Movie Talk

‘Argo’ Five Film Facts

Movie Talk

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Ben Affleck in "Argo," photo by Warner Bros. Pictures

Before it even opens this Friday, Ben Affleck's riveting spy thriller "Argo" has already seemingly made every critic's Oscar short list. Affleck stars in and directs the mostly true story of six Americans who escape from the U.S. Embassy at the onset of the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. Fortunately, the courageous Canadian Ambassador welcomes the refugees and hides them in his home. In order to extricate the "houseguests" before they're executed, the CIA attempts to pass them off as a Hollywood film crew scouting locations for a fake science fantasy adventure film called "Argo."

We all know you'll only need the edge of your seat to enjoy this tangled web, but here are five fun facts about "Argo" you may not know.

Affleck on Directing

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"Argo" director/star Ben Affleck. Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures

1. With such a strong effort, it's safe to say that Affleck has fully bounced back from the depths of "Gigli" (2003) to cement himself as not just an A-list actor, but also a go-to director. As a director, this is only Affleck's third feature film, and it's a process he's still getting used to. "There are so many decisions to be made, and it's more than you can get to each day. There is this underlying anxiety not just about getting the movie done but getting it done really well. It keeps my head spinning -- even when I am giving the kids a bath. I can be giving them a bath or feeding them, and sometimes they say, 'Dad, pay attention!'" Affleck recently told The Hollywood Reporter.

[Related: Get local showtimes & tickets for 'Argo']

Creative License

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Ben Affleck playing CIA agent Tony Mendez in 'Argo'

2. To maintain the truthful spine of the story, screenwriter Chris Terrio consulted with Tony Mendez, the maestro of the actual CIA exfiltration operation, who is portrayed by Affleck in the film. Though the filmmakers took creative license with certain elements, the veracity of the overall picture gets a full endorsement from Mendez, and also from Ken Taylor, the heroic Canadian ambassador who worked closely with the US government. "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," says Mendez, who wrote a book about the mission after President Clinton declassified the operation in 1997.

[Related: See "Argo" premiere photos and stills]

Movie Magic

Argo Clip: Fake Movie

3. Affleck does a remarkable job of instilling humor in a seemingly humorless story. Most of the laughs come at the expense of the filmmaking industry when Mendez goes to Hollywood and collaborates with his friend John Chambers (played by John Goodman), a CIA operative who also won an honorary Oscar for make-up achievement on the original "Planet of the Apes" (1968). In order to provide the American refugees with a rock-solid cover, Chambers and Mendez set about producing enough of a movie that the Iranians might actually think it was getting made. This is part of the film Affleck admits he may have dramatized a tad: "They really did take out ads and really did go to lengths to demonstrate that the movie was the real thing, but they didn't have girls in bikinis at a script reading. That was my touch." This humor is evident in the clip above, which also features Oscar winner Alan Arkin, who helps produce the fake movie.

[Related: A Plus Listers Celebrate Ben Affleck, George Clooney & 'Argo']

Time Warp

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Rory Cochrane in "Dazed and Confused." Photo by Everett Collection

4. While the comic relief is certainly welcome, it wouldn't have worked without thoroughly establishing the tense reality of the crisis. So the actors would more deeply relate to the terror and isolation of being trapped in the ambassador's house, Affleck essentially sequestered his cast into a veritable time capsule of 1979. The actors playing the refugees took up residence in the same home where Affleck shot the scenes of them in hiding, with the house dressed in period style, the actors in period costumes, and no contact from the outside world. And while you'd think anyone in Hollywood would harrumph the prospect of being phoneless for a week, actor Rory Cochrane enjoyed the experience: "I'm really glad we did that. It was amazing how quickly we formed a rapport. It definitely aided my preparation." By the way, Cochrane appeared alongside Affleck in another 70's period film: "Dazed and Confused" (1993).

Same As It Ever Was

Watch the "Argo" Theatrical Trailer...

5. Hours before "Argo" premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, the Canadian embassy closed its doors in Tehran, ceased diplomatic relations with the Iranian government, and ordered all Iranian diplomats to leave Canada. "Yeah, somebody said to me if it were a Weinstein Company movie, they would have just thought that Harvey had orchestrated it," Affleck told The Huffington Post, "and it's really sad and tragic and depressing that the movie is as relevant as it is now, to what's happened with the diplomats who put their lives on the line in these countries. And it seems as though so little has changed." You can get a feel for the tense times in the above trailer from "Argo."

[Related: Get local showtimes & tickets for 'Argo']

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