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The China Odyssey: 'Empire of the Sun', a Film by Steven Spielberg (1987)

A documentary about the making of director Steven Spielberg's film Empire of the Sun (1987).


Les Mayfield


William Rus


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Cast overview:
Martin Sheen ... Narrator (voice)
Steven Spielberg ... Himself
J.G. Ballard J.G. Ballard ... Himself
Christian Bale ... Himself
John Malkovich ... Himself
Joe Pantoliano ... Himself


A documentary about the making of director Steven Spielberg's film Empire of the Sun (1987).

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Release Date:

30 December 1987 (USA) See more »

Filming Locations:

Shanghai, China

Company Credits

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Technical Specs




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


This documentary is featured on the DVD for Empire of the Sun (1987), released in 2001. See more »


Featured in Here's Looking at You, Warner Bros. (1991) See more »

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User Reviews

Fascinating to watch the director at work...
17 March 2008 | by DoylenfSee all my reviews

The immense job of making a film from EMPIRE OF THE SUN was undertaken by Steven Spielberg, who usually made happier films involving childhood experiences. This time the emphasis was on what happens to a boy separated from his well to do parents during WWII when Japan invaded China. The boy was from the International Settlement which had been protected by diplomatic immunity until then, and suddenly when crowds of people are caught up in the invasion of Shanghai, he's separated from his mother because he wants to go back and look for his lost toy plane.

Spielberg is shown directing Christian BALE through a series of scenes that enable the viewer to follow pretty much the outline of the story as it progresses--and leading up until the final entry of the American B-59s and the end of the war. Bale is remarkably efficient at following directions, giving 100% of himself to the role and seems to be enjoying himself immensely. Likewise, Spielberg seems invigorated by the exercise of directing.

It's fascinating to watch how the crew interacts with the actors and the director Spielberg. Actors JOHN MALKOVICH and JOE PANTOLIANO are seen interacting with many of the extras and one can sense the enormity of the job undertaken by the director in a film surging with crowd scenes and certainly creating language difficulties with the Chinese extras who were used for staging pivotal scenes. The care and preparation that went into creating the 1940s look for Shanghai and its population was also an enormous chore.

Summing up: Fascinating documentary for anyone who admired the film and the wonderful performance of Christian Bale in his debut.

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