John Chambers: Talk to me.
Tony Mendez: It's an exfil.
John Chambers: From where?
Tony Mendez: The worst place you can think of.
John Chambers: Universal City.
[Tony hands John an issue of 'Time' magazine, with illustrations of the Iranian hostages on the cover]
John Chambers: How are you going to get into the embassy?
Tony Mendez: They're not in the embassy. During the takeover, six people escaped. They're hiding out in Tehran. That's who I'm gonna go get.
LA Times Reporter: What does the title refer to?
Lester Siegel: The Argo. You know, it's the thing.
LA Times Reporter: Like Jason and the Golden Fleece, or what?
Lester Siegel: No, no. It's the ship. It's the spaceship. It goes everywhere. It goes all throughout space.
LA Times Reporter: So, it's Argonaut.
Lester Siegel: No.
LA Times Reporter: What does Argo mean?
Lester Siegel: I don't know.
LA Times Reporter: You don't know?
Lester Siegel: It means "Argo fuck yourself."
Max Klein: You want me to be honest with you, Les?
Lester Siegel: No, I would like you to bullshit me, Max.
John Chambers: Target audience will hate it.
Tony Mendez: Who's the target audience?
John Chambers: People with eyes.
Jack O'Donnell: This is the best bad idea we have, sir. By far.
Lester Siegel: If I'm doing a fake movie, it's gonna be a fake hit.
Tony Mendez: You really know Warren Beatty?
Lester Siegel: Yes, I do. I took a leak next to him once at the Golden Globes.
Joe Stafford: You really believe your little story's gonna make a difference when there's a gun to our heads?
Tony Mendez: I think my story's the only thing between you and a gun to your head.
Lester Siegel: Okay, you got 6 people hiding out in a town of what, 4 million people, all of whom chant "death to America" all the livelong day. You want to set up a movie in a week. You want to lie to Hollywood, a town where everybody lies for a living. Then you're gonna sneak 007 over here into a country that wants CIA blood on their breakfast cereal, and you're gonna walk the Brady Bunch out of the most watched city in the world.
Tony Mendez: Past about a hundred militia at the airport. That's right.
Lester Siegel: Right. Look, I gotta tell you. We did suicide missions in the army that had better odds than this.
Jack O'Donnell: Carter said you were a great American.
Tony Mendez: A great American what?
Jack O'Donnell: He didn't say.
Lester Siegel, Tony Mendez: [on the phone] So I'm sitting in Jerry's this morning, having breakfast, a waitress comes over to me, she's waving a newspaper and she says, 'You see what those Canadians pulled off? Why can't we do something like that?' And I said to her, you know what I said?
Tony Mendez: No, what?
Lester Siegel: 'Argo fuck yourself!'
Jack O'Donnell: Brace yourself; it's like talking to those two old fucks on "The Muppets".
Max Klein: You want me to be honest with you, Les?
Lester Siegel: No, I would like you to bullshit me, Max.
Max Klein: All right. I enjoyed your films, the early ones. I took this meeting out of respect, because I wanted to say no to your face.
Lester Siegel: Thank you. Very respectful.
Max Klein: You're finished, Lester. Get your cataracts fixed, read the trades. MGM just capitalized for six new films, they're screaming for sci-fi! They're offering me four times what you guys are offering me.
Lester Siegel: Well, what can I say? Congratulations. But see, if kind of worries me what you said, let me tell you why. A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in Trader Vic's, I was enjoying a mai tai, when my pal Warren Beatty comes in. He wishes me well, and we have a little chat. Seems he was attached to star in 'Zulu Empire,' which was gonna anchor that MGM slate, but Warren confided in me that the picture's gone over budget because the Zulu extras want to unionize. They may be cannibals, but they want health and dental. Which means the movie's kaput, so the MGM deal ain't gonna happen, and your script ain't worth the buffalo shit on a nickel. So the way it looks to me, through the cataracts I grant you, is that you can either sign here and take ten thousand dollars for your toilet paper script, or you can go fuck yourself! With all due respect.
John Chambers: [after hearing of the plan to get the hostages out] So you want to come to Hollywood, act like a big shot...
Tony Mendez: Yeah.
John Chambers: ...without actually doing anything?
Tony Mendez: No.
John Chambers: [smiles] You'll fit right in!
Jack O'Donnell: I am not going to leave him at the airport with six people and his dick in his hand. Tell the Director to call the White House. Do your fucking job!
