Steven Spielberg has been known to be shy about pre-discussing his projects but . . . is this ridiculous or what?

He's even got British novelist J. G. Ballard keeping quiet. Ballard authored "Empire of the Sun," the 1984 semi-autobiographical account of his three-year internment as a young boy in a Japanese WW II prison camp that Spielberg is currently filming.

"I spoke to (producer) Kathleen Kennedy and Steven Spielberg when they were last in London," Ballard said by phone from his home in Walton-on-Thames, "and it seems they are keen on maintaining a complete blackout on the project."

Ballard wouldn't even chat about his more typical fare--science fiction: "I wouldn't want to do anything to foul up their publicity plans."

Spielberg began directing "Empire" in March in China from a script by Tom Stoppard and Menno Meyjes and is now shooting in Spain. John Malkovich is a Fagin-like character the boy meets in a prison camp.

Anyone not directly associated with the production has been kept away from the set--even spouses: One cast member told us her husband had been "dissuaded" from accompanying her during Far East shooting.

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