Bai Ling: 'One Day I Will Win an Oscar'

Better known for a heretical fashion sense and red carpet ubiquity than her lengthy acting resume, we thought it was time to start taking Bai Ling a little more seriously. She has two movies in the pipeline that we absolutely want to see: hyperkinetic action-trash romp Crank: High Voltage, which opens this Friday, and the upcoming Love Ranch -- Taylor Hackford's retelling of the creation of Nevada's first legal brothel, co-starring Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci.

She showed up promptly and cheerfully for lunch at a crowded outdoor cafe on the Eastside, dressed, somewhat disappointingly, in a tasteful black raincoat over babydoll dress. She looked cute. Over a bowl of chef's salad the size of her head (which she steadily devoured throughout the course of the interview), the actress was relaxed and forthcoming on just about any topic we threw at her. From her tabloid-friendly dalliance with Mickey Rourke to her infamous LAX arrest, Bai talked. And we listened.

So what can we expect from Crank 2: High Voltage?

The movie is hilarious. My role -- she is crazy. She's hilarious, but she'll break your heart. I've never acted this crazy and free in any movie. The two directors are young and nuts. At the beginning, they asked me to read the script, but during the shoot, I could basically do whatever I wanted -- because whatever I said didn't make any sense, but made perfect sense to her.

I once said to Jason [Statham], "You are my shiny diaper." He laughed so hard, he couldn't start. The directors said, "Where is this coming from?" I said, "I don't know, it just came out of me."

You've done movies that some people might call "B Movies."

I don't know how to say this, but I find it strange and feel sorry for who have to label things as "A actor" or "B actor" "B movie" and all of that. Basically, you are making yourself worse. We are all human beings, these are all jobs. You can't say a waiter is worse than a doctor. A waiter is a waiter. I'm lucky to do what I do, and I don't think in those terms. I think we need to respect what we do.

What kind of movies would you like to make if you could have your choice?

I deserve so much more than the roles I get offered now. I'm one of the best actresses. One day I will win an Oscar. I'm already winning it. I just have to find the platform to show it. I'm already winning it! I've got that talent.

A lot of actors would never say that out loud, thinking once they do, it won't happen.

I'm not superstitious.

Talking about the Academy Awards reminds me of Mickey Rourke. You were linked to him around that time.

You know, it's difficult to talk about these things when it involves other people. Because I don't want to affect them with what I say. Especially around that time, I just shut down all questions, because I didn't want to affect him. I didn't want to say anything good or bad, because it was his life. It had nothing to do with me. So I was very gracious. He's a very good friend. I met him at The Wrestler's premiere. He was very good, very powerful -- he put everything into his performance. But I know nothing about his history.

Were you familiar with his earlier work?

A lot of people said he was so handsome. So it turns out I had met him before. He said, "Four years ago, I tried to pick you up at the Château Marmont. And you ran so fast." I said, "Really? To be honest with you, I can't recall." He said, "You got my number." I was like... hm. He was very friendly. The second time was at the LA Confidential party. He had just won the Golden Globe. And I said, "You just won the Golden Globe, it's your night, I'm going to go." And he said, "No, you should stay. I want you to stay." So I stayed. And that's how it started.

So that made you his date.

[Pauses] I don't know how to talk about that, but the fascinating thing for me was that Sean Penn was there. I know him too. It's interesting for me because I'm not from there, I'm not from Hollywood. They are the pros in this field for many, many years. Just to hear their conversation about the early years, all the jokes, and the stories was fascinating for me. People come through my life, whether or not we're attracted, and I'm very curious and excited to discover things about them.

Wait -- we're not done talking about Mickey yet. So did you start seeing him after that?

I don't know how to say this, but we're just friends. And I'm glad I could offer whatever company or encouragement he needed as a friend there.

So it wasn't romantic.

I don't know. You know, when a man and a woman meet, there's always something. You play a different part. It's not fair for me, because it's private. So all I can say is that we're friends, and I'm glad that we met, and wish him best of luck with everything.

Are you still friends with him?

We don't really talk that much. I think sometimes when the media get involved things become complicated, so it's unfortunate.

You're very honest on your blog, Naked Seduction. You wrote about your state of mind soon after your shoplifting arrest at LAX.

It was just sharing. That time was very difficult. I was shooting Love Ranch, and I had to be strong. I was just really reaching out. It's a way of sharing something true from my heart, not just what you read in the media. When I got back to the set, Helen Mirren came to me and hugged me and said, "I understand." She knows how the media works. And Joe Pesci said, "Fuck them. You can't take that stuff seriously."

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What happened?

I was innocent. That's all I can say. I was shocked. All I cared was that I had to catch the ride to the set. That's all I cared about.

