International superstar Li Bingbing wants you to know that her movie The Meg is more than just about shark action. The Chinese import is not only beauty and brains but also an established environmentalist.
Serving as UN Environmental Goodwill Ambassador to China, Li was proud that the film referenced the ocean life and the damage humans have done to it. In the film, there is a reference to the illegal killings of sharks for their fins for the now-banned shark fin soup.
“I am very proud that I can do this kind of movie where people respect nature,” said Li. “Respect all kinds of creatures. I also want people — the audience — after watching the movie, I want them to know that we can’t grab too many things from the earth. We have to respect and protect nature.”
Before the film, Li didn’t know much about sharks, but knew that they weren’t as dangerous as many have stereotyped them to be. “I saw a shark when I was snorkeling. I don’t think the sharks are going to bite people. I was so safe during snorkeling. I could see the shark swimming everywhere and far from the top. They are low area of the ocean. I don’t know why. Maybe because of the movie, Jaws, and people are just scared that sharks only bite people. After I started doing this movie, I searched some knowledge that humans are not delicious to sharks. They only eat fish and invertebrates. Sharks won’t bite people.”
For a lot of the action scenes, Li did need to be underwater for her dramatic shots. A special face mask was created just to showcase Li’s face during the scenes. Li admitted she wasn’t a strong swimmer and had a tough time handling the special face mask, but knew she had to act brave because her character was an expert swimmer. “I have to pretend. I have to hide my fear behind my character.”
Li did have a wonderful time filming with British actor Jason Statham. Li recounted the first time she met him on set and expected to meet his tough-guy persona. “The first time I met him, I was on set and had to work,” recalled Li. “He wasn’t working, he went there for costume. When I walked out, we bumped into each other. He saw me and I saw him. We know who each other are. He just said ‘hi’ and I said ‘hi’. We just said ‘hi’. The most interesting thing was that the image of him in my mind is that he’s a cool guy who doesn’t smile. That was the first time I met him, I saw he had the nicest teeth. He smiled very big. It made me feel weird that he could smile.”
Li revealed that Statham is a nice guy and was extremely supportive during the film. They later collaborated to promote the film in this month’s China’s Bazaar. Statham told Li that that was the best shoot he’s ever done.
The collaboration between Hollywood and Chinese studios were the reason that Statham and Li were cast as leads together in this film. Li is really proud of what the Chinese market has accomplished. “The development of Chinese movies have grown really fast. The film market has grown bigger and bigger. I think it’s the right time and the best time for China and Hollywood. In the past, the gross box office has passed more than the American [box office]. The Chinese film market attracts Hollywood’s eyes to cooperate with China. Where I come from, in China, we have the best opportunity. We can have the opportunity to have two cultures together. I think in the future, we are going to make more concept and cultures movies. We can combine the two cultures together.”
After working in several Hollywood films, Li is ready to make the jump into more Hollywood films. After studying English for 11 years with a translator with her, she is ready for the next film challenge. “I never thought I could work in Hollywood. I never thought I would become a Hollywood actress. I was curious of how they worked together, how an English movie means to me and to people. So, if I got a chance, I want to see things and learn things. I am just so curious and interested in it. I am curious about everything.”
After watching herself in The Meg as the leading lady, Li felt so proud and ready for the next Hollywood opportunity. “[When] I watched the entire movie, I felt, ‘Oh my gosh, I made it. We made it. It’s possible.’ So, right now, I am waiting for the next challenge. I don’t know what kind of challenge. It just makes you feel more excited.”
Since The Meg is based on a series of books, could we possible see The Meg become a franchise? Li is ready if they are.
“I expect the next franchise.”
The Meg comes out in theaters this Friday.