Actress Bai Ling arrives for the Grand Opening of Halo Nightclub on 9 April, 2009 in Hollywood, California. (Getty Images)more pics »Bai Ling is fun to watch.
She was a trainwreck on VH1's celebrity karaoke showdown But Can They Sing? She's bizarre on the red carpet. And whenever she gets in front of a camera, she draws either admiration or eye rolls.
Jason Statham and Bai Ling in Crank: High Voltage.
Ling's fans gush about her when commenting on her blog (Naked Seduction). And Jessica Morgan of the notoriously snarky gofugyourself.com recently called her grudging admiration of the actress "Stockholm Syndrome."
It's easy to call her crazy, and most people do, but there's more to the 42-year-old actress.
Ling was born in China and she moved to Hollywood in the early '90s after becoming a successful actress in her home country. I mentioned after my interview with Ling that I'm a big fan of her first American movie appearance, The Crow in 1994. She told me she didn't know a word of English when she filmed the movie.
You get the sense that she's still grappling with it -- especially in her blog, where she creates her own pseudo-spiritual, half-crazy language out of transcendentally broken English.
Ling will again take to the big screen this weekend in the Jason Statham vehicle Crank: High Voltage. She plays a gun-toting, Chinese call girl who falls for Chev Chelios (Statham) after he saves her life. And according to Ling, she's a handful.
The only distance between me and my fans when they're in my blog is the other side of the screen. It's very intimate, very dangerous. - Bai Ling
Bai Ling: My character. Her name is Ria. She's totally crazy, and she's very free. And she's hilarious. She'll make you laugh. I really was lucky working with these two young directors. In the beginning my character is supposed to be funny. Because it's comedy.
They asked me to read it specifically as written. So I read it, I say, "can I do something else?" They say, "sure." So I start to improvise. After that they say, "wow you're hilarious." Then they let me do whatever I want to do, whatever I want to say. I'm like OK you encourage me and I'm like a kid. All these weird things come to my mind. Everything I say is strange and doesn't make any sense. But in her character, when you hear her, it makes perfect sense and everybody just laughs.
She has this element of energy that's crazy -- like how they introduce me. It's from two floors. I jump from the second floor onto the ground on the street. So Jason's character saves my life. After that I say, "I'm yours." He says, "no." He's in a hurry looking for his heart.
I'm like "hey I'm yours, you saved my life." He says, "I don't need you." I say, "well you need me like Whitney Houston." She says those things and I don't even know if she knows what they mean.
Bai Ling on the red carpet.
Zimbio: You're known for saying crazy things in your interviews and on your blog. I've been checking your blog and you updated it this morning with a picture from your hotel room. What's that like? Do you think you feel more accessible to your fans?
Bai Ling: I feel like I'm mischevious in a way. It's more the modern world. The only distance between me and my fans when they're in my blog is the other side of the screen. It's very intimate, very dangerous. I open my heart. I show off the truth. I think I'm just very grateful I have this window for me to let you see my soul and my heart and who I am. And for me it's just fun.
I write something for fun and I just joke about it. I don't know, I like to write. I don't know what I like. I'm just air to breathe.
Zimbio: Are you a very spiritual person?
Bai Ling: I believe in nature. I think naturally like my name, Bai. Written in Chinese it's the most simple character, it means white and purity. And Ling is this complicated writing. It's really fascinating.
I just learned Macbeth. Three witches making soup under storm and that's the character. Storm, witches and fire. So it's like I have both. So one part of me is this innocent child -- like pure and crazy and spontaneous. And another side of me is very complicated. It's so spirit world I don't even understand. It's beyond our reach, it's mysterious. And that's another part of me.
Zimbio: You also talk about being naked a lot in your blog, and not necessarily physically naked. What is that symbolically for you? Why do you always bring that up?
Bai Ling: It's the truth. It's honesty, and to the extreme essence of life. I'm talking about that because it's called Naked Seduction. It's not like people are saying naked body. A naked body is nothing. I suggest all the women or men shave their head once. I did. And when you shave your head you really understand what naked means.
Bai Ling shaved her head for "Anna and the King."
Zimbio: Like you did for Anna and the King?
