There's a fair amount of local surveillance around Beale Air Force Base these days, as locals keep a lookout for movie crews and stars.

Steven Spielberg is currently directing a film at the base.

The film is said to be starring Tom Hanks as James Donovan, an American attorney who negotiated the release of CIA U-2 spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers after he was shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960.

The Beale Air Force Base public affairs office confirmed Wednesday that Spielberg and a cast and crew numbering in the hundreds have been filming on base for nearly a week and that they are scheduled to wrap up by the end of the week.

Beale spokeswoman Lt. Siobhan Bennett also said news media would not have access to the set.

Spielberg's publicist Larry Kaplan gave no hints about what is being filmed at Beale and suggested contacting Disney or DreamWorks once the film is released in October 2015.

"Yesterday, they were flying those planes like crazy," Beale Military Liaison Committee member John Nicoletti said on Wednesday. "The planes are flying in very unusual patterns."

Nicoletti, who is also a Yuba County supervisor, said he is confident a movie being filmed at Beale will have a positive economic impact throughout the region.

Spielberg was spotted having dinner at Sutter Buttes Brewing Tuesday evening with five others.

He ordered the shepherd's pie and drank wine from Cordi Winery.

Owner Joe Federico said a few customers briefly stopped by to take photos and talk with Spielberg.

The customers who spoke with him said he was really nice, Federico said.

Spielberg flew into the Yuba County Airport before sunrise Tuesday on a 737.

Airport manager Mary Hansen said it is the largest aircraft she has seen land on the 6,006-foot runway in the 36 years she has been there.

Runways at nearby Sacramento International Airport are about 8,600 feet.

Daniel Honeycutt of Yuba City, who has owned and operated Honeycutt Aviation at the airport for 13 years, said it is "definitely cool" to see such a large aircraft in front of his business.

The Boeing Business Jet came and went twice on Tuesday and once on Wednesday.

Longtime Yuba City resident and retired Lt. Col. Tony Bevacqua, who flew the U-2 and SR-71 while stationed at Beale, was roommates with Powers back in 1956 when they were training in the F-84 Thunderjet fighter/bomber at Turner Air Force Base in Georgia.

Bevacqua remembers the day that Powers was simply gone. He later learned the CIA had recruited Powers to fly the then top-secret U-2.

Bevacqua is hopeful the movie about his old friend and his old aircraft comes across factually.

Beale officials fill the same way.

"We are excited to see Beale featured in such an incredible movie," Bennett said. "We are looking forward to seeing the film."

CONTACT David Bitton at 749-4796. Find him on Facebook at ADdbitton.


Beale movie history

The last movie filmed at Beale Air Force Base was the 1963 film "A Gathering of Eagles" about the U.S. Air Force during the Cold War. The film stared Rock Hudson and Jim Caldwell.


The background

Francis Gary Powers, a U-2 spy plane pilot working for the CIA, was taking photos of military bases in May 1960 when a surface-to-air missile shot him out of the sky over the Soviet Union at more than 70,000 feet.

Powers, much of the aircraft and the film survived the crash.

He was interrogated for three months before being convicted on espionage charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

But in February 1962 he was released in a prisoner exchange with KGB Col. Vilyam Fisher, also known as Rudolf Ivanovich Abel, a Soviet spy who was captured in New York in 1957.

— David Bitton

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