Bai Ling (simplified Chinese: 白灵;
traditional Chinese: 白靈; pinyin: Bái Líng; born October 10, 1966) is a
Chinese-born American actress.
Bai was born in Chengdu, People's Republic of China; "Bai", her family
name, literally means "white". Ling, a common Chinese given name, means
clever. Her father, Bai Yuxiang (白玉祥), was a musician in the People's
Liberation Army, and later a music teacher. Her mother, Chen Binbin (陈彬彬),
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 (徐迟), renowned for his report titled
Goldbach's Conjecture, about Chinese mathematician Chen Jingrun. Bai Ling
has one older sister Bai Jie (白洁), who works for the Chinese tax bureau,
and a younger brother Bai Chen (白陈), 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. She has said that acting
allows one to ignore how society tells one to behave and allows other
parts within oneself to be expressed. During the Cultural Revolution
(1966–1976), she learned how to perform by participating in Eight model
plays her elementary school shows. After her graduation from middle
school, she was sent to do labor work at Shuangliu (双流), a suburb county
of Chengdu, where the Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport is located.
Before long, she managed to pass the People's Liberation Army's exams, and
became an "artist soldier" at Linzhi, Tibet. Her main activity there was
entertaining in the musical theater. She also served shortly as an Army
nurse. Three years later, she was discharged from the army.
Subsequently, Bai spent some time in a mental hospital. Though she
insisted then and now, "I'm not crazy," she maintains to this day that she
is from the moon, where her grandmother lives, "I'm not really in reality.
I'm in my own universe and my mind is a million miles somewhere else," she
claims, further explaining, "Why I feel like I come from the moon is
because my mother told me I was found somewhere." She believes that when
she looks up at the moon, she can often spot her grandmother there, still
living in her childhood home.
Soon after her release from the hospital, Bai joined People's Art Theater
of Chengdu, and became a professional actress. Her performance as a young
man in the stage play Yueqin and Little Tiger drew the attention of movie
director Teng Wenji (滕文骥), which gained her her first movie role in On The
Beach (1985), as a village girl who becomes a factory worker and struggles
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 citizen in 1999
Bai had previously appeared in several Chinese movies. In 1984, Bai
appeared as a fishing village girl in the movie On the Beach (海滩). Later
she filmed several other movies, including Suspended Sentence (缓期执行),
Yueyue (月月), Tears in Suzhou (泪洒姑苏) without much attention. Her role as a
girl with psychological disorder who had an affair with her doctor gained
her fame, in the movie Arc Light (弧光) directed by director Zhang Junzhao
(张军钊). She attended Moscow International Film Festival in 1989 due to this
role. Since coming to the United States in 1991, she has appeared in a
number of American movies.
She began in The Crow (1994), playing the half-sister/lover of the main
villain, Top Dollar. Hu guang was her most celebrated role in the Chinese
film industry, and Red Corner (1997) would be considered her break-out
role in English film. She was named one of People magazine's "50 Most
Beautiful People in the World" in 1998. She appeared in Chris Isaak's
music video "Please" in 1998. She shaved off her hair, which had exceeded
a length of 36 in (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 (2005) as Senator
Bana Breemu, but her role was cut during editing. She claimed that this
was because of her posing nude for the June 2005 issue of Playboy
magazine, whose appearance on newsstands coincided with the movie's May
2005 release, but director George Lucas denied 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.
Later in 2005 Bai was a castmate of the VH1 program called But Can They
Sing?. The show gave several non-singer celebrities an attempt at singing
on every episode and then allowed the audience and home viewers to vote
off one contestant each week. Bai Ling was most famous for her risqué and
raunchy get-ups and her performances of Madonna's "Like a Virgin" and The
Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated". Bai was eliminated just before the grand
finale but was invited back on the final week for a special performance of
Divinyls' "I Touch Myself".
She has appeared in the show Lost as part of Jack's flashbacks. Her
character, Achara, has predictive powers, and is the artist of Jack's
tattoo reading "He walks amongst us, but he is not one of us." Achara
attests to predicting Jack's leadership role on the island.
Bai made a guest appearance on a episode of Entourage, Episode 6 - China
Town of season 2. She played a role of a stunt co-ordinator named Li Lei,
which the character Vincent Chase manages to have sex with.
On Thursday, February 14, 2008 Bai Ling was arrested at Los Angeles
International Airport for shoplifting two magazines and a package of
batteries. It was an "emotionally crazy" day, Ling explained to E! News.
She was coping with the "huge problem of breaking up Valentine's
Day...wrong boyfriend." She also wrote on her blog after the incident:
"Life happens to you either you liked it or not, sometimes I feel you have
to be so brave to stand in front of the World, and just hope that people
will have a tender heart toward you." On March 5, 2008 she pled guilty to
the charge of disturbing the peace. She was then fined US$200 (US$700 when
totaling the fine and penalties) for the action at the airport.