IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Bai Ling Talks 'Knockdown'

Friday, 08 June 2012 13:23 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Bai Ling Talks 'Knockdown'

Actress Bai Ling has been successfully working in both Chinese, and American film and television projects for the better part of the last thirty years.

She first gained attention in the United States for her role as Myca in the beloved action film The Crow, and since then has gone on to appear in such popular and critically praised films as Nixon, Red Corner, Wild Wild West, Anna and the King, She Hate Me, Lords of Dogtown, Southland Tales, Crank: High Voltage, and Love Ranch. But it was her work on two of television’s most popular shows, Entourage and Lost, as well as two fan-favorite sci-fi films, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, that made the actress a household name around the world. Now Ling returns to the big screen with a small but pivotal role in the new movie Knockdown, which was released on DVD June 5th and opens in theaters on June 8th.

Knockdown, which was directed by Todd Bellanca, tells the story of undefeated boxing champion Jack “The Ripper” Stemmons (Casey T. Evans), and how his career was destroyed by a bookie (Tom Arnold) after he fixed one of Jack’s fights. In a rage, Jack brutally attacks the bookie and then escapes from everything he has ever known. Exiled half way around the world in Bangkok, Jack falls victim to the exotic and addictive spell of a prostitute named Nok (Ling). He soon learns that a scheming gangster sent the prostitute to trap him and get him back in the ring, but this time, in Bangkok’s notorious underground fight clubs. No matter how hard Jack tries to distance himself from his violent history, it is only a matter of time before his past; present and future collide in a twisted climax.

I recently had a chance to speak with actress Bai Ling about her performance in Knockdown and her experience making the film. Ling discussed her the new movie, why she took on such a small but important role, her mysterious character, her sexuality, being a woman, filming the intense sex scenes with co-star Casey T. Evans, tattoos, Bangkok, and why director Todd Bellanca desperately wanted her to be in the film. 

Here is what the popular actress had to say:

IAR: To begin with, your role in the film is much smaller than what we would normally expect from an actress of your caliber, how many days did you actually work on the movie?

Bai Ling: Not too long at all. Basically when they cast me they were already done. They had pretty much already shot everything. They just wanted this part to be played by somebody like me in order to give some fire, light, and some magic to it. So I basically stepped in at the last moment of the film.

Was the part written specifically for you or was it already in the script and they just needed a popular actress attached to the project in order to help sell the film?

Ling: I think it involved director Todd Bellanca but I wish that part were much larger. Basically he thinks that part is so important in the film because at that moment she's changing the man's life. She is magic, light and pure power to give comedy, love, caring and passion to this man's life. So basically I jumped in, this part was already there, but I bring it to life. It's not exactly how it's on the paper. Basically when you watch the movie you don't think that she comes back later. Actually I brought a lot of my understanding of female to the character because I think she is so pure, so vulnerable, so magical and powerful. She doesn't even know and to the man, to other people from outside that's how they view her, so shamefully sexy, but in her own life she is so unavoidably open so she has to cover herself up by taking drugs. She's basically an addict. It's really sad when you see it from a different perspective. We cannot see ourselves clearly or in it. In the movie she plays such a powerful part in the middle of the man's life, but also we see how off she is as this vulnerable little girl. She doesn't know she has power.

Your character is shown shooting heroin in the movie. Was that a difficult scene for you to film?

Ling: Well, when I come to this country people asked me to try all kinds of drugs and I didn't even know what they were, I just tried them. But I'm naturally allergic to alcohol, and to all these drugs. If you take one dose, whatever it is, you probably react ten percent of it. I will react one hundred percent. So I'm very sensitive and allergic to all those chemical things. I tried all of them, but I'm not an addict in real life. So now that I am quitting drinking and I'm properly sober and clean, the part we were shooting was not difficult. I think that we all know what its like to be drunk. It's like when you're basically half dreaming, half awake. It’s that state of mind when you're taking drugs and you're kind of confused, you're in a zone, and you're not aware of what you're doing. So that's a part of a state of mind that I know, where I have been and it's kind of intriguing for me to be there because it's a state of mind I'm not normally in when I’m sober. It's fun, it's a challenge, and also how far I can go so. Of course we shot a lot more than what is on film, we always do. I wish we can use more of different parts, but it's quite fun because every time I feel like I’m lost in drugs or drinks I kind of feel very sexy. You become much more sensual because your mind's not involved. You're much more like an animal, like a female. That part is fun for me to experience.

The character you play in the film is a very sexy, and sensual role, were you comfortable with playing that part and shooting those scenes with your co-star Casey T. Evans?

Ling: Yeah, basically I don't know Casey at all. I just met him and I acted that way. It's kind of like a private dance because if you don’t already know somebody, and then you suddenly become so open and sexual with that guy in bed. Then for me I am like a mischievous child, I like to experience that part, and it's fun. But as a woman I like being sexy because I think I’m gifted in a way. I have this sexuality just naturally. I know and my body knows how to be a woman, to be feminine. So that part of me in films is very important, especially my part in this scene and it's her feminallity, and sexuality that basically healed that guy. It's like anything in your life. As an actresses, for me in that scene I'm very comfortable with being in that sexuality and who I am because I am not Bai Ling showing my body, but I'm a character in that situation where's she's supposed to comfort, seduce and make love with this man.

Are the tattoos that you have in the film real? Are those really yours or did they put those on you for the scene?

Ling: Well I'll keep that a mystery. I have many tattoos.

Nok gives Jack an important message, so when you were developing the character, did you decide if she is actually trying to help Jack or if she is really just manipulating him?

Ling: I don't want to reveal anything, and I hope the audience will figure it out themselves. I think for me it's more like she's a sexy female that basically is there to comfort him, to allure him and to seduce him to make harmony with him. There is still a lot of mystery there. It's like she has a power of magic with men and she basically cares for him. Then in her own state of mind at that time she doesn't know how much power she has, she kind of in her own way is lost. That's why she's doing drugs. I think it's a complex feeling, but more general when I was performing her, at that moment it was really connection of female energy towards a man.

She has information for Jack about her friend Saranya, the girl he loves. Nok really does care about Saranya, correct?

Ling: Yes, it's her friend and she basically gave him a message. The way I portrayed that role is like a hardship of life basically the story of beautiful innocent souls and then made them loose themselves to bad things, including this man. He's struggling, he's doing all this, but naturally we're just both babies born innocently. The world lies, tortures us, and tricks us into who we are. It doesn't have to be that way, but it's like from the point of view from where we’re watching, it could be there as beautiful as we want but the life basically doesn’t allow them to be. That's basically what the film is about, the journey. We're searching our soul, and we're searching for truth. Through this searching it's all kinds of mystery, all kinds of struggle, all kinds of ups and downs.

Finally, the film is set in Bangkok but did you actually shoot your scene there on location or somewhere else?

Ling: I would like to keep some mystery here and let the audience feel what they feel. What I can reveal is it's this private place between him and I, and with the surrounding nature and all these things I was lost in. There are a lot of mysteries in the film that I would like you to feel without knowing how we did it. Film is an illusion so it's better sometimes people don't know too much of behind-the-scenes. As filmmakers we know everything, we cannot be sober watching a film when we start imagining all kinds of things. It's better if you don't know much. Like I don't really want to know anything. You know, it's like in life, what I'm learning now, I have enough questions to ask and I don't want to know answers sometimes. I think sometimes the mystery keeps you curious about things and keeps you excited about things. That part of me I don't want to be sober like a romance. You really don't know, you fall in love, you don't know why, and its even better if you don't know why. If you know it, it becomes boring.

To learn more about the talented actress’ upcoming projects, please check out her website: OfficialBaiLing.com, or follow her on Twitter - @RealBaiLing.

Knockdown opens in theaters on June 8th and is available on DVD beginning June 5th.

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