This is certainly one of my most interesting and fun interviews yet! I recently had the chance to chat with actress Bai Ling about her role in Revenge of the Sith as Senator Bana Breemu. Her scenes were cut out of the film (but can still be seen on the DVD), and back in 2005 she claimed that this decision was directly related to her appearance in Playboy magazine around the time of the film's release.
Six years later, Bai Ling seems to have a much different outlook on her Star Wars experience. In this exclusive in-depth interview, she fondly shares some of her stories as well as her views on George Lucas, Natalie Portman, her other film projects, returning for The Clone Wars, a Bana Breemu action figure, and more! Plus she also announces an upcoming acting project, and shares details about her new music debut entitled Rehab. Read on for all the excitement!
Echo Base News: What are some of your favorite movies you’ve been in?
Bai Ling: A lot of them! I think all of them are very special to me. I’m like a child, I just like having fun and it’s quite fun. That’s why I like being an actress in movies because you’re able to exchange different lives. If I have to choose I would say of course it would be Red Corner because it’s my first leading role and I worked with Richard Gere and it was very special for me. At the time I did not speak English. I also won the Discovery of the Year award and so I’m proud of myself for that. Another one of course is Star Wars even though a lot of things happened around my participation in the movie and with Star Wars, Playboy, and all the rumors of the time. But for me it’s really really special because there’s only one Star Wars and George Lucas is one of the greatest filmmakers.
Echo Base News: Who are some of the most interesting people you’ve worked with in
over the years? Hollywood
Bai Ling: Oh I have so many! I think I’m lucky. And sometimes I don’t even know who they are because I do not come from here so I am not a star follower. I don’t know them very well, so I’m not in a superficial way impressed with them because I’m not after them that way. George Lucas, Will Smith, Richard Gere, Jodie Foster…Angelina Jolie I worked with twice. A lot of stars. Ben Affleck I worked with. I feel like I’m lucky meeting them and working with them and it’s really delightful to get to know them in a way normal people wouldn’t know. I admire them and their hard work to get to where they are. For me to respect somebody they have to give everything to what they do, that’s a quality I respect in all of them.
Echo Base News: Can you tell us about any current acting projects you’re working on?
Bai Ling: Acting sober, I’ve been really changing my life. This is the new Bai Ling emerged from myself and a lot of opportunities have opened for me. I have a new team of representatives behind me.
Lot of meetings, lot of offers, reading scripts. One I can talk about is a movie called Pandora’s Box. It’s gonna be shooting in the U.S. and Hong Kong and I play this psychiatrist. It’s a murder mystery. Very exciting and elegant. Scary movie, thriller. I’m very excited to be playing a psychiatrist since it’s very different from other roles I’ve played.
Echo Base News: Tell us a bit about your music debut!
Bai Ling: Yeah I’m so excited because right now my first ever hot single song called Rehab is on iTunes. I just put my lyrics on my website officialbailing.com and your fans can follow me @RealBaiLing so they can find out everything I do. I think the song is the same spirit of what I was talking about because I am not a musician, I never learned to compose music and everything but I always have this music in my soul because I was a performer for People’s Liberation Army in Tibet for three years doing singing, dancing for the troops in this beautiful land which is really magical when you sing there. My song basically emerged because I was excited and was wanting to contribute something and so then the first line that comes to me is, “I’m still gonna dance day and night with my sober friends.” Because we can have fun, we don’t have to be drunk. It was a really huge change for me to make and it was a miracle and it was a gift, and I was just there to reveal it and I was there to achieve it in that perfect format in that moment. I’m just so proud to share with all my fans and all your fans out there because it’s not only about the song, it’s about courage, and, “if I can do it you can do it,” and you have to trust that you have the magic. It’s crazy and fun and there’s also that gentle spirit there to help you when you’re lost, when you’re down, when you’re alone or you’re sad my song will be there as your friend, your lover, to hold your hand, to give you love, and encourage you, and to help you passing through difficult times in your life. It’s more than a song. I’m excited to promote it because I’m proud and because of this message.
Echo Base News: What was it like to be on the set of Revenge of the Sith?
Bai Ling: It was like walking into a dream, a fantasy land. I almost feel like I was on the moon or somewhere else, another planet. Sort of like in a dream but like waking up in a dream…in a dream, but I was consciously awake. It was like an amusement park to have fun with all the characters. George Lucas totally created another state, another huge gigantic world and it’s totally existing there for all of us now in Star Wars. I almost feel like he’s like sent from nature to show us there’s another energy, another world, another life, another sprit in us…not just us. I was very very lucky to be on the set, to be surprised all the time and to constantly be like “Wow!” and I was smiling and laughing all the time there. It was a gift. I think he gave a gift to all of us and especially for me since I was there and I saw what it was like inside filming for his movie.
Echo Base News: Are you a fan of Star Wars?
Bai Ling: Yes, especially after the movie I just feel I am a fan of George Lucas and a fan of the fantasy world. There’s a fantasy land that we all need to be fulfilled and we all need to know all the wonder and all that’s mystical in the universe, and Star Wars gave us a lot of that. And a lot of them are actually childlike in a way. It’s enlarged the world from a child’s eyes. It’s something that makes us more innocent, more curious, and more fascinated about our environment, our universe, instead of from other perspectives like it’s boring, it’s reality, it’s hard. It gave this magical toy to us, so that’s why I like Star Wars.
Echo Base News: What was it like working with Natalie Portman?
Bai Ling: I love her. I think she is a professional and she treats her profession so seriously. That’s why she won an Academy Award. She’s intelligent and beautiful, and she’s there for the job. And I think she’s one of the actors that encourages a lot of young people to be respectful of who they are because she has respect for herself. I really enjoy her presence.
