The two CIA agents paced around the room as they listened to the disturbing words of the defecting KGB agent. "The CIA has been penetrated, I tell you," he said in a thick Russian accent.
But the ominous words did not strike fear in the hearts of American security agents. The man speaking was an actor, not a KGB agent, and the conversation was taking place under the glare of movie lights in an office building near Hyattsville, not in the secrecy of CIA headquarters in Langley.
The scene was one of many being filmed last week in Prince George's County for the upcoming British Broadcasting Corp. movie "Mirror Image." The $2.5 million film, based on a true spy story, stars Tommy Lee Jones of "Coal Miner's Daughter" and "The Executioner's Song" fame and will be shown in the United States on Home Box Office next spring.
Tina Bellamy, a receptionist at the Navy Recruiting Office next door to the film set, was excited about the film. She said she called all her friends and said, "Guess who's here: Tommy Lee Jones.
"He looks different than . . . on TV," she said. "When I think of a movie star I think, 'Oh, my God.' But he's a regular person.
"It's neat," she added. "I went over there snooping once, and they showed me all around. It looks like the CIA is really working in there."
Shooting began Tuesday and will continue through early October.
Jones plays Steve Daley, a pseudonym for a top CIA agent who from 1964 through 1978 played a high-stakes cat-and-mouse game with Yuri Nosenko, an equally skilled KGB agent who defected in 1962. The confrontation between the two master spies forms the basis of "Mirror Image," said writer Stephen Davis.
Location manager Carol Flaisher said the site of the film version of CIA headquarters, the Presidential Building in the Prince George Center at 6525 Belcrest Rd., was suggested by James Hubbard, executive vice president of the Prince George's Chamber of Commerce. "As soon as I saw it, I said, 'This is it.' " Flaisher said. "We had looked all over the area for possible sites, and this was the best by far."
One reason was that the exterior of the white concrete and glass building resembles the CIA's headquarters in Langley. "They even have the same feeling in terms of scope," Flaisher said.
Even more fortunate was that much of the third floor of the building was vacant and had corridors and cubicles similar to what a CIA building "ought to look like," said producer Graham Massey, head of the drama division of the BBC's special features unit. For instance, the building's white tiled floors and white plastic room dividers, which create the feeling of a vintage 1960s government building, were in place when the film crew arrived. "The building could have been built as a film set," Massey said.
The film does take at least one artistic license with the site: The real CIA headquarters does not have a fountain in the lobby, but this one does. "There ought to be one in Langley," Massey joked.
Prince George's County Executive Parris Glendening, who lunched with the film crew Friday, said he was "excited" about the movie. "The film industry is big business," he said. "They employ local talent, stay at hotels, as well as eat, drink and be merry. The producer estimated they would spend about $1.5 million in the Washington area, with about $300,000 in Prince George's. Even if that's off, it's a good infusion of money into the local economy."
Glendening said he was "thinking seriously" about creating a county film commission to work with the state film commission. "The Washington suburbs are unique in that they can provide suburban or even rural settings and also shots of the Capitol and the White House, very near each other," he said.
Sandy Crews, a Naval statistician, said she was fascinated by the film. "You see films about the FBI or something in Washington and you wonder how they did it. Now I get to see," she said.
"Maybe they'll come back again -- and this time bring Robert Redford," she said.