< 1988 Daily Mail JG Ballard interview
This one isn't so much an interview as a few comments by JG Ballard at the end of an article concerning Lunghua internees who complained about his account in "Empire of the Sun". From the Daily Mail, 30 March 1988:

Royal film of hell camp is "nonsense" say women

by Steve Absalom

A new Hollywood blockbuster based on the fall of Shanghai to the Japanese was condemned last night as "a total invention."

The £15million epic, "Empire of the Sun", is a "farrago of complete nonsense" say survivors of the internment camp on which the film is based.

Only last week the film had its premiere in front of the Queen, who was deeply moved by scenes showing sadistic Japanese soldiers humiliating women and forcing them to endure cruel personal experiences.

But some of the survivors say the story, based on the experiences of author J. G. Ballard, "simply never happened." In return, Ballard claimed his attackers were "women who get together every year and try to make out life in those camps was paradise."

The film, featuring Nigel Havers, made a star of 14-year-old Christian Bale, who plays a young English boy caught up in the Japanese attack on Shanghai and who suffers a "horrendous" three years in the Lunghwa camp.

The film's publicity says that "with starvation and death an ever-present threat, Jim (the boy) learns how to placate Japanese guards, drink only boiled water and eat weevils for protein."

Ballard claims that "most" of the events depicted in the film were based on his own experiences in Lunghwa and in Shanghai where he saw a rickshaw coolie being beaten to death, executions, public stranglings and bodies left to rot in the streets.

The author says that the book on which Steven Spielberg based the film took him 40 years to write: "20 years to forget and 20 years to remember those horrendous events."

But outraged survivors are demanding that he publicly admit that his book and the film "are fantasy woven into story".

Mrs Lesley Chalmers, now 79, of Stevenage, Hertfordshire, spent two and a half years in Lunghwa camp after the Japanese moved into Shanghai.

She said: "Mr Ballard's claims an absolute rubbish. There is hardly one so-called fact which is true in the book or the film.

"He makes it sound as if the Japanese stormed into Shanghai, killing and herding us into camps where the conditions were unspeakable. That is so ridiculous I can't believe it.

"The Japanese set the camp up and left us to get on with it. We ran it. There was clean water to drink and although the food was not exactly what we would care for today, it was nowhere near as bad as Mr Ballard is trying to make out.

"What concerns me, and many others who were in the camp at the time, is that the public will go and see this film and think that this is historical fact. Nothing, I can assure you, could be further from the truth.

"He says there was dirt and disease. Rubbish. We all worked hard to keep it clean."

The story of life in the camp at the time is the same from other survivors - the complete opposite of Ballard's view through "Empire Of The Sun".

Miss Anne Phillips, now 77 and living in Wiltshire, said angrily: "I feel very strongly about this. Mr Ballard has waited 40 years to write this. It is a farrago of complete nonsense. He is wrong.

"Far from there being starvation and death, we even had a farm so we could get fresh milk and eggs for the children. Where he gets the idea that children were split up from their parents, I do not know. No children were separated from their parents.

"We even had Red Cross food parcels sent in each month. Nothing is made of that little fact by Mr Ballard."

Miss Phillips lived in Shanghai from 1938 to 1946, teaching at the Cathedral School and then two years in the Lunghwa internment camp. She added that although there was continuous conflict in Shanghai, there was "no fighting" and the internees "hardly ever saw the Japanese."

"It wasn't a home from home, I'll admit. But Mr Ballard was a young boy. He ought to have spoken to people who were a bit older than himself."

"I never saw anyone beaten, tortured or whatever and neither did anyone else."

Betty Harris spent two and a half years in the Lunghwa camp - changed in the film to another area of Shanghai, Suchow Creek - from the age of 20.

She said last night: "Our experiences at the time were nothing like what Mr Ballard is suggesting. Maybe that is what he remembers but I feel he has woven a story around the facts. Mr Spielberg makes science fiction movies and Mr Ballard writes science fiction books. They've just got together to produce another one."

The criticisms have angered Ballard. He defended his story and the film, saying that he was attempting to achieve "an imaginative truth of the world at the time as a boy saw it."

He stormed: "I am fed up with this. I can't go on and on explaining that the book, and therefore the film, is semi-autobiographical. Most, and I stress most, of the events I depicted came directly from my own experiences but the film is based on a novel - a novel therefore uses fiction. Why won't they understand this? Let them write their own novels and films.

"These people resent any notion of their lives in Shanghai which might suggest that it was a place where servants were paid £10 a year. They have an amazingly rosy view of life in that camp. They make it sound like paradise.

"They are concerned that I paint an uncomplimentary picture of the British at the time. They reject any criticism of the British because, by implication, it is a criticism of them. The film is an imaginative recreation of the period based on my own experiences."