A presentation of Warner Bros. Pictures in association with GK Films directed by Ben Affleck starring Ben Affleck "Tony Mendez", Alan Arkin "Lester Siegel", Bryan Cranston "Jack O'Donnell", John Goodman "John Chambers", Kerry Bishé "Kathy Stafford", Kyle Chandler "Hamilton Jordan", Rory Cochrane "Lee Schatz", Christopher Denham "Mark Lijek", Tate Donovan "Bob Anders", Clea DuVall "Cora Lijek", Victor Garber "Ken Taylor", Zeljko Ivanek "Robert Pender", Richard Kind "Max Klein", Scoot McNairy "Joe Stafford", Chris Messina "Malinov", Michael Parks "Jack Kirby", Taylor Schilling "Christine Mendez". Screenplay by Chris Terrio; Based on a selection from The Master in Disguise by Antonio J. Mendez and the Wired Magazine article "The Great Escape" by Joshuah Bearman. Producers: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck. Composer: Alexandre Desplat. RELEASE DATES: 7 NOVEMBER 2012 (FRANCE) / 12 OCTOBER 2012 (USA)
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ARGO A presentation of Warner Bros. Pictures in association with GK Films directed by Ben Affleck starring Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION: O’DONNELL The six went out a back exit… The Canadians took them in. They’ve been there ever since. In 1980, Studio Six Productions trumpeted a new film project that had the elements of a hit sci-fi movie: spaceships, aliens, action and adventure, all happening on an arid, distant planet. Billed as a “cosmic conflagration,” the epic feature was never greenlit by any studio chief. It could only be given a green light by the country’s Commander in Chief. More than 30 years later, Ben Affleck directed, produced and stars in “Argo,” a film based on the true story of the covert mission to rescue six Americans trapped in Iran, following the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran that shocked the world. The group had narrowly avoided being taken hostage by Iranian revolutionaries and were given sanctuary at the home of Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor, who risked everything to help the Americans, even when others turned them away. But the “houseguests”—as they came to be known—were in constant jeopardy of being found out and captured…or worse. With time running out, the CIA’s top exfiltration expert, Antonio “Tony” Mendez, devised a brilliant but outrageous escape plan. Affleck explains, “Tony was friends with a famous makeup artist named John Chambers and knew it was a viable prospect for movie people to be traveling around, checking out different locations. He came up with an idea no one else would ever have thought of.” The plan was for the six to pose as a Canadian filmmaking team on a location scout and then simply fly out…although it was anything but simple. Tony Mendez emphasizes, “This was a game with no rules, so it was extremely risky. The most dangerous thing about it was the capriciousness of the people we were trying to get around. We had no way of predicting what would happen if we got caught—to us or to those already held hostage.” Joshuah Bearman, who, in 2007, chronicled the escape in a Wired Magazine article, relates, “The embassy seizure was a seismic event on the world stage. No one knew quite how to respond to the hostage situation in the embassy compound. The problem of the hidden houseguests was even trickier because diplomacy wasn’t an option. And with each day, the likelihood that they would be discovered grew. Eventually, Tony Mendez, who had ‘exfiltrated’ sensitive people from Iran and elsewhere before, stepped in with this plan.” There was also a very real threat to those harboring the Americans. Ambassador Ken Taylor confirms, “During those three months, the staff at the Canadian Embassy was dealing with the dangerous reality of the situation. We had all been offended by the violent breach of diplomatic protocol, but apart from that, these were our friends. The U.S. and Canada have always had a special relationship that transcends any boundaries. I have been given a lot of the credit, but an equal amount belongs to my wife, Pat, and my embassy staff, as well as my colleagues in Canada.” Holding an emergency session, the Canadian Parliament made a rare exception to their own laws to provide the six Americans with fake Canadian passports, under the “film crew’s” individual aliases. They arrived by diplomatic pouch to Ambassador Taylor, who rendezvoused with Mendez to deliver them. Applying his expert counterfeiting skills, Mendez imprinted them with the correct Iranian visas and entered dates to indicate that the six had arrived in the country only the day before. “To me,” says Affleck, “one of the most important themes of the movie is remembering when the United States stood up as a nation to say ‘Thank you, Canada.’ None of this would have happened without them, so America will always have a debt of gratitude to our friends to the north.” In today’s instant information age, it seems inconceivable that the entire operation remained top secret until it was declassified by President Clinton in 1997. Surprisingly, even after Tony Mendez recounted the events in his 2000 book, Master of Disguise, and, later, Bearman detailed them in Wired, most people remain largely unaware of a story that even Affleck admits “sounds utterly absurd. I understand that, because it seems completely unbelievable, but the fact that it happened is what makes it even more fascinating.” “This operation was a little-known success story in an otherwise difficult chapter in history,” says Bearman. “People knew at the time that six Americans escaped with the help of the Canadians a few months into the crisis, but until the operation was declassified years later, no one realized that the CIA had actually led the Americans to safety with such a daring mission and wild cover story.” Bearman’s piece first came to the attention of producers Grant Heslov and George Clooney. Heslov offers, “I remember the hostage crisis well, but I was unaware of this story, so I found it astonishing and also very cool. I knew immediately there was a film there and that it was one I wanted to make, and George felt the same way.” Screenwriter Chris Terrio was entrusted with turning this rescue operation into a script and went right to the source. He reveals, “When I read the article, I was riveted, and I was especially curious about Tony Mendez, about what kind of guy could think outside the box enough to come up with this plan and then undertake it. If I had pitched this as an original concept, brows would furrow and people would say, ‘No audience will ever believe that.’ But Tony managed to convince the United States government to attempt something that was even crazier than what most Hollywood studios would dream up.” Mendez counters, “I don’t think it’s so unusual to associate Hollywood and the CIA, because an instrument of espionage is naturally stagecraft.” “That makes sense,” Heslov nods. “In both worlds, you’re forging fictional situations and playing dress-up to create convincing scenarios, so there is an overlap.” Terrio arranged to meet with Mendez, who retired from the CIA in 1990. The screenwriter observes, “The structure of the film is a rescue, with people’s lives hanging in the balance. The stakes couldn’t be higher. But in my communication with Tony, I wanted to know about his day-to-day life, because if you understand the nuts and bolts of what the life of a CIA officer was like at this time, there’s a more complex drama there, which takes you beyond the action and suspense. Whenever I started to get lost in the scale of the story—how these men and women were swept up by historical events—I would remember that, underneath, it’s just a human story about people trying to do the best they can against overwhelming odds.” “You know you’ve hired the right writer when he connects so strongly to the material,” Heslov says. “Inherently, it’s a terrific tale and that’s half the battle, but Chris wrote an amazing script. It was all there on the page from the very first draft.” Affleck agrees. “It was one of the best scripts I’ve ever read. I’m always on the lookout for a great story, and I know when I find one. That was certainly the case with ‘Argo.’ It was a true page-turner, so I was happy to get a crack at directing it.” Heslov and Clooney learned about Affleck’s interest shortly after seeing his 2010 drama “The Town.” Says Heslov, “Ben has a wonderful sense of story and knows how to use the camera to tell it. He also has a strong point of view, which, as a filmmaker, is probably the most important thing. He understands how to build to a climax and brought even more of a thriller aspect to ‘Argo’ than we envisioned.” One of the filmmakers’ biggest challenges was the film’s juxtaposition of life-or-death drama and dry comedy. Heslov explains, “It starts out very serious, and then the tone changes, particularly when you get to Hollywood. We wanted ‘Argo’ to have some levity, but it had to be integrated in a cohesive way. In the end, I feel we got the right balance, and that’s a testament to Ben as a director.” “The humor was an important part of the script,” Affleck adds, “but it was the hardest line to walk. My main concern was making sure the laughs did not jeopardize the sense of urgency or realism. Luckily, we had Alan Arkin and John Goodman handling most of the comedy. They played every line with such integrity that the humor feels innate and never strains belief.” Believability became the watchword of the entire production. However, Affleck underscores, “It is not intended to be a documentary. As is always the case with a movie like this, elements had to be compressed and some dramatic license was taken because it is, after all, a drama. But we were very fortunate in that we could stay faithful to the spirit of what happened, because the truth of what happened was incredibly compelling.” Terrio cites the film’s closing minutes as an instance when the filmmakers used fictionalized events to depict genuine emotions. “When I talked to Tony and read the houseguests’ accounts of the actual escape, I got a sense of how overwhelming and euphoric that moment was. To cinematically replicate what they were feeling required more than just words. The action had to be wound up tight so that their relief is tangible, and is also shared by the audience.” Affleck collaborated with his cast and creative teams to achieve a high level of verisimilitude, in both time and place. He and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto adopted distinct filming styles that would convey the era of the late 1970s and `80, and establish a visual divide between the milieus of Washington, DC; Hollywood, CA; and Iran. Production designer Sharon Seymour and costume designer Jacqueline West examined photographs and film archives to re-create the look of the period as it pertained to the film’s decidedly different settings. Affleck says, “In researching those three worlds, I started to plan how we were going to weave them together to tell this extraordinary story. That’s when the real work began.” And, according to those who were actually there, the work paid off. Ken Taylor says, “The movie does a brilliant job of catching the mood and the tension in Tehran and the dedication of those in diplomatic life, often in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. I also think the movie couldn’t be better in terms of timing. It takes place some 30-odd years ago, but it could well take place today.” “I was pleased about the prospect of this experience being made into a movie, and now that it’s happened, it’s exciting,” Mendez states. “There was a point when it was important to keep the secret of what happened for the greater good, but it’s now a piece of history. Ben and everyone else involved in the film did a remarkable job. Watching ‘Argo’ brought me right back to that moment in time. Simply put, they got it right.” (C) 2012 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC.