Affleck film recounts Hollywood role in Iran crisis



LOS ANGELES– Actor-director Ben Affleck’s latest movie tells the incredible story of Hollywood’s role in an attempt to get a group of US diplomats out of Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis.

“Argo,” Affleck’s third film behind the camera, is set against the backdrop of the Iranian revolution and the international standoff in which 52 Americans were held in Tehran for more than a year.

The subject matter has clear topical resonance: the hostage crisis helped eject Jimmy Carter from the White House, and President Barack Obama, battling for re-election, is now facing pressure over attacks on US missions abroad.

But the 40-year-old Hollywood star says it was never his intention for the film — produced by George Clooney and out this weekend in North America, less than four weeks before the November 6 election — to be caught up in politics.

“It was always important to us to let the movie not be politicized. We tried to make it very factual, fact-based, because it was coming up before the election in the US, when a lot of things get politicized,” he said.

The real-life story — which was classified for years, and only became public in 1997 — starts with the US embassy in Tehran being seized by revolutionaries, who went on to hold 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

The Democratic Carter’s mishandling of the crisis led to his defeat by Republican Ronald Reagan the following year.

As the mission was stormed, a handful of diplomats managed to escape through a secret exit and took refuge in the Canadian embassy. They were out of Iranian hands, but the next question was how to get them out of the country.

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer Tony Mendez proposed a solution, which at first seemed far-fetched, but was eventually accepted.

The idea was to mount a fictitious Hollywood science fiction movie production, ask Tehran for visas to scout for filming locations — and then get the diplomats out of the country disguised as film crew members.

“When I saw the script, I couldn’t believe how good it was,” Affleck told reporters, presenting the movie in Beverly Hills ahead of its release.

“What struck me almost right away was that we had this thriller, and in equal measure this kind of comic Hollywood satire and this really sort of intricate real-life CIA spy story, all based on truth.”

Affleck plays Mendez, a real-life former spy who was heavily involved in the movie’s production and even makes a brief appearance on screen.

“It was really inspiring to meet Tony. He was steeped in this movie. It was Tony’s story, Tony’s point of view,” said Affleck.

“He wanted to meet me at this old famous CIA bar in (Washington district) Georgetown, and he was telling me that it was where (CIA double agent) Aldrich Ames passed names of the American agents in Russia to his Russian handlers.

“When he told me that, it kind of sank in all of a sudden — this was real, this was a real story about a real guy who worked in a real world where real lives were at stake.”

“Argo” maintains a delicate balance of tone as it depicts the Iranian revolution and the violent embassy scenes while also showing how a Hollywood production is put together.

Affleck stressed the importance of historical accuracy.

“Naturally we wanted to be careful and judicious about presenting the facts and also stand firmly behind that, and say that this is an examination of this part of the world,” he said.

“Just because this part of the world is undergoing tumult, doesn’t mean you stop examining it or talking about it. I think that would be a bad thing.”

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  • PHtaxpayer

    More propaganda from the US.  Filipino’s should study the history and how closely it parallels our own revolutionary efforts for freedom.  But unlike Iran, we are still chained in neo-colonialism because we are blind to the fact that multi-nationals still control much of our natural resources and industry through our elitist system of political dynasties and monopolies. (Look at the contraqct of Malampaya gas well in Palawan where we only control 10% of the production revenues and 90% goes to foreign companies)

    The Iranian Revolution of 1979 was a People Power revolution like our 1986 EDSA Revolution.  Just like their corrupt dictator, Shah Of Iran, our dictator Marcos was supported by the US empire. 

    The Shah was installed into power through help from the CIA in Operation Ajax in 1953.  At that time, Iran was one of The Most modern and democratized nations in The World having a Constitution and a democratically-elected Prime Minister.  The problem is, they nationalized their oil industry because the western (UK, US, French) powers were controlling their oil production revenues.  So the US govt, through the CIA, staged a coup that toppled their Prime Minister and installed a “friendly” ruler – the hated Shah of Iran who was just as brutal to his own people as tyrants like Assad, Marcos, Saddamn Hussein and Idi Amin.

    Today, Iran is trying to build nuclear arms, not because they want to attack and destabilize the region, but because they want to defend themselves against another attack on their freedom by the US and Israel.  After the US toppled the govt of Saddam and Gaddafi, and soon Assad, and the fact that Israel has 200 nuclear weapons, Iran is forced to develop a nuclear device so it will be left alone like North Korea, Pakistan, India and China – these countries were all invaded by the British and US empires before when they were weak and poor.  Having nuclear weapons guarantees their security.

    I can’t wait to watch this propaganda from Hollywood as it is basically entertainment with very little fact.

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