Echo Base News: What was your impression of George Lucas when you met him?
Bai Ling: Actually I want to tell you how I got the role in Star Wars. I was at the MTV Music Awards and during the show we went to a green room and I was eating some Chinese food and I saw there was this guy in front of me and…it was George Lucas! I was like, “Wow!” And like any fan or any actor I was nervous! I know a lot of actors come to him to ask for roles but I felt like I should not be after that. I think I am more than that, I don’t want anything from him, I just admire him. So actually I gave up and walked away. My high heel shoes were uncomfortable so I sat down and ate the food. And then this lady comes towards me and says “Bai Ling, can I sit here?” and I say “sure” and then she says she was a huge fan of my appearance in Angel. So we were talking and then I see George Lucas walking towards us. Then the lady got up and they hugged and then she asked me, “Let me introduce you to my dad.” So that was his daughter, Katie! So then he was sitting there in the middle of us and I was so nervous. I was thinking “Should I talk about Star Wars?” I said “I would love to be in your movies one day.” Two weeks later I was in
and I got call from my agent saying George Lucas offered me a part in Star Wars! I never imagined it. I was so excited! It really brought me to fate. I really believe in fate and all the dots were connected, and there’s a reason why I’m here, and there’s a reason why we meet people, and there’s a reason why we’re doing what we’re doing at a certain time, I just firmly believe it. And I believe that if you just firmly trust yourself and put your feet on the ground firmly walking in a very positive, healthy, and faithful way you’ll find your dream. That’s how I did. Hawaii
Echo Base News: Was it disappointing to find out your scenes had been cut from the film?
Bai Ling: Actually it was not. At that time, you know, it was kind of stressful for me because of all the media talking about Star Wars and Playboy and what happened. You know what I learned in the end? A lot of questions do not need to be answered. They need the mystery to remain because that’s the beauty of the universe, the beauty of something that’s out of our reach and I like to keep it that way. I think for whatever reason I’m not there in the final film but I’m in the DVD and for whatever reason, whatever happened that’s really not my concern and not my job. I feel lucky to be associated with two American culture icons, George Lucas and Hugh Hefner. For me I’m so lucky to be in projects for both of them. That’s reward for me and better than anything that I need to worry about.
Echo Base News: Do you still think your scenes were cut because you were posing in Playboy?
Bai Ling: I’m lucky to be associated with the two of them, two of the biggest icons in the world. In my world, and in reality, I am in Star Wars, I am in Playboy, and I’m very happy about the results. And if they really affected each other, that’s really not up to me because I just happened to be there in these two projects. And whatever happened I think it’s much bigger than me and out of my control. I think in life the success and the dream is not when you finally find it, it’s the process. The process is the most rewarding, exciting and joyful and meaningful, so for me I had the process so that’s the meaning for me, so I’m very grateful for that.
Echo Base News: If you were asked to return and voice Senator Bana Breemu in The Clone Wars TV series, would you accept the role again?
Bai Ling: Yes! If they need my contribution I will be there, because I’m like a child in a way as an actress, I’m like so much looking forward for different roles of different types, and different spirits to play, because I always bring new things to the roles, even the old ones and new ones or the ones I do know or don’t know. At this stage in my life, I’m really open. I think if any work comes to me it’s a gift. So I’ll give my gift to the gift.
Echo Base News: Don't you think there should be a Bana Breemu action figure by now?
Bai Ling: Absolutely, for sure! Because everywhere I go, and probably a lot of people don’t know, even George Lucas doesn’t know, no matter where I am in the whole Star Wars, I have so many fans everywhere I go asking me to sign. They ask me for pictures in which I play her and then I sign them and then they put them carefully in a precious place. So I think she deserves to have a figure and she deserves to have her own place because she is such a dignified and unique, mysterious woman there in the movie and she served part of the spirit at the time and George Lucas loved it. I feel like I am part of the history so of course my character should be there too.
Echo Base News: What impact do you feel Star Wars had on your career?
Bai Ling: I don’t know because I’m deleted from it so probably I don’t see it clearly or actually but for me I’m still just, like when I talk to you, I feel I’m so excited. And it made me feel like I’m so lucky, to have shared a lot of time with George Lucas in his production, and I got to meet such an art master, and it’s like a gift for me to know how normal he is, how easy he is. I think for a genius, a great artist like Mozart, Van Gogh, all these great artists, including George Lucas and others, Steven Speilberg, it’s very easy for them. It’s like playing, it’s fun, and for us it’s so difficult. I think in art when something is easy to achieve for you it means you have a gift to be doing what you’re doing and part of nature gives you that too, that genius to create that. I think you’re there to give the gift you have which is very unique only to you so that’s something I learned that encouraged me to be who I am as the most authentic, beautiful, and brilliant Bai Ling I can be, because that’s my journey, this time on earth…to give my gift, to be the original authentic me, regardless how other people would know or view me.
Echo Base News: What do you think makes Star Wars so great?
Bai Ling: I think it’s the fantasy and it’s the fun, it’s the other-wordly, and in a sense he made it actually like real, like there’s no special effects, like we can fly in these different types of ships and everything. It’s just fascinating and gives people this fantasy to fulfill their dreams and gives them another story of life that through our naked eye in our reality world cannot really reach. It’s that state of fantasy land. It is existing and I think a lot of people are partially living in that part of life that George Lucas created in Star Wars. I think he’s just such a genius to bring people’s dreams to reality and make them real.
Click here to check out Rehab on iTunes.
It was awesome to get the chance to do this interview, and it's great to see such a highly positive view of Star Wars from Bai Ling! A huge thanks to her for her time and for sharing all these fun details with us.
Interview by David Delgado.