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December 05, 2002 11:00 AM

Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal happily traded the red carpet for U.S.-issued green Wednesday, as they premiered their latest film, “Analyze That,” for the troops at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla.

The duo — whose mobster-therapist reunion hits civilian theaters on Friday — were also joined by Kevin Spacey, who was on hand to help De Niro and Crystal spread some good cheer.

“I, like you, am a little shocked to learn that I am not in this film,” Spacey, 43, joked to the crowd. “All those weeks we spent on the set with Billy and Bob, I don’t know what happened to my part.”

The appearance was part of De Niro’s work with his Tribeca Film Institute, which hosted the inaugural Tribeca Film Festival in New York earlier this year. The actor says the screening idea came about during a meeting at the Pentagon over the summer, during which Gen. Tommy Franks asked for some help keeping spirits up. “This is for getting films out to the troops and everybody overseas and to help build morale, for all the obvious reasons,” De Niro tells PEOPLE.

Added Crystal: “These are people who have defended us and will defend us. It’s the least we can do to give back a little something.”

The actors chose MacDill because it is the home of Central Command, the division that oversees operations in the Middle East, and it’s where Gen. Franks is headquartered. Central Command also is currently enforcing the no-fly zone over southern Iraq.

De Niro, 59, told the troops: “We’re here for one reason and one reason only: to pay tribute to all of you.”

“Prepare to laugh,” added Crystal, 54, before rolling the film. “General, if we do a third one, I want to analyze you.”

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