A native of Beijing, Summer Qing made her film debut as the female lead in Chen Kaige’s 1990 Cannes Film Festival entry, Life on a String. Soon after, she played the lead in Lin Zifeng’s Kuang Crazy, and was nominated for Best Actress in China’s Hundred Flowers awards.
Her work in the TV series, “Close to Forbidden City” catapulted her national prominence as a sweet-natured ingenue. Qing has since appeared in the Chinese historical epic, The Emperor’s Shadow. She was also the voice of Mulan, in the Disney animated film of the same name. In 2007, she was featured in the Hong Kong action hit, Flash Point. She is perhaps best known in Asia for her pivotal role of Soong Ching-ling in the hugely successful 2009 film The Founding of a Republic for which Qing won a Hundred Flowers Award for Best Supporting Actress.
In 2011, Qing joined the cast of Looper, her first Hollywood production. A time-travel action film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt, Looper depicts a future where crime syndicates can send their enemies back in time to be “wacked” by killers known as ‘loopers.’ When hit man, Joe (Gordon-Levitt) learns that the mob wants to close the loop by sending back Joe’s future self (Willis), Old Joe is reluctant to give up his “looped life” with his wife (Qing). The film includes some head-spinning intersecting storylines that weave telekinesis with intricate time-paradox plotting. In this one-on-one interview, Qing reveals how she landed the role, her views about Looper and the challenges she faced in working with her first major Hollywood production.
What attracted you to the role of playing Joe’s wife?
Summer Qing: It was a great script and when I read it, I was impressed by the amazing story-telling talents of writer/director Rian Johnson. I liked the fact that my character was a believable Chinese character in this futuristic story. I also enjoyed the opportunity to work with Bruce Willis.
Did you audition for the role of Joe’s wife in Looper? If so, what was that like?
SQ: I didn’t audition for the role. Rian had seen some of my previous work and said I had the ideal figure for this woman. He set up a video conference call with me, then made the decision right there to cast me in the role of Joe’s wife.
How did you prepare for the role of Joe’s wife?
SQ: The character didn’t present that great a challenge. I had already played similar characters in some of my other films. The challenge was dealing with the language barrier, since everyone on the crew and cast spoke English. I anticipated having to deal with some cultural differences, but once I arrived on set, I realized that I was able to connect with the cast and crew.
Looper was your first Hollywood production, what are some of major differences when working in Hollywood as opposed to Asia?
SQ: I really feel lucky to be part of Looper because it was my first Hollywood film. I always felt cared for the whole time I was on set by the cast and crew. You can’t really see a difference in production between Hollywood and Asian films. There are good and bad films in both venues. Luckily, I’ve had the good fortune of being part of well-produced films in China and now Hollywood.
You appeared in the Hong Kong action movie Flash Point. How would you compare the two action-packed movies?
SQ: I prefer Looper and like the fact that my character has such a strong presence in the story. I had so much fun working with Bruce Willis. In comparing the two films, I would say that they are very different in how the story unfolds.
When you read the script—a film about people being sent back in time to be killed by their younger self–what did you think about this compelling time-travel concept?
SQ: I was very impressed with the script and applaud Rian for bringing this interesting story to life.
What was it like working with Rian Johnson?
SQ: He’s a great director and I had a wonderful experience working with him. He was very quiet when I first met him, but once I was on set, he was very complimentary of my work. He provided excellent direction and was very helpful. I look forward to working with him again.
What was it like working with Bruce Willis?
SQ: I loved working with him. He’s a loving, caring person. He’s was such a gentleman. I’ll never forget the day I arrived on the set. I was about to shoot a very emotional scene with Bruce, but we didn’t really know each other at that point. To break the ice, he came over to me, pulled me into his arms and held me for an entire minute without saying a word. This set the tone for our two characters, that we were a real couple. I was ready to play the role of Joe’s wife.
Do you prefer dramatic films that have some action or action films that have a bit of drama?
SQ: I prefer action films with a lot of drama. I’ve made many action films in China.
When did you realize you wanted to become an actress?
SQ: Not until my sophomore year in film school. At the Beijing Film Academy.
What’s your favorite Hollywood movie?
SQ: I have so many. But one would be The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Another is the latest Batman. I also like the TV series “Homeland.” I like Claire Danes’ character–Carrie Mathison.
Who is your favorite Hollywood actress?
SQ: I’ve always admired Meryl Streep when I was in school. I also like Kate Blanchett, Claire Danes and Maggie Gyllenhaal.
What are you working on now—anything new?
SQ: I’ll be working with the renowned writer/theater director Stan Lai on an 8-hour play to be produced in China. We’re hoping to show it in the US.