HAWAII INT'L FILM FESTIVAL
CRAIG T. KOJIMA /
Bai Ling enjoys a movie-star moment at Louis Vuitton, where she tried on this Duchess satin dress ($2,850) and three other outfits, looking stunning in all.
Oh my, Bai!
Actress Bai Ling is fearless in her approach to life and style
Bai Ling's made a career of playing the fearsome dragon lady in 1930s-style screen siren meets 21st century dominatrix mode, characters who would just as soon seduce as slay you in films like "The Crow," "Red Corner" and "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow."
Shows at 11:59 p.m. tomorrow and Oct. 28 at Dole Cannery Theatres. Bai Ling will appear at tomorrow's screening.
Say what you will about the stereotype. She looks good kicking butt.
Her ability to show off an outfit won her a modeling gig from Sak's Fifth Avenue last year, and while in town to promote her film, "Dumplings," to be screened during the Hawai'i International Film Festival, she'll be dressed by festival sponsor Louis Vuitton.
The festival coincides with today's grand reopening of Louis Vuitton's Ala Moana boutique, which has grown from a one-story gallery to the center's only two-story luxury purveyor. Bai Ling will make an appearance during Louis Vuitton's private party at the boutique tonight.
The actress was true to form during fittings yesterday afternoon. After causing a stir in a strapless dress at an 8:30 a.m. press event at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, followed by a trek to the beach in an itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny zebra-print bikini, she arrived at Louis Vuitton's Waikiki store in oversized white-frame, movie-star sunglasses and a black one-piece, skirted swimsuit.
There's a reason for that. When asked what she brought to wear for the film festival opening night, she said, "Nothing. Swimsuits. It's Hawaii!"
It seems anything goes with the carefree actress, who gamely posed and strutted for a posse of six or so photographers and anyone with a digital camera who wanted to document the star turn.
There were no dramatic moments, save for one tug-of-war involving a Red Vernis embossed-monogram purse that clashed with a delicate black-and-white ensemble. This dilemma was solved with a switch to a little black dress more suited to the purse. After which Bai made a grab for a bigger red barrel purse, hugging it and cooing, "This is my baby," before asking LV honcho Dale Ruff, "What do you think, boss?"
He just smiled. Like everyone else in the room, he was won over by the actress' low-key charm.
The matter of which dress she would wear to the Vuitton party was settled in minutes. She loved the first dress she tried on, a slim trapeze Duchess satin dress that, at a little bigger than a size 2, had to be taken in by a seamstress.
"This is so elegant. Look at me. My whole posture is changed. I feel so classy and sophisticated. I feel so traditional," she said, daintily clutching a yellow lizard Manzarine handbag in front of her, and delivering a Japanese-style bow.
The look was definitely a departure from some of the shocking, barely there get-ups she's worn at other appearances. Is it her red-carpet aim to steal the limelight from such A-listers as Nicole Kidman and Cameron Diaz?
"How I dress depends on my mood," she said. "At a lot of these events everybody there's going to be the same, so I want to add some color. It's part of the job. I just think positive and healthy. Everyone there's trying to be at their best at the moment, so I try to do what's best for me. It's not much more than that."
But Uma watch out. By the end of the session, photographers were chanting, "No more Uma Thurman," referring to the actress who's the current face for Louis Vuitton.
BORN IN CHENGDU, China, in 1970 to a music teacher father and stage actress mom, Ling left for New York City in 1991 to study acting and the English language. Within six years, she landed a role in "Red Corner," starring Richard Gere, which led to more TV and film roles.
"Dumplings" marks her Asian film debut, and won her best supporting actress honors in Hong Kong's Golden Horse Awards and Hong Kong Film Awards ceremonies.
"It's a fantastic movie," she said. "I was shocked when I read the script and I didn't know how to portray (Mei). She's the most difficult character, very mysterious, I've had to play. She's so provocatively bold and sexy, but also innocent and wise. She's very free, freer than me."
Mei is a trashy former abortion doctor who crosses the Hong Kong-China border peddling mysterious dumplings that promise youth to her high-paying, aging clientele.
"She tests you to see how far you would go," Ling said. "In modern society so many people lose their way. They lose the meaning of life so they chase youth. People go to plastic surgeons but they lose the beauty of who they are. No doctor can do better than nature that created us.
"People say they don't want to see this film because it's too dark, but it's a reflection of real life. Movies show the dark side, the dangerous side, so hopefully you don't go there."
Ling just finished filming five movies, including "Man About Town" with Ben Affleck, but she's most excited about VH1's "Celebrity Pop Superstar Challenge," in which she'll be one of the celebs singing in the "American Idol"-like series. She's asking everyone in Hawaii to vote for her beginning Oct. 30, and is currently practicing Madonna's "Like a Virgin."
"I'm always challenging myself. I'm not a singer so it's hard. I didn't hear the song until the contest because I wasn't here. I'm in the states only two months a year. Otherwise, I'm always filming.
"I have no home. Where I go is where my heart is. Right now I'm in Hawaii so this is my home."