Lucy's role as "Lawyer Ling Woo" on FOX's series "Ally McBeal" opened up the gates to hollywood stardom. The story of this hard working actress began on December 2, 1968, in Queens, New York, where she was born to Chinese immigrant parents. Despite the adaptaion difficulties, her father, a civil engineer, and mother, taught Lucy and her Brother English and Mandarin. After Lucy graduated High School in 1986, she enrolled in New York University. In spite of the school being a very distinguished establishment of higher learning, she found the place to be gloomy and cynical. As a result, she only stayed for a year. For her sophomore year, Lucy went to Ann Arbor and joined the University of Michigan, where she studied singing, acting and dancing. She ultimately graduated with a degree in Asian languages and cultures. Lucy always knew she was artistic and, during her senior year of high school, she tried her hand at theater in Andre Gregory's adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. This gave her a taste of what it's like to be a professional actress and she quickly wanted more.
She moved to Los Angeles, where she supported herself by being a waitress. Before long, she landed a guest-starring part on Beverly Hills, 90210. Over the years, she made other guest appearances in shows such as L.A. Law, Coach, Home Improvement, ER, The X Files, High Incident, and NYPD Blue. In 1993, Lucy's collection of multimedia art pieces was showcased at the Cast Iron Gallery in SoHo. Because of that, she was awarded a grant to study art in China. Upon her return, the chronicles of her journey (photography, paints, ceramics, collages) were exhibited in a gallery in Venice, California.
Along with her early TV career, Liu landed roles in small movies. She was in the Hong Kong feature Rhythm of Destiny (1992), the early Darren Aronofsky film Protozoa (1993), Bang (1995), and she had a small role in Jerry Maguire (1996) as one of Jerry's former girlfriends.
In 1996, Liu was also cast as a regular in the short-lived CBS sitcom Pearl, with Rhea Perlman and Malcolm McDowell. This secured her position in Hollywood and, in 1997, she was in five movies: Gridlock'd, City of Industry, Guy, Flypaper, and television's Riot. After a small role in Mario Van Peebles' Love Kills (1998), Lucy was introduced to mainstream America. She auditioned for the role of Nelle Porter on Ally McBeal, but Portia de Rossi got it instead. Nevertheless, writer-producer David E. Kelley noticed Lucy's spunk and promised to write a character especially for her.
The character was Ling Woo, a fiery lawyer who never took no for an answer, and she was introduced in a September 1998 episode of Ally McBeal. Lucy was so riveting that she was invited to join the regular cast. She was nominated for an Emmy (as Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series) in 1999 and stayed on until the show's demise in 2002. With her stock rising, Lucy was in demand and made several motion pictures. In 1999, she played a dominatrix in Payback with Mel Gibson, and appeared in Clint Eastwood's True Crime, Molly, The Mating Habits of the Earthbound Human (with Carmen Electra), and the sports comedy Play It to the Bone, starring Antonio Banderas and Woody Harrelson. Lucy's next project was the action comedy Shanghai Noon (2000) with Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson. Shortly thereafter, she appeared in another blockbuster, the star-studded Charlie's Angels (2000), in which she played one of the female leads alongside Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore.
Following the independent Mike Figgis film Hotel (2001), Liu teamed up with Antonio Banderas once more and starred as a government agent in Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (2002). After Cypher (2002) and a brief appearance in the Oscar-winning Chicago (2002), she joined the "Angels" again for Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2003).
After that, she decided to slow down because her schedule was too hectic. Consequently, Lucy kept busy with only one movie -- although it's since been partitioned in two -- Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) and Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004, in archived footage). In 2005, she can add Domino, 3 Needles and Lucky Number Slevin to her resume.
Lucy Liu is not a woman to mess with…
Actress Lucy Liu has made a career out of playing tough women. The Asian-American beauty first became a public face thanks to the role of feisty, ill-tempered lawyer Ling Woo on hit show Ally McBeal.
The show's creator, David E Kelley, wasn't kidding when he originally described Ling's character as 'colder than two weeks in Siberia'. She growled. She glared. She made her entrance to the Wicked Witch of the West theme from The Wizard of Oz. Heck, she even served up a co-worker's pet frog for dinner.
Call it ironic, then, that Lucy Liu, the actress who played Ling, got her start onstage as the sweet-natured lead in a college production of Alice in Wonderland.
'I'm like the anti-Ling,' Liu says. 'It was so much fun playing her, but I have this fear that people are going to run away from me in terror on the streets. They think I'm going to bite their heads off or something.'
Her role as icy cool, high-kicking Alex - a beautiful detective trained in martial arts - in the big screen remake of Charlie's Angels also helped to convince people that she's more than capable of taking care of herself.
