank among all the other projects that you have been involved in?
BL: Now that I think about it, there’s a part that’s very important in this movie. She’s a very extreme character. She strips, she sings. She’s out there selling herself, pleasing other people in a downtown erotic club. It’s a very daring, edgy, erotic role. Then I give her other colors like boyfriend complications while in the meantime she’s protecting the souls of two other kids. Very complicated in the meantime pursuing dreams. It’s a very important role. I like other roles, too, but I like those because I’m naturally born with sensuality, sexuality that I like to show off. I never strip in public, but in my nature I have that element as a woman. I enjoy being in the position of seducing men and expressing my sexuality as a woman. I think my eight little spirits all contribute something unique to all my roles so I cannot say which role is better or not. But for me I exist in the now. Whatever role I had I have already given birth like my children, they have their own lives. They have nothing to do with me now and my job is done. When I look at Esther [the character I play], my main attraction to her is that she has her own life already.
AM: Lets talk about your singing. That was your actual voice in the movie. Is this going to lead to a music career?
BL: I’m naturally musical. I think if I’m not an actress I can play violin and a Chinese instrument professionally. I have a great sense of music; it’s just naturally in my soul. My father was a musician and I sang in China, in a Broadway show in the Army to the troops when I was 14. So my whole life I naturally sang and danced. Singing for me is not something new but, of course, the American Jazz stuff was so different from the communist songs in China. When I dance, too, I’m like a wild animal, not just the erotic dancer like you saw in the movie. I get crazy dance disco. When I dance, everyone just stops like a magic power over them. I would say my style is like Michael Jackson. Just on fire, crazy. I just have the animal instinct, and I don’t know what’s wrong with my body. I don’t drink; I’m just naturally high. Because I’m open and I trust. Nature uses me as a tool to express their power. I’m a tool, channel for nature like fire, air, wind, earth, and it’s basically, it’s me. I do not really exist. Like fire dancing, erotic dancing like the wind and seducing.
AM: What other projects do you have planned for the future? Do you want to stay in film or theater, pursue your singing or other things?
BL: I actually have an album already. I wrote 11 songs in it and I’m in the process of getting it out. I also did a film that I directed, produced, starred and shot it. I did everything myself and had my 11 songs in it. It’s called “Nipples Pieces of My Dream.” It’s very unique, contemporary, and a genre of film you’e never seen. Very fast-paced, funny, erotic, and a very personal tale of how I look at the world. It’s in postproduction right now. I also write books. All these things that I’m doing is not because I’m trying to make film or trying to get published, I do it at the time because that’s what I want to do. Nature chooses me to do these things.
AM: If you did well with your book and your spirit told you to continue writing more or pursue other projects, could you consider leaving film altogether?
BL: I don’t know why I’m writing, I don’t think. I just go to Starbucks, drink a latte, and just sit there. I don’t really think, but it just comes. I write like 400 pages. I have never had an obstacle. Like the book is already written, I’m just here to reveal it. Everything comes to me very easy. Like making film was so easy. They ask my editor, “Who are you working with?” and he answers, “Bai Ling, and with no script.” I come in every day with no script, get some footage, and do the editing and formatting while I’m shooting at the same time. I have no clue when I’m writing a book, too, it just comes to me. It’s like, I totally trust my instinct. Like acting, the producer or director asks me if I’m ready, but I’m outside my trailer singing and dancing or talking to my friends, I’m not even thinking. When they turn the camera on, I give them magic. Sometimes I’m so good, but I don’t even know how. They ask me how I did it and I really don’t know. Naturally, I didn’t even think. When the camera is ready, I’m just there at the right moment for my character with the right emotion. Without anything. “What did I just do?” I don’t even remember what I did. To be honest, I never finish reading the script. I never know what the story is. Basically, I shaped and changed it a lot because I had to adjust it to how I feel. I gave it truth. Different actors can act a scene in a different way, but I can bring the complicated emotion. Many rich, pure moments of engaging you. Absorbing you. I glued you because I was in that moment of truth. I just have that ability I don’t know. I give directors exactly what I want. I surrender to my eight little spirits, I totally trust it when I work. I can go shopping, dance, and go crazy but when I’m working, I totally surrender and let them do their magic. Otherwise I won’t be able to do it. I don’t have skill. I never learned acting. I don’t know how my mind processes, I just shot it. I can play any role. I hope producers and directors can see that. I can play a white woman’s role, I can play a man, older, younger, black, Asian kid, transvestite, gay, street. I just want a one combination role that can show my talent as an actress and show what nature has given me. I want something challenging. I trust, I give everything.