Did you make it?

No. I didn't. They took me to a wherever. It was scary.

A police station?

Yeah. I was like, wow. Sometimes you can't ... Authority of society is kind of powerful and scary, and you feel very vulnerable. I just ... uh... it's hard. Like everybody's calling me. I was on a movie set, and I didn't want to affect them. And basically it's like an open wound, an open heart in front of everybody. Everybody I'm sure was texting and talking. A set is boring -- everyone's looking for something to do. The entire set. Everyone. I was trying to do my work.

How did you cope?

I just didn't talk. You have to be proud of who you are. I didn't do anything wrong. The truth will come out. It's just something you have to get used to as an actor.

Did you ever leave the house in an outfit you absolutely knew would be mocked?

You know what? No. My agent told me I get a lot of criticism about how I dress. But I think, "Why not?" On the red carpet you see a lot of designers -- you see Dolce & Gabbana, Armani, Gucci, everybody -- but where are you? The designers are supposed to show us, but we're showing the designers. Where's your spirit? It's 2009. You have to stand out. There's individuality you have to celebrate. I have this one spirit -- she's like this adventurous, careless, breezy spirit. I hate shopping. I don't go shopping. If I do, I run in and out. But she loves it.

This is a friend of yours?

No. A spirit. And when I go shopping, she feels open and sexy. She doesn't care. She enjoys it. She rides a pink bicycle all over the place. Sometimes I think a skirt is too short and she says, "Noooo ... It's perfect!" Or I'll want to stay home and not attend an event, and she'll say, "I'm excited -- lets go!" I'm very creative in my nature. It's my body! I'm not harming anyone doing it. It's just me.

So when does your book Nipples: A Novel come out?

I finished it already. I'm editing it, to make it better.

Does it have a publisher?

Collins?

Harper Collins?

Yes, them. They're interested. I'm still working with the editor. And actually, I just made a movie. It's not based on the book, but it's called Nipples: Secrets of My Dreams. I shot it, directed it, starred in it with my eight little spirits. I have 11 songs in it. It's like a totally new...

You have 11 songs in it?

It's crazy, very unpredictable...

Actually that reminds me of something we haven't talked about. What was the name of that singing show on VH1?

But Can They Sing?

That's the one.

The show is not about singing. No matter how good a singer you are on that show, it doesn't make a difference. They'll change the tone to make you a bad singer. If you're a bad singer, it's more interesting. I learned that later. I treated it so seriously. They kept wanting to bring me back because I was so ridiculous, I wasn't going to do it. But my little spirit, she said...

What do you call your spirit?

Eight Little Spirits in Miniskirts.

You have eight separate spirits. And they're all in miniskirts?

Yes! They're sitting on your hair, on your shoulder, on your nails. I'm like their peacemaker, because they don't like each other. I have a panda, a chicken, a dolphin ... I have a monkey ... All in miniskirts.

So the panda in the miniskirt told you to go on But Can They Sing?

They go crazy. They make me lose control. They try to catch Bai Ling. I wasn't really aware they were going to be judging me on that show. I wasn't conscious of it. I has just come from the Playboy shoot, and was feeling very comfortable with my body.

When I watched it later with my friend, I found it hilarious. But when I was there, I was in a different space. They gave me a song that was too high, and I tried to quit. They were making fun of me. So I threatened to quit. Finally, they gave me a song that fit me -- Blondie's "Call Me" -- and when I got on stage, they played it three keys higher and it was like, [squealing] "CALL MEEE!"

It was memorable in a good way. The kind of thing you wish was on TV more often. Quality entertainment.

It's like hilarious comedy, right? See, I was stupid. At home watching, I was like, "How could I do that?" But while I was there, I was like a little girl having the time of her life. My panda was sleeping at the time. He was like, "Hey -- you're destroying yourself!" But the other spirit was like, "Shut up! Give me a shoe. I have to get onstage." I was totally nuts.

What would you say to women if you could address them right now?

This is a new age -- 2009. I'll use myself as an example. That's how a modern woman should be. Meryl Streep has won all the awards. They invite her to be on festival juries. But you wouldn't see her on Playboy magazine. She would not be. They would not portray her. She wouldn't get jobs. But look at Pamela Anderson? She's on the cover of everything, but she's not going to win any acting awards. These are two extremes. But I'm both. See? I was a jury member at the Berlin Festival. My movie got an Asian Oscar. And I'm on the cover of Playboy. So there's two sides. It's not only an intelligent woman who's not sexy. Or a sexy woman with no brain. You can embrace both sides. That's what I'm encouraging others to find in themselves. ♦

[Photo credit: Seth Abramovitch for Movieline]



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