Dana Meltzer
August 29, 2003 01:00 PM

Bai Ling just finished shooting Star Wars: Episode III with George Lucas in Australia. But, of course, she’s gotta warn you up front: “I can tell you a little bit, but I signed a contract that I’m not supposed to talk about it.”

Contract or no, the Chinese-born actress, 36, who’s already made a splash on the big screen with films such as 1997’s Red Corner opposite Richard Gere and 2000’s Anna and the King with Jodie Foster, dished to PEOPLE about her brush with Lucas and her experience working on the final prequel in the massively popular sci-fi saga. She plays a senator, but little else is known about her role in the film. Not that we didn’t try.

Any funny stories from the set?
I got to know George Lucas and his daughter, and he’s a very simple, down-to-earth man. I feel like the whole thing is an amusement park for him and all of us are toys. I said, “Do you prepare for the whole day of shooting all in advance?” He said, “Not really. I’ve been doing it for so long.” I would describe him like great Chinese calligraphy. When he lifts up the pen, the whole world starts to dance. That’s just how I feel.

How do the actors immerse themselves into this world?
We got there on the set and it just makes you feel like you’re in a different world. I was there for two weeks. It was really fun.

Did you get any fight scenes? Can you tell us about them?
No. I’d get into trouble. They’re very strict.

Where did you stay while you were shooting?
I stayed in Quay Grand Hotel, which all of the actors stay in, overlooking the city bridge. The opera house is next door. I opened my curtains and, oh, the skyline, it’s like sunrise it is so beautiful. I had to take a picture. I was half asleep and naked. It was so beautiful. I was calling everyone.

Did you feel added pressure being involved in such a popular franchise?
Star Wars has so many fans. I called all of my friends in China and all over the world to share the happiness because (Lucas) cast me in the role and I was in a beautiful scene. What more can you ask? I feel like I am so fortunate.

How did you get the role?
I met (Lucas) at the MTV Movie Awards. And, these shoes I was wearing … My feet were hurting. I was in high-heeled black shoes. I’m sitting there and my feet hurt. Finally, this lady comes and says, “Hi. You Bai Ling?” I say, “Yeah. What’s your name?” She says, “I’m Katie Lucas.” I say, “Nice to meet you.”

Then George Lucas comes by and she says, “This is my dad.” And he was sitting and chatting with me. I was so nervous. I don’t know what to talk about. I’ve been a Star Wars fan for a long time. I didn’t watch all of them but I watched the early ones. I was talking to him and I was very shy. I said, “It’s a dream (that) one day I’d be in your film.” Then I left. I never imagined – a few weeks later – he called my agent.

How did you find out?
I was so excited because I got another film that is shooting in October called Badge of Honor. I was in Maui in Hawaii and I was on the phone telling everyone the good news. And my agent called and said, “I have more good news. George Lucas wants you to be in Star Wars. He wants to meet with you next week.” Can you believe it?

Was it everything you expected?
I really didn’t have many expectations because I did not know. But I just enjoyed so much. It’s a gift for me.

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