As indeed she is. At 5ft 1in, it may be hard to imagine the actress doing bodily harm to anyone, but don't challenge her to a fight: she grew up in Queens ('I'm a tough New Yawker,' she jokes) and she practises the martial art of kali-eskrima-silat. Translation? 'You know, knife and stick stuff,' she says. 'But if it makes you feel any better, I also play the accordion.'
Liu caught the acting bug during her senior year at the University of Michigan, when she was cast as the lead in Alice. After graduation, she supported herself by working three jobs - secretary, aerobics instructor and waitress - while paying for acting lessons and going on auditions.
The hard work paid off, and she went on to land stage roles and bit parts on ER, The X-Files and NYPD Blue. In 1996, Liu co-starred with Rhea Perlman in the short-lived comedy series Pearl, playing a sarcastic but brilliant college student. Then along came Ally.
Wooing her fans
Liu originally auditioned for the role of Nelle Porter in Ally. 'David [Kelley] thought I was too frigid - his intention was to soften Nelle up eventually,' she says.
Liu now thinks the situation is changing. 'It used to be that you had to take on stereotypical roles to keep working - you know, the exotic types, but I think that things are improving,' Liu says. 'There are more credible roles out there that are not race-specific, and there are more talented writers creating these roles.'
Along with her role on Ally McBeal, Liu also made waves on the big screen in the Mel Gibson thriller Payback. Although the film garnered less than enthusiastic reviews, Liu's turn as a dominatrix attracted attention. 'Even if she wasn't dressed in leather and cracking a whip, you'd pay heed,' wrote Rolling Stone's Peter Travers.
Her Charlie's Angels role alongside Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore showed how successfully Liu could transfer her presence and charisma to the big screen. She is now busy filming Charlie's Angels 2, due for release in 2003. So far, much of the buzz around the film centres on the news that Demi Moore, out of the limelight for the past five years, has signed up to play the part of a fallen Angel gone bad. No doubt Liu's Alex will have to help rein her in.
Starring alongside big Hollywood stars such as Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Demi Moore shows how far Liu has come since her Ally McBeal days. Likewise, her salary for the role also suggests that she has hit the big time - according to reports, she can now command $4 million a movie.
So what does she think of her newfound celebrity status? 'I don't feel any different, but suddenly everyone wants to talk to me,' she says. 'I guess it comes with the territory.'
Lucy Liu: Charlie's Angels
What kind of training did you do for the role?
It was eight hours a day, five days a week. Since I was working on "Ally McBeal" a lot of the times, I would go and train on the weekends. It was a very intensive way to be introduced into the film. But since we didn't use guns, we wanted to make sure we could earn the ability to win the audience over by making it believable. A lot of what you do when you work out in that mode is use your mental energy. Sometimes, just physically, you are completely fatigued.
There has been a lot of talk of the on-set arguments during the shoot. What was your take on this?
Well, I think it was really unfortunate that there was so many rumours about the film. We had such a great chemistry. What's happened is that the film has been incredibly well-received in the United States and that people have stopped asking that question because they realise that there was no truth to it whatsoever. It's really great to know that people are getting what we are trying to give them. Because we had a closed set, it made it very difficult for people to not know what was going on. It was impossible for them to accept that we all got along so great and loved each other. Now the movie's out, it's very clear.
What are you up to next?
Right now, I'm still working on "Ally McBeal". I haven't really stopped working since the movie, and David Kelley has been such an integral part of "Charlie's Angels" in such a strange way, by allowing me to do it. Right now, I don't know what I'm doing next, but I'm looking forward to seeing what's in the future.
Drew, Cameron & Lucy in "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle"
The angels are back and having a wow of a time. Focussed, funny and gorgeous, PAUL FISCHER had a tough time chatting to Drew, Cameron and Lucy, who are intelligent, funny and somewhat pleasant on the eye.
Any idea that ANY tension at all existed amidst the trio of superstars who are now Charlie's Angels, were put to rest. Promoting the new sequel Full Throttle, very much in unison, stars Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu were in top form. Gone is the giggling and hair-braiding that seemed to define their interviews for the first film. Here they are focussed and the friendship that exists among these three powerful Hollywood beauties seems genuine. No wonder we are al anxiously awaiting news of a third Angels movie, not that our angelic trio would give anything away. "We don't know yet because we just worked so hard to make the first one," says Barrymore, who is also producer of the sequel. "We all love being together so much though that we're together anyway, so work or play, either or is good for us. I think right now, we want to see how people react to this one, but it's very amazing because we don't ever go into press junkets asked about a sequel, let alone- - I don't even know what to call it."
