The Red Corner
"A lot of my friends asked what's it like working with Jude Law? `He's so handsome,' I said. Well, I'm lucky; I got to kick his butt!" Bai Ling on her role in Sky Captain And The World of Tomorrow (2004).
Chinese actress Bai Ling (now American) first raised public awareness while portraying attorney Shen Yuelin in the controversial film Red Corner in 1997 (alongside Richard Gere). Initially playing roles in such films as Hu guang (1988), The Crow (1994) and Nixon (1995), Ling received more notice for acting in recent films like Face (2002), Beautiful Country (2003), My Baby's Daddy (2003), Paris (2003), Sky Captain, World of Tomorrow (2004), and Lords of Dogtown (2005).
Ling recently made headlines for her cut scenes in the new released film Star Wars: Episode 3 - Revenge of The Sith. The actress blamed her posing for the June 2005 issue of Playboy magazine for her cast outing. She said, "I posed for Playboy and it may have been doing that which upset George Lucas, the "Star Wars" creator and director."
Lucas denied this by saying that the cut had been made the previous year, before Ling posed for the magazine.
5' 3" inch tall Bai Ling was listed as one of People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People in the World in 1998. As for her private life, she is involved with rock musician Chris Isaak (born June 26, 1956).
Childhood and Family:
Daughter of a music teacher and a stage actress, Bai Ling was born on October 10, 1970, in Chengdu, China. Arriving toward the end of the Cultural Revolution, Ling's parents received harsh treatment from the government due to their professions. Her parents sent baby Ling to Sichuan, where her grandmother raised her.
Ling sang in the school choir and served in the People's Liberation Army when she reached 14. In the camp Ling entertained the soldiers, but surrounded by tobacco and alcohol, suffered from depression which ended in hospitalization. Afterwards, she signed up with a local theater group in Beijing and performed in both Chinese and Western productions.
Bai Ling, who's name means White Spirit in English, attended the New York University's film department as a visiting scholar (1991) and worked on her acting skills at the Lee Strasberg Institute during the same year. She currently resides in Marina Del Rey, California.
Dreams of Tibet
"Like many Asian actors, I wanted to learn to speak English so I could do western films. The best way is to come to America where you will be forced to learn the language first-hand." Bai Ling
Formerly singing and dancing to entertain soldiers at an Army camp in Tibet, Bai Ling joined a community theater in Beijing to perform productions of both traditional Chinese and modern Western plays. After splashing across the screen in Wen Zhao's Shan cun feng yue (1987), Ling landed her first starring role, that of mentally ill Jing Huan in Jun-Zhao Zheng's drama Hu guang (1988, a.k.a. Arc Light), which was screened at the Moscow Film Festival.
Ling flew to the United States as a visiting scholar to the New York University's Department of Film and sharpened her acting talent at the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute. After mastering English, Ling appeared as a cameo in Bernardo Bertolucci's Little Buddha (1994, starring Keanu Reeves). She made her America film debut playing villainous Myca in Alex Proyas' version of James O'Barr's dark comic book series The Crow (1994, Brandon Lee's final performance). She followed it up with being cast in John Feldman's dark, romantic comedy-mystery, Dead Funny (also in 1994, with Andrew McCarthy and Elizabeth Peña). She also appeared on television, being spotted as a guest in the series Homicide: Life on the Street.
After appearing in the little-seen TV movie Dead Weekend (1995), Ling rebounded with the small role of a Chinese interpreter in Oliver Stone's biopic Nixon (also in 1995, starring Anthony Hopkins). She also guest starred in an episode of the series The Cosby Mysteries.
Bai Ling broke into the Hollywood movie scene in 1997, thanks to the portrayal of Shen Yuelin, a Chinese attorney defending an American journalist on assignment in China, in Jon Avnet's crime drama Red Corner (costarring Richard Gere). The film raised controversy for revealing the Chinese court system and human rights abuses, and later was banned in both China and North Korea. However, the role earned Ling a National Board of Review Award for Best Breakthrough Performer and the US subsequently gave her US citizenship in 1999.
"I was aware of the possibility for repercussions when I accepted the role... But I felt I needed to take the chances because the problems in China need to be exposed to the world." Bai Ling
The rest of the 1990s saw Bai Ling portray Sandra Bernhard's best friend, Chinese immigrant Lu Lu, in Ramin Niami's drama comedy Somewhere in the City (1998). She also played supporting roles in such big-budget movies as Barry Sonnenfeld's western Wild Wild West (alongside Will Smith and Kevin Kline) and Andy Tennant's adaptation of English widow Anna Leonowens' diary writings, the epic Anna and the King (starring Oscar-winner Jodie Foster and Asian actor Yun-Fat Chow). In order to play the role of Tuptim in the film, Ling had to cut off her long black silky hair. Meanwhile, she also appeared as a guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Touched by an Angel.
Entering the new millennium, Ling became Jon Bon Jovi's love interest in Sollace Mitchell's romantic drama Row Your Boat (2000) and played vampire Lucy Westenra in Michael Oblowitz's sci-fi action film The Breed (2001, opposite Bokeem Woodbine and Adrian Paul). After returning to the small screen by playing the Goddess of Mercy in the action tale The Lost Empire (2001), Ling played bit parts in such movies as Point of Origin (2002, TV), Taxi 3 (2003) and The Extreme Team (2003). She also costarred with Nick Cornish and Vanessa Marcil in Terry Cunningham's sci-fi action Storm Watch (2002, a.k.a. Code Hunter) and starred as Kristy Wu's estranged mother in Bertha Bay-Sa Pan's directorial debut Face (2002). Afterwards, she reunited with director Ramin Niami to portray James Russo's girlfriend, an illegal Chinese immigrant who was trapped in prostitution, in Paris (2003, also starring Chad Allen).
As for her recent films, Ling was cast in such films as Cheryl Dunye's comedy My Baby's Daddy, Hans Petter Moland's The Beautiful Country (as Damien Nguyen's woman) and appeared in Spike Lee's dramatic comedy She Hate Me, as well as Fruit Chan and Takashi Miike's horror comedy Three... Extremes (all in 2004). After costarring with Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law and Giovanni Ribisi in Kerry Conran's sci-fi action film Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004), Ling appeared in Catherine Hardwicke's surfing/skateboarding movie, Lords of Dogtown (2005, starring Emile Hirsch).
Ling was supposed to be seen in the newly released Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, but unfortunately was cut from the film. However she will revive with her upcoming film projects, costarring with Ben Affleck in Mike Binder's drama Man About Town and with William H. Macy and Julia Stiles in Stuart Gordon's film, inspired by David Mamet's play, Edmond.
Soon Ling will include writing to her talents. She reportedly will launch her book about her Chinese army experiences titled A Cloud Falling From The Sky: Dreams of Tibet. Being asked about her first book, she said, "I'm writing a book about my experiences there. I've already written 320 pages and I feel it's towards the end. The purpose of writing it is just for me, but maybe one day I'll make it into a movie... I can see the colors - when I served in Tibet, everything was brown, the dust was brown. I remember there were jeeps that would always come on the weekends to our base to visit. I always picture the jeep as this orange color. Behind the jeep was this dust turning around like a beautiful dragon in the wind." She added, "My book is very sexual, very provocative, very cruel, very sad, but very beautiful."
- National Board of Review: Best Breakthrough Performer, Red Corner, 1997
- Golden Apple: Female Discovery of the Year, 1997