LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Chinese-American actress Bai Ling really thinks she is from the moon, and that her grandmother lives there. Really, truly.
The actress, who stars in the action movie "Crank High Voltage" that opened on Friday, has made the admission before, and she insists she is not crazy -- just inspired.
"I'm not really in reality. I'm in my own universe and my mind is a million miles somewhere else," said Bai, who won a Golden Horse award, a Chinese-language film honor, for her supporting role in 2004 movie "Dumplings."
"Why I feel like I come from the moon is because my mother told me I was found somewhere," she said, explaining that at night she often sees the grandmother who raised her in the celestial sphere.
During a stay at a mental hospital in China as a teenager, after a difficult spell in the army, Bai said she told the staff that she was of sound mind.
"I went to the nurse, I said, 'Nurse I'm not crazy. I'm an actress, I want to get out of here, I'm doing a movie,'" she told Reuters in a recent interview.
As improbable as it may have seemed at the time, Bai truly was a budding actress. Soon after her release from the hospital, she was cast in a stage play, then went on to win roles in a number of Chinese movies in the 1980s.
So, as impossible as it may seem that she's from the moon and no matter what some moviegoers may say about her sometimes odd fashion choices, she is, nonetheless, a solid actress.
Her character in "Crank High Voltage," Ria, is rescued from Chinese thugs by hit man Chev Chelios (Jason Statham), who is on the run from a Mexican gang boss and the Chinese.
The movie is based on 2006 action flick "Crank," which also starred Statham and earned $45 million at global box offices.
Both films come from co-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. Neveldine, who rolled around on Rollerblades while filming, said Bai was the perfect fit for Ria.
"We loved that she was off the wall, and she's out there," he said. "For us, directing her was about reigning her in, and that's a great thing."
Bai's breakthrough Hollywood role came in 1994 action movie "The Crow." In 1997, she starred in "Red Corner," a film about China's justice system that was banned in that country.
She said she had to apologize to Chinese government officials for "Red Corner," which allowed her to eventually return to the country for movie work.
But she said that one embarrassing mark on her career cannot be erased -- paparazzi photos of her in public wearing clothes that have sometimes left her nipples exposed.
"Sometimes my nipples just popped out, they want to see the sunlight maybe," she said, wearing a turtle-shaped ring.
The actress had to learn English as an adult to make it in Hollywood, a feat that has eluded many leading foreign actors. She attributes her quick study to "pillow talk."
A fan of the opera, she said that she does not prepare for her roles, drawing instead on her openness to life and sublime experiences, like the sight of rain falling from leaves.
"I don't know what's normal or not normal, I'm totally functional in society and I'm totally enjoying being alive in this place and giving my gift to my work," she said.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Bob Tourtellotte