I heard the ding of the elevator arriving at Sofitel’s exclusive 12th floor Club Millesime and Bai Ling walked into the room.
Once she shook hands with ace photographer Heng Chivoan she staged a series of sexy poses that kept us captivated, me shuffling nervously and Chivoan on one knee clicking furiously as the actress moved from the chair to the couch, to posing raunchily on a table with one leg in the air, her dancing and darkly mysterious eyes squarely framed with thick black hair resting across her shoulders.
The Hollywood based star from the western Chinese city of Chengdu had just completed a successful production of the made-for-television Age of the Hobbits movie in the rugged outdoors of Bokor Mountain near Kampot during a sweaty three- week shoot.
The stunning Bai Ling, born on October 10, 1966, was raised mostly by her grandmother while her entertainer parents suffered during the time of upheaval in China under Mao. She spent three years in the Chinese army in Tibet, serving as a performer for the troops .
When she arrived in the USA after winning an acting scholarship, she then learned the Tennessee Williams play The Glass Menagerie by heart and realised she could be an actress - and gave the scholarship to another student.
This week in Phnom Penh she had some bad luck - her purse was stolen outside the Heart of Darkness night club by a man who grabbed it out of her tuk-tuk – losing her passport, credit cards, driver’s licence, blackberry, money and camera.
It was a dud ending after a great time visiting Angkor Wat.
“What am I going to do? I lost all the information,’’ she says. “Then it hit me. This is something not out of my doing, but somebody else’s doing. All this hassle is not my problem. Somebody who steals things has got the problem.”
That sentimentality of place with friends is key to the understanding of this stunning, unusual and complex movie star who famously graced the cover of Playboy magazine in June, 2005.
She sorted out her passport issues - but then got some great news on Tuesday when she landed a role in the remake of classic American television series Hawaii 5-0 where she arrives today to begin shooting.
The public took notice of Bai Ling in the movie Red Corner (1997) in which she played Shen Yuelin alongside Richard Gere, who she is now good friends with.
Her other film appearances include Hu guang (1988), The Crow (1994) and Nixon (1995). She also appeared in Face (2002), Beautiful Country (2003), My Baby’s Daddy (2003), Paris (2003), Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) and Lords of Dogtown (2005).
She’s very proud that film director Quinten Tarantino’s (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill) once commented that hers was the best performance of 2004 in the Hong Kong movie Dumplings.
During dinner after the photo shoot, she explained why she posed for Playboy and traversed many different subjects.
What do you think your life is all about?
I landed on earth to give love and compassion and humanity and show them love in a gentle way and to encourage and help people. I’m extreme in many ways: a provocatively sexy woman and an extremely kind and intelligent woman. I’m a 2012 woman of 360 degrees with everything: the sun, the ocean, wind and fire because I have all colours of all seasons.
What do you think about fame and money?
The fame and money is the reward other people give you because of your work. Being rich and famous is a reward for those who work hard. You can’t achieve just by wanting to. Only through work will you get the reward you are supposed to get.
What happens if you set out to get fame and money?
If you want fame and money most of the time you are not going to get it. In Hollywood a lot of people don’t want to pay the price to earn it. That’s a part of the thing I’m reluctant about, working with some people who have that mentality. That’s why I regularly go to charity events because I like to dance and open my heart to people and show generosity as a human being. The majority of such people are not even in Hollywood. It is full of people trying to get there which is very unhealthy.
How do you see yourself in five or 10 years?
I don’t even think about it. Everything that I’m sharing with you, I hopefully can encourage people and show it is beautiful to help others. In my own journey in my unique way. One man in London was going to kill himself because of a financial crisis, and then he read my blog and that saved his life. I’m proud of that
Do you want love in your life?
I still hope - because I am a woman - that I will find a man that I fall madly in love with and he’s madly in love with me. I can’t push those things. It has to happen. But if I don’t have it, I’m still going to be happy.
What made you decide to be on the cover of Playboy?
I refused their offers for three months; Playboy? No way, but my manager said think about it. In Hollywood everybody wants to be on the cove of Playboy. He said I was lucky and that I should consider it - it’s a dream for many women to be on the cover of Playboy, better than the cover of Vogue. Playboy is nudity; it is you; it is more real; it is more pure and it says something primitively about how sexy and how special as a woman you are. I feel like “wow, they chose me?” And I am now proud I did it.
Do you value material things?
My grandparents brought up me in nature and we brushed our teeth and washed our face under the moonlight. Material things were never what I cared about. With material things you have luxury. That is not the essence of us. Material things provide safety but can take your braveness away.
What do you think about celebrity culture?
Movie stars (feel) too important. Real people need to be respected, like doctors and inventors in society. People make celebrities too important and they dominate the world. You have to be a better human being in order to be a better artist and it shows. When you take the negative words out of your life like hatred, jealousy, darkness and evil, your life won’t have these negative energies.
Bai Ling’s website is officialbailing.com, and she’s also active on Facebook.
To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart Alan Becker at [email protected]