First A.D.: He says the Minotaur prosthetic is too tight, so he can't act.
John Chambers: If he could act, he wouldn't be playing the Minotaur.
Jack O'Donnell: If we wanted applause, we would have joined the circus.
Tony Mendez: I thought we did.
John Chambers: If you're gonna do a $20 million "Star Wars" rip-off, you need somebody who's a somebody to put their name on it. Somebody respectable. With credits. Who you can trust with classified information. Who'll produce a fake movie. For free.
Tony Mendez: We've got an office, we've got business cards, we've got a poster. If I'm the Revolutionary Guard, that's nothing we couldn't have made at home. Six people's lives depend on this. It's not enough. If we're gonna fool these people, it has to be big. And it has to have something that says it's authentic.
John Chambers: I did a movie with Rock Hudson one time. If you wanna sell a lie...
Lester Siegel: You get the press to sell it for you.
Lester Siegel: We made history today. "History starts out as farce and ends up as tragedy."
John Chambers: Quote's the other way around.
Lester Siegel: Yeah? Who said it?
John Chambers: Marx.
Lester Siegel: Groucho said that?
Lester Siegel: You're worried about the Ayatollah? Try the WGA.
[repeated line]: Argo fuck yourself!
Tony Mendez: Sir, exfils are like abortions. You don't wanna need one. But when you do, you don't do it yourself.
Lester Siegel: Nina, you look fabulous. You're doing the reading?
Nina: I'm playing Serksi, the Galactic Witch.
Lester Siegel: Great. I'll call you.
[walking away from Nina, talks to John]
Lester Siegel: Keep that fucking space witch away from me.
John Chambers: You know her?
Lester Siegel: I was married to her.
Tony Mendez: This is what I do. I get people out. And I've never left anyone behind.
Joe Stafford: I wish I could believe you, Mr. Harkins.
Tony Mendez: My name is Tony Mendez. I'm from New York. My father worked construction. My mother teaches elementary school. I have a wife and a ten year old son. You play along with me today and I promise you, I will get you out tomorrow.
Tony Mendez: Mike, if I were to say you were looking through the wrong end of that viewfinder, would I be right?
[Lee casually turns the viewfinder around]
Lee Schatz: Yup.
Alan B. Golacinski: Don't fucking shoot anybody. You don't wanna be the son of a bitch who started a war. They need an hour to burn the classified. I need you to hold. If you shoot one person, they're gonna kill every single one of us in here.
Landon Butler: They're claiming the embassy was a den of espionage.
Hamilton Jordan: We wish it was a fuckin' den of espionage. CI's got three people over there, they don't see a revolution coming? Call it something other than intelligence.
Jack O'Donnell: [dropping Tony off at the airport] I'm required to remind you that if you're detained, the Agency will not claim you.
Tony Mendez: They barely claim me as it is.
Tony Mendez: If we're caught, you and Pat go on trial for harboring the enemy. You know that, right?
Ken Taylor: Pat and I have discussed it. It's the risk we took.
Jack O'Donnell: [to Tony Mendez] The whole country is watching you, they just don't know it
Lamont: Call the Times, nail it to the goddamn door. CIA are the good guys.
Rossi: The Canadians are the good guys.
Lamont: Yeah, we're not greedy. Them, too.
Rossi: Only. Canada takes the credit, or they retaliate against the hostages. Great Satan wasn't involved. No CIA.
Lamont: Is that right, Jack?
Jack O'Donnell: Involved in what? We were as surprised as anybody. Thank you, Canada.
Lester Siegel: Hi, I only got a couple of minutes, I'm getting a lifetime achievement award.
John Chambers: Mazel tov, Lester.
Lester Siegel: I'd rather stay home and count the wrinkles on my dog's balls.
[watching the Iranian demonstrators on TV]
John Chambers: You ever think, Lester, how this is all for the cameras?
Lester Siegel: Well, they're getting the ratings, I'll say that for them.
Tony Mendez: You got any kids, Lester?
Lester Siegel: Yeah, I have two daughters.
Tony Mendez: You see them much?
Lester Siegel: I talk to them once a year, maybe.
Tony Mendez: Why's that?
Lester Siegel: [shrugs] I was a terrible father.
Lester Siegel: The bullshit business, it's like coal-mining - you come home to your wife and kids, you can't wash it off.
Tony Mendez: [proposing the Argo idea to the DCI] There are only bad options. It's about finding the best one.
