Crank 2's script may have been the "most offensive" Jason Statham ever read - but that was before costar Bai Ling rewrote it. Bai told us about catfights, upskirts and the craziest movie ever. Spoilers!
We were lucky enough to spend some time with Bai, whose well-known zany sense of humor was on full display. (When we asked her where in China she originally hailed from, she told us she'd actually descended from the Moon, via satellite, and had landed in Asia.)
But then she did tell us all about Ria, her character in the movie: "She's totally crazy, and she's very free and she's hilarious. She'll make you laugh..." When we first meet Ria, she falls from a second-storey window, onto the street.
The film's hero, Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) saves Ria's life, and afterwards, Ria says, "I'm yours, you saved my life!" Chev is in a hurry to track down his superpowered heart, which an elderly Chinese gangster has stolen. So he tells Ria that he doesn't need her. And Ria says, "You need me like Whitney Houston." The madly-in-love Ria starts following Chev around, and eventually helps him track down the bad guys.
But first, Ria has to have a hilarious catfight with Statham's girlfriend, played by Amy Smart. "She beats me, too. She's tough. It's fun." She calls it a "rollercoaster" of a movie, a 90 minute adventure that feels like 20 minutes. There are tons of crazy moments where Jason Statham goes around electrocuting himself to keep his artificial heart beating. Statham gets pumped up like a cartoon character, grabbing wires that are attached to devices with "DANGER" written on them, and he gets blown down the street but still survives. All the while, he's searching for his missing heart.
"There's a great message in the movie: Looking for a heart," says Bai. "Aren't we all looking for a heart?" Especially in the modern world, with everybody spending all their time on computers and interacting with technology, this is a message she feels resonates.
And Bai explained that she improvised a lot of her dialogue in the film:
My character's supposed to be funny, because it's a comedy. They ask me to read specifically what they've written, because they think it's funny. I ask, "Can I do something else?" They say sure, so I start to improvise. And then after that, they say, "Wow, you're hilarious!" So they let me do whatever I want to do, and say whatever I want to say. "Just keep going, Bai Ling!" Okay, if you encourage me, I'm like a kid. All these weird things come to my mind. Everything I say is like strange - it doesn't make any sense to you, but in her character, when you hear her, it makes perfect sense.
Not only that, but she did all of her own stunts, including one sequence where she gets hit by a car and goes flying up in the air. The wirework backfired, and Bai nearly smashed her nose on the pavement.
They had a stuntwoman there, who looked exactly like her, but Bai insisted on doing the stunt herself, even though the stuntwoman said, "You're crazy." But the directors said it was okay. She had straps attached to her legs and waist. She's chasing after Chev, and the car comes out and hits her. She's flung up in the air, and falls upside down, and the pavement rushes towards her face. She was supposed to flip over and land on the sidewalk, but she hurt her arm in the process.
Bai also said she developed her own "silly but crazy" fighting style for the film. And when directors/writers Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor told her how her character ends, she decided that wasn't fun enough and came up with her own final scene. They let her choose her own guns - which turned out to be way too heavy and overwhelming for her to handle. And she came up with a "very spontaneous" ending for Ria. (But it sounds like Ria doesn't die, because Bai says she's hoping to come back for Crank 3.)
I asked her if she's comfortable with the way Crank 2 portrays Asian people, since its main villain is Hu Dong, a 100-year-old Chinese gangster. She responded, "I don't consider myself an Asian actress or an Asian American actress. I'm just one of the creatures in the world, happy to have the gift as an actress [who's] working." People might point out that a lot of actors from Asia or Eastern Europe play prostitutes or "somebody's girlfriend," but "a lot them in real life are." So there's nothing wrong with showing it. And there's no point in having a lot of anger, or being caught up with criciticizing one aspect of a movie. "There is a Chinese mafia, and they do a lot of bad things. So it's fine for this film to show that. It's their choice."
The best thing about Crank 2 is that it's not the type of "fashionable action movie where everything's polished and beautiful. Everything's raw, like the street." Neveldine and Taylor shot the movie in the worst parts of Los Angeles, and filmed from weird camera angles. The directors shot some of the movie themselves, racing around on roller blades. There were eighteen cameras, and Bai couldn't even tell where they all were. Once, she asked where the camera was, and the directors pointed directly under her skirt. (At this point, she mimed looking down, locking her legs together, and pulling her skirt down tight.)
Bai said she hopes she'll return to Lost at some point. "They told me it's like the pyramids. Every character, every element is planned. I love that show."
She also talked about how she had to learn French in two weeks for Luc Besson's 2003 film Taxi 3, in which she plays a leading lady who "says philosophical things." She managed to memorize the French in the movie, in time to audition for the film, but was so embarrassed afterwards she ran and hid in the bathroom. But then Besson came and found her and said everybody adored her performance because it was funny. "After that, I learned the potential of the human mind," she said.
Crank 2: High Voltage is in theaters April 17.