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Summer in the Slovak capital was less sleepy than usual this year, and a good deal more profitable - thanks to Steven Spielberg.

Spielberg's DreamWorks chose Bratislava and a former Soviet military base nearby as locations for its first movie, "The Peacemaker," a thriller starring George Clooney and Nicole Kidman centered on the theft of Russian nuclear material.Car chases, bombings and other thrills enlivened a city that knew such phenomena only from the post-Communist criminal underworld. Parts of the Old Town were made over to look like Vienna, where Clooney and Kidman track down Russian informers. A Communist-era industrial complex housed a "Pentagon war room."

Living and filming in Bratislava, an old Austro-Hungarian city, cost a fraction of what Vienna would. Streets could be closed at will, publicity manager Bob Werden noted.

Yet the more cosmopolitan Austrian capital is just an hour's drive away - Vienna's best informed gossip column said Kidman and husband Tom Cruise dropped $15,000 in a city boutique in one visit.

As a cheap location for Hollywood, Slovakia so far has taken a back seat to the Czech Republic and its stunning capital of Prague, where Cruise filmed parts of "Mission: Impossible."

That may change. Branko Lustig, co-producer of "Schindler's List" and producer of "The Peacemaker," says cost and the experience will have him recommending Slovakia to others - and happy to return himself.

People "are very friendly and open," he said. "They understand it's good for them, and they will do anything." He estimated that the filming left Slovakia $6 million to $10 million richer.

Although most Slovaks seemed unperturbed by the descent of Hollywood, local extras, restaurants and hotels enjoyed a boon.

The crew came often and tipped generously, said Peter, a waiter who wouldn't give his last name. A typical lunch for two at the Pizzeria Corleone, where he works, runs $7.

"I even spoke to Nicole once on the phone," he said. "She's a vegetarian and ordered spaghetti and salad without mayo."

The crew sometimes descended on their hotel's casino at 3 a.m. to eat and gamble, said a croupier who declined to give his name.

"They didn't seem to care if they lost money," he said, noting the difference between Americans born to affluence and Slovaks still reaching for it after decades under Communism. "They're not like our people. For them, gambling is a pastime."

Lustig, a Holocaust survivor, said he chose Slovakia after a February visit, when he stumbled across an exhibit about Jewish life before World War II.

Lustig spoke with Bratislava's tiny remaining Jewish community and its Brooklyn-born rabbi. "They told me everything was okay now. That's when I said to Steven, `We can film here."'

The crew is moving now to Macedonia, poorest of the former Yugoslavia's six republics. Locations there will substitute for steppes and railways of Russia, where a renegade army man steals nuclear materials to threaten the world.