Li Bingbing Forced to Speak English for “Transformers 4”

In a time when many Chinese thespians settle for bit parts in an attempt to break into Hollywood, it was a surprise for viewers to discover that actress Li Bingbing (李冰冰) had landed a fairly important role in the recently released Transformers: Age of Extinction, also known as Transformers 4 <變形金剛4>. Even more surprising was her fluent use of English throughout the film.

“I accidentally learned it,” Bingbing half-joked, when asked about her much improved English in a recent interview with Tencent Entertainment.

For Bingbing, speaking English did not come easily when she first entered Hollywood. She struggled with her pronunciation when filming The Forbidden Kingdom <功夫之王> in 2008, and problems persisted in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan <雪花秘扇> and Resident Evil: Retribution.

However, since Transformers director Michael Bay refused to let her use a translator on set, Bingbing was forced to rely on her own strength – which ended up improving her English by leaps and bounds.

“I’ve always been learning the language, but my improvement in English was entirely forced out because I had to film and do interviews,” explained Bingbing. “Think about it, I had to do 30 interviews every day in Hong Kong. Each one is five minutes and they are all in English.

“This type of training gave me a lot of pressure because I didn’t want to lose face or bring shame to the Chinese people,” she went on. “But people must have pressure. Even though I almost collapsed under the pressure, it is only after you experience this collapse that you can improve.”

Fortuitous First Meeting with Michael Bay

In Transformers 4, Bingbing gets quite a few chances to show off her English while portraying Su Yueming, the head of the Chinese branch of a Transformers technology firm. The character was originally meant to be male, but after meeting with Bingbing, Michael Bay decided to change the character into a woman.

“At the time, I had a hard time imagining what an Eastern female face would be doing in a science fiction film with an automobile/person protagonist,” said Bingbing, recalling how her management company had suggested she try out for Transformers 4. “I wasn’t terribly excited, but my company said that since I was already in America, I should give it a try.”

Bingbing later visited Bay’s production studio and found her interest piqued by the many Transformers models. She even struck up a conversation with Bay himself, though – at the time – she had no idea whom she was talking to.

Although Bay has a reputation for being a strict director, Bingbing seems to have enjoyed a good working relationship with him. She even successfully persuaded him to include additional scenes for her.

“He has to take care of so many people and so many things,” Bingbing explained when asked about Bay’s directing style, which has been described as intimidating. “He has the clearest idea of what he wants his movie to be like, so he is very single-minded. When he focuses all his attention, others may not know what he’s thinking, and he won’t have much to say to them.”

Rising Future Presence in Hollywood

Though much has been made of the stampede of Chinese actors into Hollywood, Bingbing remarked that the competition “really isn’t so cut-throat.” The important thing is for actors to display their unique strengths and abilities.

“We should let Westerners see the tenacity, wisdom, beauty, and kindness of Eastern women,” she said. “Chinese actors who do make a name for themselves all have their own personality and charisma, so they will definitely have their own opportunities.”

No matter what the Western reception of Transformers 4 may be, Bingbing seems optimistic about her future in Hollywood. Her future plan is to understand more of American culture, which means watching American shows, seeing more of America, and simply experiencing more of American life.

“I feel that life is really the source of an actor’s ability,” she shared, “so it’s good to relax and feel and experience life.”


This article is written by Joanna for


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  1. this article made like she’s can’t speak English well enough. i saw her on “the view” about 3 years ago. her English seems pretty good to me. better than a few tvb actress who used to live in Canada.

    1. agree, i saw her on an american show where she spoke English. it was good!

    2. I heard her speak English for an interview about the Resident evil movie, and her English is flipping good! She did say she was somewhat forced to learn very fast…like within a year.

  2. I wonder if an ang mo actor were to forced to speak chinese would there even be any pressure got them to be perfect? Come on! It’s not her mothrr tongue, why the high expectations?!

  3. This is American film, you would have to force and learn how to speak English in order for the western audience to understand.

  4. Have not heard her speaks in English. But I must say that she really did put in a lot of effort to learn to grasp a language that is foreign to her.

  5. I could understand her but hardly fluent. Heavily accented with lots of R sounds. I do like her character though; very feisty.

    1. Hi Funn,
      I’ve never watched her movies at all. If it’s so, why so many commented she speaks fluent english. I was surprised by what was written because very few chinese artiste speaks good english let alone fluent english.

      1. She is not fluent in her English. She still is raw on her pronunciation. She has the money to get a tutor to limit the mistakes.

