Earlier this month, I spoke with The Forbidden Kingdom screenwriter John Fusco and his influences that helped forge the script. Now, I am lucky enough to speak with one of the film’s co-stars, Li Bing-Bing, who makes her Hollywood debut playing Ni Chang, better known as The Bride With White Hair.
Geeks Of Doom: Thank you for taking some time today to answer some questions about your current film, The Forbidden Kingdom which is your first English language film, after ten years of acting in Hong Kong cinema. Did you have any trouble adapting to an American production work schedule?
Li Bing-Bing: I was very lucky to be part of The Forbidden Kingdom. The Forbidden Kingdom has a fantastic filmmaking team with director Rob Minkoff, cinematographer Peter Pau, martial arts choreographer Yuen Woo-Ping, and Jet Li and Jackie as world class martial artists and teachers. Everyone was very professional. The Forbidden Kingdom cast and crew also had a great team spirit attitude — they had high expectation for all cast members, no matter that their backgrounds maybe. Everyone had the same treatment and everyone was thoughtful as well. I quickly became accustomed to the U.S. filmmaking culture and learned a lot from the experience.
G.o.D.: Your filmography includes several different genres, from crime-action like Dragon Squad to period comedy like Cat and Mouse. Do you have a particular genre you prefer to work in?
LBB: Every film has its own set of special characters. I like martial arts and drama. These films all provide different experiences. That is what is terrific about being an actor — the ability to utilize different personal experience to enhance the character one portrays. I do not want to be typecast in any particular role. I want to experience other roles and continue to hone my skills as an actor. However, there also needs to be opportunities. For example, there was a terrific film that I worked on called The Knot — the script was well-written and it had a terrific director and cast. I want to continue to go after the empowering roles as well.
G.o.D.: How was acting alongside Jet Li and Jackie Chan? Are you excited to be part of this historic pairing?
LBB: Both are big brothers in the industry and very respected by the community. They are the film industry’s pride. They took Chinese martial arts into the world, letting everyone understand a bit about China. I met Jackie Chan back in 2000 during a race car competition. Thinking about it, I realized we have been friends for almost seven years. He is very friendly and loves to help others. When filming The Forbidden Kingdom, I was sometimes hesitant about the special wire-hanging stunts, and Jackie was gracious enough to let me use his special wire-hang suits. Jet Li is a loving individual. To him, being part of a film production is a job, but his [Red Cross Society of China's] “One Foundation Project” is his life. I appreciate the mission of the foundation and also hope to join him in promoting philanthropy.
G.o.D.: The character you portray is better known as the Bride with White Hair. Was it stressful stepping into the shoes of a character made famous by Brigitte Lin, in the Ronny Yu film of the same name?
LBB: Brigitte is a skilled actress. I enjoy all of her performances. She has created many classic roles with The Bride with White Hair and Swordsman. A good actor would give a role a new life. I hope people can see that while the overall look of the White-Haired Lady in The Forbidden Kingdom is original, the overall characterization has changed dramatically because of the story itself. Also, with special effects modern technology, actors do not have to “sacrifice” as much. As a result, the White-Haired Lady in The Forbidden Kingdom seems more powerful on screen.
G.o.D.: Are you trained in martial arts?
LBB: I really had no formal training in martial arts. However, I really appreciate it, and I taught myself some basic moves. For The Forbidden Kingdom I had a quick crash course from Jackie — he taught me “Eagle Claw” and gave me a special move called “Limbo Steps.” Ha ha! That was fun. In addition, both Jackie and Jet taught me a lot of techniques onset for the fighting sequence. For example, I learned how to fight gracefully in midair while protecting my back.
G.o.D.: What is next for you? Will you continue to work in Hong Kong and China, or do you have your eyes set on Hollywood?
LBB: I do not give myself any special path; I just want to make sure I do my very best with all the roles I get. China has a 1.3 billion people, so the market should be very big; however the market has not matured yet. As an actor in China, I think we as actors have the responsibility to strengthen our filmmaking industry. I believe as long as I do my best, and garner the support of the Chinese audience, more opportunities will arise. Of course, it is every actor’s dream to enter Hollywood, but only with hard work can this dream come true. The Chinese have an old idiom — Lord will help those that work hard.
G.o.D.: Thank you again for spending some time with us today.