Sexy, bold, and multi-talented, Bai Ling remains one of the film industry’s top actresses. With a career that spans the entire globe, she has appeared in several high-profile films such as The Crow, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, and Revenge of the Sith, as well as numerous guest spots on shows like “Angel” and “Entourage.” Ms. Ling recently garnered worldwide critical acclaim for her intense performance in Fruit Chan’s “Dumplings”, the notorious film featured in the anthology frightfest Three…Extremes (now on DVD, get it here). Dread Central recently had a chance to speak with her about what it was like to tackle such a challenging character.
Andrew Kasch: I heard you just wrapped Southland Tales with Richard Kelly.
Bai Ling: Yeah. I think that movie’s gonna be great.
AK: Did you do any singing in that?
BL: I did. Y’know, it’s funny, cause in this reality show I’m singing “Like a Virgin.” It’s a song I really don’t want to sing, because [Madonna’s] voice is very high. I have a naturally low voice. So while we were filming Southland Tales, one day I was at home, not working, and Richard sent me this tape of Madonna’s video “Vogue.” I had never seen it in my life and I said ,”You must give me the lyrics to learn. I can learn this!”, but then I got really nervous. Then he said, “No, you just have to learn the movements.” So I’m dancing sort of like that. Very mysterious! Very sexy!
AK: Regarding Three… Extremes…
BL: I’m not good with computers, but yesterday I logged onto the website for Three…Extremes for the first time. I saw my “three faces” and they looked so scary! On that poster I’m screaming and laughing and looking crazy, and I asked myself, “Who is that?”
BL: Two days ago, I came back from a premiere of Dumplings, which is a longer version of the short in Three…Extremes. I hope you and the fans out there get a chance to watch the long one. It’s very different. There’s a fifteen-minute lovemaking scene that’s very provocative. You also have this eight-minute abortion scene which isn’t in the short version either. So I hope you like this and then go see the long one.
AK: Well, from what I understand, Lionsgate is putting them both out on DVD. The first disc will be Three…Extremes and the second disc will be the feature length version of Dumplings.
BL: Oh, really?
AK: Yeah, so everyone’s gonna get the chance to see the long version.
BL: Wow, that’s great! I want to tell you, I won the “Asian Oscar” [Golden Horse] for it.
AK: That’s amazing.
BL: I not only won that but four acting awards.
BL: I love my character. I think she’s so bold and she’s so smart and independent, yet so innocent, wise, and provocatively sexy.
AK: How difficult was it to prepare for that kind of a role?
BL: It’s the most difficult role I’ve ever encountered because she’s so mysterious. On paper, it was very hard to read her. She could’ve been anything. So I asked the producer and director ,”What do you want me to do?” and none of them knew. I felt like I had this secretive, provocative love affair/dance with my character. She was teasing, misleading me and challenging me and testing me all the time. And I didn’t know what to do.
It was about 100 degrees and everyone was soaking wet from the heat. We had the smell of the sweat and the meat from the dumplings, and they gave me a prosthetic on my neck which itched and got infected. I was in New York City, doing a commercial on 5th Ave, jumping back and forth [between productions] and I had been up for 48 hours. I literaly had no time and no energy to think. I looked out a window on the top floor and it looked so peaceful and I was thinking, “Wow, I could jump and I could find a peaceful calmness.” That’s what I felt like. I was ready to commit suicide! It was that hot and difficult. But all these weird ideas came on-set like that. When you see the film, it’s mostly first takes because it was low-budget and we were in a hurry and everyone was exhausted. Basically, in the end, through all the suffering, my character revealed her true self and true love for me, which you can see in the film.
AK: I spoke with Fruit Chan and Chris Doyle, and both raved about working with you.
BL: Oh, I loved working with them as well! With Chris Doyle, I felt we had the same artistic eye. We worked very naturally together in terms of the relationship with the camera. I love the camera. If you’re truthful and real, you get something so much more powerful. And working with him, because I trusted him, was very romantic. It was like poetry. And Fruit Chan is so modern among the Asian directors. His work is so bold and chancy and unlike any traditional conservative type films like martial arts or concubine stories. And I have to thank him for giving me this tremendous freedom. He said, “Honey, as long as it’s truthful, you can do whatever the hell you want.” [laughs]
AK: Was this your first time working with a Hong Kong production team?
BL: Yeah, that was my first Hong Kong film after Hollywood. It was my first Chinese language film, and I got to work with all the top talent in Asia. I feel very fortunate.
AK: How did you initially get involved with the production?
BL: Actually, I’m grateful for Peter Chan, who is the producer. We were friends and I had previously worked with him. He made a film called Comrades Love Story. It’s a beautiful modern romantic relationship story. Very sensitive. He’s another modern director. Fruit Chan’s films are more bold, but Peter Chan is a more contemporary romantic with his films.
I think everything happens for a reason. Peter Chan came to L.A. and we ended up eating together and talking and he mentioned Dumplings. And then after some time passed, he called me from Hong Kong while I was shooting Lords of Dogtown. He said, “Would you like to do a movie with me? I know you’ve always wanted to. But I’m not the director, I’m the producer…and it’s a horror film.” I stopped and said, “Shit! I never expected to be in a horror film!” cause normally, I don’t consider horror films to be art films. Normally they just try to scare. But I said, “I’ll do anything for you. Even play a man!” So he said, “Good, after you wrap, we’ll fly you here.” And everything turned out beautifully. I think it’s a wonderful, emotional, contemporary piece of film.
Special thanks to Bai Ling for taking the time to talk with us and John Squires of Lionsgate Films for arranging this interview. Three…Extremes is now available on DVD along with the feature length version of Dumplings, so be sure click here to check it out!
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