Bai Ling: Yeah. And I'm talking about physically and emotionally. It just opens the channel like we're communicating. We're strangers, but the channel is open. It's kind of like blood vessels connected. You really transfer the truth into others. To communicate and show yourselves. It's kind of daring and I just think it's beautiful because there's a lot of magic there.
Zimbio: About a year ago you were arrested at LAX for stealing batteries and magazines. You said it was emotional craziness. What did you mean?
Bai Ling: You know sometimes, unfortunately, you are always in the spotlight. I have no room, no respect and no place to have my own voice. I said at that time in my blog that you have to be so brave to stand there in front of the world. I just hope that people out there be kind to me, or to anyone. It's not just me going through this experience.
Bai Ling's mug shot after her arrest at LAX in February, 2008. Sometimes unfortunate things happen. Sometimes it rains and you don't have an umbrella with you. Like for me I had this crazy boyfriend at the time, and it was driving me crazy.
I was in the airport next to the gate to catch the flight. I was shooting the next day. I was just reading a magazine and I had a battery. And at that time we were about to break up and we had problems before Valentine's day. I was in the magazine store and we're having problems and suddenly he called me. So I walked out of the magazine store and I'm outside facing the gate. I was just talking, texting for a long time I guess. I was standing still there, not moving anywhere away from the store, and suddenly some police come.
I say, "what happened?"
Bai Ling was featured in Playboy in 2005.
He say, "You have the battery."
I say, "I'm not going anywhere. I'm here. What's wrong?"
He says, "We got some phone calls."
I say, "What's wrong?"
He say, "You're outside the store."
I say, "I'm standing here, I'm not going anywhere. I have to catch my flight."
Then he say, "If you listen to me, you'll catch your flight no problem. I'll explain. We'll just talk."
I said "OK." I trusted them. I was standing there and a few minutes later the photographer come to take my pictures.
I say, "well where is this come from?" Because they know who I am. They say, "You don't say anything, listen to us."
Zimbio: Was this year's Valentine's day any better?
Bai Ling says she's single now, but she's been spotted with this possible suitor in L.A.
Bai Ling: What did I do? I forgot. Luckily I'm single now. I'm free. I'm open to life and to all the beautiful things that come to me. It's hard. Relationships -- sometimes just the dynamics -- literally drive me crazy.
Zimbio: There were some rumors about you having your own reality show at one point--
Bai Ling: We shot the pilot.
Zimbio: -- because people liked you on But Can They Sing?
Bai Ling: Oh that was stupid. I think I'm sometimes like a joke. Like people -- you know we're actors and sometimes used as a clown, or using to make fun. All those famous songs I have never heard of. I learned in two days two songs. I'm a good singer, but the first time I sing in front of millions of people, it's like a joke they made on me.
It's like one time I want to leave. I say, "I'm not gonna do it." No matter the best singer, if it's wrong pitch, they cannot sing. I said "it's too high, I can't do it." I was so serious, I say, "if you don't do it, I'm gonna quit."
The producer goes "OK we're going to lower the pitch like you want it." And I say, "thank you."
And that day it was a song I don't know, Madonna -- "Like a Virgin," -- "Touch Yourself" -- "Call Me" -- all these songs I had never heard. Like "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." They gave me all these.
Zimbio: Like "I Wanna Be Sedated."
Bai Ling: Yeah, I like that song. [Singing] Twenty-twenty-twenty-four hours ago...
They gave me the pitch like two seconds before I go on stage and it's not right. I was like "Call Me" (voice cracks) and it just doesn't work. The next day to my coach I say, "I feel so bad, what's wrong?" They say, "we raised it three bars higher than what we decided."
I say, "hey, you guys." At first when I got there, they say, "she's going to be the first one that's gone." But it was crazy. They had seven cameras just to catch Bai Ling because I'm dressed for "Girls" like in a man's jockey and a wig and shoes and I just strip. It was just crazy and they say, "we don't know what she's going to do." But if I'm singing very good, it's boring. Because I'm hilarious.
Zimbio: Are there any songs that you sing on karaoke now?
Bai Ling: Yeah. You know the first English song I learned was a song I was singing: [singing] "Ask me how I knew, my true love was true." "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." It's like Casablanca, my favorite movie with the smoke, with the romance, with piano, with those -- how do you say -- realistic romance. It's beautiful.