Based on real events, the dramatic thriller “Argo” (released in 2012) chronicles the life-or-death covert operation to rescue six Americans, which unfolded behind the scenes of the Iran hostage crisis, focusing on the little-known role that the CIA and Hollywood played —information that was not declassified until many years after the event. Ben Affleck directs and stars in the film, which is produced by Grant Heslov, Affleck, and George Clooney. On November 4, 1979, as the Iranian revolution reaches its boiling point, militants storm the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking 52 Americans hostage.
But, in the midst of the chaos, six Americans manage to slip away and find refuge in the home of Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor. Knowing it is only a matter of time before the six are found out and likely killed, the Canadian and American governments ask the CIA to intervene. The CIA turns to their top “exfiltration” specialist, Tony Mendez, to come up with a plan to get the six Americans safely out of the country. A plan so incredible, it could only happen in the movies.
“Argo” also stars Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin (“Little Miss Sunshine”), and John Goodman, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Scoot McNairy, Rory Cochrane, Christopher Denham, Kerry Bishé, Kyle Chandler and Chris Messina. The movie’s screenplay by Chris Terrio is based on a selection from “The Master of Disguise” by Antonio J. Mendez and the Wired magazine article “The Great Escape” by Joshuah Bearman. In 2013, “Argo” won three Oscars: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing. Here is what Affleck said about “Argo” at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival press conference for the movie.
Ben, what was it like to recreating a historical event where people know the ending and making it into a thriller?
Affleck: I think that sounds harder for the director than it is. You just really rely on a good screenplay that’s rooted in reality. And you rely on good actors where the performances are so credible that you’re invested in them, and you’re invested in what the stakes are from moment to moment and the things that they want. Part of the brain and the audience aren’t thinking, “Well, they probably wouldn’t have made a movie about six people who got gunned down on the runway.” You’re invested in these human beings.
Ben, how much responsibility does a director have to the historical occurrences when putting them in a dramatic film?
Affleck: There is a clear divide in documentaries, where you expect a stricter adherence to fact and truth and history, and our movie where we say “based on a true story.” We say “based on” (I learned this from the lawyers) rather than “This is a true story.” It’s understood that we’re allowed to take some dramatic license. For example, in the beginning, houseguests went from place A to place B to place C. It would’ve been a lot of shoe leather. So we kind of compressed it to we went straight to the Canadian ambassadors.
In terms of making a movie and being truthful about it, I think there is a spirit of truth and there is literally what happens. We got lucky because most of what happened in this movie is extremely compelling. The characters were very interesting, so it made it fun and a pleasure. I could actually rely on that.
I’d have questions and go, “Should I look this way or that way?” And we’d go, “How does it really look?” And so, we’d look at the actual material. So it was actually kind of a crutch for me.”
For more info: “Argo” website