Bai Ling (Chinese: born October 10, 1966)is a Chinese-American actress known for her work in films such as The Crow, Red Corner, Crank: High Voltage, Three… Extremes, Wild Wild West, Anna and the King and Southland Tales, as well as TV shows including Entourage and Lost.
Bai was born in Chengdu, People’s Republic of China. Her father, Bai Yuxiang , was a musician in the People’s Liberation Army, and later a music teacher. Her mother, Chen Binbin , was a dancer, stage actress, and a literature teacher in Sichuan University; Bai’s maternal grandfather was a military officer of the Kuomintang army, and thus was persecuted during the Cultural Revolution. In the early 1980s, Bai Ling’s parents divorced, and later remarried. Her mother remarried to the writer Xu Chi , renowned for his report titled Goldbach’s Conjecture, about Chinese mathematician Chen Jingrun. Bai Ling has one older sister Bai Jie , who works for the Chinese tax bureau, and a younger brother Bai Chen , who emigrated to Japan and works for an American company.
Bai has described herself as a very shy child who found that she best expressed herself through acting and performing. During the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), she learned how to perform by participating in Eight model plays, at her elementary school shows. After her graduation from middle school, Bai was sent to do labor work at Shuangliu , a county near Chengdu, where the Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport is located.
In 1978, after graduating from high school, she passed the People’s Liberation Army’s exams, and became an artist soldier in Nyingchi Prefecture, Tibet. Her main activity there was entertaining in the musical theater. She also served briefly as an Army nurse. Ling later stated that during her time in Tibet she, along with other female performers, was regularly plied with alcohol and sexually abused by older male officers, including one instance of rape that led to a pregnancy, which she was forced to terminate with an abortion. She cites this period of sexual abuse for her subsequent struggles with alcohol addiction. Subsequently, Bai spent some time in a mental hospital.
Soon after her release from the hospital, in 1981, Bai joined People’s Art Theater of Chengdu, and became a professional actress. Her performance as a young man in the stage playYueqin and Little Tiger drew the attention of movie director Teng Wenji , which gained her her first movie role in On The Beach (1985), as a village girl who becomes a factory worker and struggled against her father’s will for her to marry her cousin.
In later years, she appeared in several movies. She temporarily moved to New York in 1991 to attend New York University’s film department as a visiting scholar, but later obtained a special visa that allowed her to remain in the United States until she became a U.S. citizen in 1999.
Bai began her acting career in China, appearing in several Chinese feature films. In 1984, she made her film debut as a fishing village girl in the movie On the Beach . Later she filmed several other movies, including Suspended Sentence , Yueyue , Tears in Suzhou without much attention. She became famous after playing a girl with a psychological disorder who has an affair with her doctor, in the film The Shining Arc directed by Zhang Junzhao , her most highly acclaimed role in the Chinese film industry. In 1991, Bai moved to the United States, where she appeared in a number of American films and television shows.
Bai’s first major American film role was in The Crow (1994), where she played the half-sister/lover of the main villain, Top Dollar. In 1997, she played the lead female role, opposite Richard Gere, in the American film Red Corner. The New York Times praised Bai Ling’s performance, saying that she gave the film “not only grace but also substantial gravity”. For her role in Red Corner, she received the National Board of Review Freedom for Breakthrough Female Performance and the San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Actress. The film was critical of human rights abuse in China, and as a result, Bai Ling’s Chinese citizenship was revoked. She later became a U.S. citizen.
Bai was named one of People’s “50 Most Beautiful People in the World” in 1998. She shaved off her hair, which was longer than 36 inches (90 cm) for her role in Anna and the King, and is widely known in Thailand as “Tuptim”, her character’s name from the film, even though the movie is officially banned because of its depiction of the King of Siam. She filmed scenes for Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith(2005) as Senator Bana Breemu, but her role was cut during editing. She claimed that this was because she posed nude in the June 2005 issue of Playboy magazine, whose appearance on newsstands coincided with the movie’s May 2005 release, but director George Lucasdenied this, stating that the cut had been made more than a year earlier.Her scenes were included in the “deleted scenes” feature of the DVD release.
In 2004, Bai made a comeback to Chinese cinema, co-starring with Hong Kong actress Miriam Yeung in independent filmmaker Fruit Chan’s horror thriller Dumplings. Her portrayal of the villainous local chef Aunt Mei in the film earned her the 2005 Hong Kong Film Award for Best Supporting Actress, and led to her renewed popularity among the Chinese film audience. In the same year, she also received critical acclaim for her performance in another independent movie, The Beautiful Country, co-starring Nick Nolte, and directed by Hans Petter Moland.
Later in 2005, Bai was member of the official jury at the 55th Berlin International Film Festival. On television, she was a cast member on the VH1 program called But Can They Sing?. Also in 2005, Bai guest-starred in season 2 of Entourage, in which she played a love interest of Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier).
In 2007, she starred as Coco in the film adaptation of the controversial Chinese contemporary novel, Shanghai Baby, which premiered at Cannes Film Festival, and also guest-starred in one episode (“Stranger in a Strange Land”) of the show Lost. Since 2007, she has appeared in a number of films including Love Ranch, Crank: High Voltage and A Beautiful Life, although she became more well known for her red carpet appearances and outrageous fashions
In 2013, Bai enjoyed a career resurgence with the movie The Gauntlet, which earned her the Best Actress award at the Los Angeles Cinema Festival of Hollywood, and at the 2014 Asians on Film Festival. Also, for Speed Dragon, she received the Best Feature Film Award at the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival. In late 2014, Bai starred alongside David Arquette in The Key, Jefery Levy’s adaptation of the novel by Nobel Prize laureate Junichiro Tanizaki. In October 2017, Bai Ling was a member of the jury in the “India Gold 2017” section of the Mumbai Film Festival.
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