Liu interrupts giggling. "Trilogy. I'm a geek. I know the words for everything. When we were doing press for the first movie, the first thing people asked us was, 'Is there going to be a sequel? Is there going to be a Charlie's Angels 2?' before anyone asked us any questions about any part of the movie. To have that encouragement and that's what we take it as, encouragement, is great. I don't think anyone asked me about Ecks vs. Sever 2, so, it's really nice. We also discovered yesterday or last week that this is the first sequel for all of us, which is kind of a cool thing because we got to experience that for the first time. If we get the opportunity to work together again on something else, that would be fun too," says Liu. Liu adds that it is Barrymore, producer, who was able to unite the three as a cohesive team. "She gives you the freedom to feel like you can come in and be a part of something, so not only do you feel that way creatively, but you feel that way and it translates to the team effort and the teamwork."
As for adding Demi Moore to the mix, Barrymore knew she always wanted the semi-retired star for the pivotal fallen angel role. "We just really championed her altogether. We believe that she was supposed to be the person. We never again in that way of thinking about other people, the focus was always on her and eventually with collaboration and, you know, what kind of character do you want to play? We have these guidelines; will you please come work with us? She saw our passion. We worked very diligently with her and it all worked out and was the best experience."
While the first Angels film, from first-time director McG, took its share of risks, Full Throttle goes even further, blurring the line between self-deprecating satire and full on sexuality, but being a PG-13 movie, they had to be careful of how much was TOO much. "The ratings board is a tricky thing," says Barrymore. "Everybody makes the movie and has a goal of how much of a wide audience they want to have come in. We really wanted to be inviting to everyone and went so far out of our way to try to make it un-alienating to anyone. I think there are different aspects that different people will enjoy and we're really glad we got away with what we got away with the ratings board because they're very diligent, they're very tough on action; and very tough on sexuality." Diaz goes further. " Another thing too is that the angels basically, whether it's at the CSI moment where we go look at the crime scene and we all have like our disguises on, or the Pussycat Dolls where we did the burlesque dance, they commit to it 100 percent. They do it all the way so that wherever they're at, whoever's witnessing them do it, they don't even question whether or not they're supposed to be there because they're doing it to the best of their ability which is whether it's hacking a mainframe of one of the largest computers in the world or dancing on a floor or spinning around in a champagne glass," she says. Adds Drew: "And it's so much fun to be that capable and that committed and that confident and yet show how imperfect they are and flawed and human in their personal lives. That's the kind of balance and tone that's so important to us." Diaz also denies that the film's sexual tone is underplayed. "It's on a very minimal sexual level. I think that even the burlesque moment was really playful and not too revealing. Certainly I was wearing more clothes in that than I was when I was wearing a bikini, but definitely, it's just all in context." Diaz also insists that at no time were they asked to go too far. "I think everything was pretty reasonable that they asked." So what about the unrated DVD version we are hearing rumours about? "It's not unrated," insists Barrymore, laughingly. "Trust me, I would know. There's going to be some things on the DVD that we had to cut out of the ship's hull sequence because the action was actually too explicit." Adds Liu. "There was some blood, it was grittier. You'll see blood flying out of Dylan's mouth when she pummelled in the scene." But the excessive violence that audiences will see on the DVD is not something that the angelic Diaz necessarily approves of, ironically. "Personally, I don't like watching violence. I'd much rather see more skin." Any of us would agree.
In Full Throttle, the Angels are as tough and em[powering as you would expect, perhaps the perfect role models for the young women who will flock in droves to see the Angels do battle second time around. The whole role model question is always prickly, but our three heroines ponder and discuss exactly what kinds of role models these characters really are. "I think that in a way we're not showing girls something that they aren't capable of, right now," insists Diaz. "The angels aren't out there going, 'By the way, this is who you should be and this is where women are going to end up.' I think we're holding up a mirror to women right now and saying that this is who you are, what you're capable of, and what you are doing at the present time. Women are capable of doing so many things these days, physically, emotionally, within relationships and career. There are so many things that women have evolved into and I feel really proud about where women are right now. I think we're just sort of holding up a mirror to them, so, I feel good about that aspect of it, as far as encouraging or inspiring young girls to know that that are coming up, seeing and learning that hey, that's possible. I feel really good about what we're putting out there and about whom the angels are and I feel confident that we're giving them something that is completely reasonable as far as the idea of what these women are, rather than taking it literally." Liu agrees. "I think that it's not so much the idea of oh, you have to go out there and be a spy or be able to kick people around but the idea of a woman who is committed to her job, to what she loves doing, to what she wants to do and at the same time, with all the characters and personalities that are represented in the second and that we get to sneak into and look at, it's not easy. You can't have everything without trying to balance. The word balance is about the idea of finding the fulcrum and to know that you're going to work to succeed, as a man or woman." Barrymore sums it up perfectly, however. "Morals and nudity united".