      2. Much like how X Men promo machine billed Fan Bing Bing as one of it stars when her scene is in combination 10 minutes with 1 speaking line.

        Go watch transformers and then you tell me if that is fluent. Same as is Kenneth Ma fluent in English.

      3. She can speak English, is just not fluent.

        She appeared in Bloomberg Charlie Rose talk show last year with her director sometime around ‘Resident Evil’, and she holds her own in English.

        But she can’t express herself and her views well, ending up just plain common speaking then, making it the stereotype that Chinese women are simple minded.

      4. You watch her speak Mandarin and English in interviews, and like most Chinese women, when speaking Mandarin, they are opinionated, have character and strength and views.

        but when they speak in English, when in front of western audience and a western host, they appear demure, feeble, simple, look and feel inferior, and let out bursts of giggles.

      5. To Bingbing up and rising,
        Thanks a lot for sharing. I wish I had the chance to see her in interview eventhough I was never a fan of her.

        I guess it’s lacking of confidence, especially when english is not your mother tongue and not getting use to english. Alot of ppl can speak well but when it comes to writing and grammar, lot’s of us tend to make mistakes.

      6. Considering the fact she learned English in her late 30’s, she should be given credit for speaking basic English well enough.

    2. I managed to find a few of her english interview online. It’s not too bad. It’s in fact much better than a lot of migrants who have been living for years in an english speaking country.

    3. I’ve seen the movie, and she is far, far from fluent.

    4. I haven’t seen her in this TF4 yet, but did saw her brief appearance as a presenter in Hollywood’s Independence Spirit Awards on TV two years ago (looking pretty btw). Her English then was heavily accented and doesn’t flow as naturally as one might hope, but I can totally understand her. If she indeed put effort recently, I’m curious how much her English has grown.

  6. she is one of the reason why I do not want to watch this film…

  7. transforms 4 is AWESOME! ! ! even i haven’t watched it before i think is going to be a very awesome and good movie anyways!!!!!!!!!!<3

  8. cuz i have watched THE fault in our stars,maleficent,how to train your dragon 2…………and these three movies are so AWESOME AND GREAT I JUST LOVED IT SO MUCH

  9. i love Li Bing Bing. she’s prettier than Fan Bing Bing!

  10. Asian actors need to hire their own makeup people. She looks horrible!!!! They put on horrendous makeup for her in the movie and she looked like a dead person. Meanwhile, the blonde girl who plays Mark’s daughter has like 20 layers of makeup on. WTF?!

  11. Bing Bing knew English and forcing her to speak is pure BS. No one forces anyone unless agreed to. Since she wanted to play the part which was an English speaking role, she had to perform. So she really wasn’t forced but speaking ENglish was probably outside her comfort level.

  12. I doubt very much she can speak fluent English. People I know who have been educated in Britain for years still have that Chinese twang. You can’t tell me learning English within a year makes you fluent. END OFF

  13. I was surprised at the amount of screen time she had. It wasn’t minimal like FBB’S in DOTFP.

    About her English…pretty heavy accent, but I could still understand her.

  14. She speaks great english. Ps shes frekkin hot even at 41..

    1. Yup, freaking hot lass! Fan BB can move aside…..Li BB english is good just like Michelle Yeoh.

  15. Li BingBing is way better than the female protagonist. Nicola Peltz is useless. She just acts pretty and cries for help. -.-

  16. Watched TF4 ytd and Li has a quite prominent role. The screentime must be equal to her Ada Wong in RE5. Her English is understandable with accents but I can feel that she feels much comfortable whenever she speaks Chinese.

    The movie was quite entertaining. It is plotless but worth for each penny of the ticket. I really love Bee and he is the reason why I will watch TF5 (I know will happen). And no, the Autobot is lead but Human shares their appearance. The Human is not useless in TF4. If you want to see how useless Human is, watch Godzilla. Cade has the fight and contributes in the final fight to kill Lockdown. It was just too greedy to pull many unnecessary characters in, such as Darcy and the other CIA. Overall it is worth to watch.

  17. I went with my kids to watch T4 today and thought this was the best one out of the series! I was also delighted to see some familiar actors such as ‘Leur Leurng Wai’ as the guy who sold the motorcycle to LiBingBing. Did anyone else notice it? Overall, I thought LiBingBing performed well ;-).

  18. This is a pathetic article.
    American movie= English obviously is spoken.

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