Lucy Liu Shows Off Her Pups
Harrods opted for a splash of Hollywood to open their January sale, with the glamorous Lucy Liu pitching up to kick off proceedings.
Mohamed Al Fayed looked like a happy man as the Charlie's Angels actress arrived in Knightsbridge in a special Harrods carriage to open the famous sale. However, whilst in the pet department, he seemed to get a bit carried away seeing Lucy cuddling a couple of puppies and tried to put a third one on her head.
The former Ally McBeal star took it all in good humour - but must have been hoping the tiny dog wouldn't get too excited. The 36-year-old star of Kill Bill also posed with a snazzy necklace and looked quite at home browsing around the massive store.
What's For Sale Lucy?
CHARLIE'S Angel Lucy Liu collared two new pals as she opened Harrods' sale yesterday. The 36-year-old star couldn't resist these two adorable Pomeranian pups, priced £999 each.
Lucy arrived at Harrods in a horse-drawn carriage and was greeted by a crowd of 5000.
Harrods chairman Mohamed al Fayed pledged £150,000 in takings from the first day of the sale to the tsunami disaster fund.
'Charlie's Angels' stars may visit Asia
Charlie's Angels stars Lucy Liu, Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore may decide to visit Asia and help out in the tsunami disaster zone.
Liu has apparently been inspired to help, after visiting Thailand in October to film for a movie.
She told The People, "I do work for Unicef and have been in touch to see if I can do anything over there. Drew and Cameron feel strongly about it too.
"I was filming in Thailand in October. It was a beautiful place and the people were just wonderful. What happened is unbelievable."
Matt LeBlanc reunites with Lucy Liu for 'Joey'
Emmy Award-nominated television and film actress Lucy Liu takes on a recurring role in Warner Bros. International Television's "Joey."
Slated to appear in at least two episodes of the hit comedy, Liu begins her stint in the episode "Joey and the Plot Twist," airing December 9, 2004 in the U.S.
Liu plays tough-talking television producer Lauren Beck, who is in charge of "Deep Powder," the nighttime soap opera in which Joey has scored a starring role as Jeremiah Powder.
Excited to finally be on a primetime show, Joey learns the hard way what it's like to do a big-time press junket.
Liu was nominated for a 1999 Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for "Ally McBeal." In that role, she was also nominated four times for a Screen Actors Guild Award, winning in 1999 as part of the ensemble cast.
She guest starred in several early episodes of "ER" and in numerous other series, and she has provided voices for the animated shows "Game Over," "King of the Hill" and "Futurama."
In films, Liu won a SAG Award for "Chicago" and gave memorable performances in "Kill Bill: Vol. 1" and "Shanghai Noon," in addition to the two "Charlie's Angels" movies and many others.
From Bright-San Productions, Silver and Gold Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television Production Inc., "Joey" was created by Scott Silveri ("Friends") & Shana Goldberg-Meehan ("Friends") and is executive produced by Kevin S. Bright ("Friends"), Silveri and Goldberg-Meehan.
Lucy Liu loses it over scribe
LUCY LIU has ended her engagement with screenwriter Zach Helms. ``He was the man of her dreams,'' a pal of the ``Charlie's Angels'' hottie told the National Enquirer, and she's devastated. In the aftermath, Liu has begun jogging to try and put the painful break-up behind her and the Enquirer reports her friends fear she's losing too much weight in her post-break up furor. Which just sounds like an inverted Bridget Jones novel . . .
Lucy Liu Donates to Tsunami Relief
Lucy Liu has been inspired to give financial support to the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami.
The "Kill Bill, Vol. 1" actress donated $200,000 to the tsunami disaster relief, following the lead of Egyptian millionaire Mohamed Al Fayed, report British news sources.
"Mohamed has given more than #150,000 and as a UNICEF ambassador, it was the least I could do," she says. Liu helped open Al Fayed's Harrods department store in London.
Lucy Liu - Standing in the Way
Kill Bill features Lucy Liu as you’ve never seen her before… as a cartoon. Her character, Yakuza boss Oren Ishi, is introduced via an anime sequence depicting her as a child, witnessing her parents’ murder, and growing up to avenge them. By the time Uma Thurman reaches her, she’s a killing machine.
Volume 1 of Kill Bill climaxes with the battle between Thurman and Liu’s characters. Oren Ishi is the first person on The Bride (Thurman)’s list of people she must kill before she reaches Bill. It is a Samurai swordfight in the snow challenging both women to be at the top of their games.
Do you think McG is going to see this and go, “Why didn't I think of that?” No, you know what, the thing about McG is he'll go in a movie, and he will say something that, he'll die, but he's also like, he loves to steal stuff too. So we'll see what McG
comes up with.
Are you worried about being typecast as the tough girl? I actually didn't think she was tough. I thought she was a really cool character to play because she was a survivor. She had so many reasons why she had become what she was. She had to continue fighting all her life to basically stay alive, from the moment that her parents were killed. Luckily, for the first time I didn't have to explain to everybody what happened to her, because [I usually] make up a back story in my mind of how somebody becomes the way they become, or why they become who they are. In this particular situation, he gives you all of that, he pretty much lays it out for you, and I think her character is more of a survivor than someone who's tough, you know?"
But don’t you keep playing strong fighter characters? The characters I have played have been pretty interesting, and had a lot of action in them. I'm not really sure what is going to happen next. I've sort of been thinking about it, and following up after Kill Bill, working with Quentin and being part of such a great movie. I have to take the time to think about what I want to do. I try to distinguish my characters from each other. I like to know that Ling was somebody that people really loved, and that I can sort of keep her separately from the Charlie's Angels Alex character, or anyone else that I do.
How does the violence of Kill Bill compare to Charlie's Angels? I don't really see it as violence as much as action. It's part of the movie. People use location as a language in films, and I think Quentin uses action as a language in his films. And you understand that it's part of his style, of what he represents. In the scene that we have in the end, in the snow garden, there's really not a lot of violence. It's more of an emotional beat than it is a physical beat.
How have your skills grown from Shanghai Noon, through Charlie’s Angels to this? They're different. Like Shanghai Noon, if you look back at the movie, I only had one kick in the whole movie, in the end, because it was important for Jackie to have a reason he was trying to save me. Otherwise why couldn't I just take care of myself? There’d be no point for him to be there in the end. It made sense for the movie. I've definitely become much more aware of physical stunts and things like that since then, but this particular movie was different because I was doing something I'd never done before ever, and working on the Samurai sword is very different because your body position has to be very still. It's a much quieter was of fighting. Not particularly in the House of Blue Leaves scene with Uma, but the scene that I have with her in the end, you notice that it's actually much quieter. There's a lot of movements but they're really cool and it's very stylized. That's a really neat way of doing something that's different.
Was the kimono an awkward costume to fight in? Before I could do anything we had to fix the back of the head. I was like, “Oh my God, is this really going to make a difference, because I'm dying over here?” But it really does, and you have to respect and understand that that culture is so different, and once I started speaking the language and all that, it really became easy to understand why it was very important. But it did make a difference. There's a whole ceremony, too, when you fight or when you do anything, and I thought that would be really important to sort of incorporate that. Because they know that they're going to, in the end, Oren knows that she's going to be fighting The Bride in the Snow Garden. And so, there's a whole ceremony to getting to that point, where she takes off her shoes. That's when the music comes on, and you're like oh my God, what's gonna happen? Well, you know what's gonna happen, but you don't know how it's gonna happen. And she takes off her shoes. It's such a cool moment because it's such a quiet moment, and then she bows. There's one point, when she slashes her back, where she doesn't want to just kill her like that. There's got to be some sort of ceremony involved, and that's what happens in the end, and that's what makes that scene to me so important. Because there is an equality. She's gone and killed like 100 or more people before that, and then once that moment hits you know that there's a certain energy and there’s a certain heat in that scene, which I think is earned after all of that stuff that she does.
We know you trained for months, but did you have a special diet? No, I didn't diet. I generally don't diet because there was so much training involved that you can’t really. You don't want to maybe eat something that's really sugary right before you start, because then you crash. It goes on your system.
How did you like your anime likeness? I think it was great actually. I think it gave a really great back story. That was kind of a cool thing when you read the script. It was written like animation, it goes into animation. And then he showed me a picture of her when she was little, and then he showed me a picture when she was going to be in her 20s and stuff, when she got older. The thing is, you have to recognize, Japanimation is a whole different art form. Kind of like if you go and see a painting by Lucian Freud, you have to expect that that's what it's going to look like, that's a la Lucian Freud, as opposed to what somebody would represent when you get a doll made or something you want it to look similar to you. This is what the artist created and what they had in their mind for this character. I thought it was really pretty great. First of all, they put freckles in which is nice, because you normally don't see that."