C.I.A Director Stansfield Turner: You don't have a better bad idea than this?
Bob Anders: [as Mendez proposes his plan to get the houseguests out] We can't hold up under that. We don't know what the hell movie people do.
Tony Mendez: That's why I'm here. I'm gonna help you. I'll be with you the whole way. This is what I do.
Cora Lijek: Have you gotten people out this way before?
Tony Mendez: This will be a first.
Tony Mendez: [quizzing the houseguests about their cover identities] You. Where was your passport issued?
Bob Anders: Vancouver.
Tony Mendez: Where were you born?
Bob Anders: Toronto.
Tony Mendez: [correcting him] "Torono". Canadians don't pronounce the "t".
Lee Schatz: Some Komiteh guard is actually gonna know that?
Tony Mendez: If you're detained for questioning, they will bring in someone who knows that, yes.
Tony Mendez: The only way this works is if you believe that you're these people so much that you dream like them.
Mark Lijek: [getting ready to go to the bazaar] I haven't been this nervous since our wedding.
Cora Lijek: Only this isn't a huge mistake, hopefully.
Tony Mendez: I need you to help me make a fake movie.
John Chambers: [smiling] You came to the right place.
Swissair Flight Attendant: [bell dings] Ladies and gentlemen, it is our pleasure to announce that alcoholic beverages are now available as we have cleared Iranian airspace.
[Houseguests start laughing]
Sahar: [narration] This is the Persian Empire known today as Iran. For 2,500 years, this land was ruled by a series of kings, known as shahs. In 1950, the people of Iran elected Mohammad Mossadeqh, a secular democrat, as Prime Minister. He nationalized British and U.S. petroleum holdings, returning Iran's oil to it's people. But in 1953, the U.S. and Great Britain engineered a coup d'etat that deposed Mossadeqh and installed Reza Pahlavi as shah. The young Shah was known for opulence and excess. His wife was rumored to bathe in milk while the shah had his lunches flown in by Concorde from Paris. The people starved. The shah kept power through his ruthless internal police; the SAVAK. An era of torture and fear began. He then began a campaign to westernize Iran, enraging a mostly traditional Shiite population. In 1979, the people of Iran overthrew the shah. The exiled cleric, Ayatollah Khomeini, returned to rule Iran. It descended into score-settling, death squads and chaos. Dying of cancer, the shah was given asylum in the U.S. The Iranian people took to the streets outside the U.S. Embassy, demanding the shah be returned, tried and hanged.
John Chambers: Let's see. Well, this one's got an M.A. in English. She should be your screenwriter. Sometimes they go along on scouts because they want the free meals... Here's your director.
Tony Mendez: Can you teach somebody to be a director in a day?
John Chambers: You can teach a rhesus monkey to be a director in a day.
Ticket Clerk: I'm sorry I can't find your ticket.
Tony Mendez: [Very calm] Thank you. Could you check again?
Cyrus Vance: What's wrong with bikes, again?
Jack O'Donnell: We tried to get the message upstairs, sir.
C.I.A Director Stansfield Turner: You think this is more plausible than teachers?
Jack O'Donnell: Yes, we do. One, there are no more foreign teachers in Iran.
Tony Mendez: And we think everybody knows Hollywood people. And everybody knows they'd shoot in Stalingrad with Pol Pot directing if it would sell tickets.
Joe Stafford: [skeptical of Tony's plan] That man out there has got bad cards, and he is going to lose. And if he loses, it's our lives.
Kathy Stafford: And his life, too.
Lester Siegel: [Tony finds the "Argo" screenplay] It's a turnaround. It's dog shit.
Tony Mendez: It's a space movie in the Middle East. Does it matter?
Tony Mendez: Sir, do you have this newspaper in front of you? Would you mind taking a look at it? What's in this picture?
Robert Pender: Tehran.
Tony Mendez: Right. What's on the ground?
Robert Pender: Snow.
Tony Mendez: Right. So what crops are the do-gooders inspecting under Frosty?
John Chambers: Look, if you're gonna this, you gotta do it. The Kho-maniacs are Froot Loops, but they got cousins who sell prayer rugs and eight-tracks on La Brea. You can't build cover stories around a movie that doesn't exist. You need a script, you need a producer.
Tony Mendez: Make me a producer.
John Chambers: No. You're an associate producer, at best.
Tony Mendez: We are responsible for these people.
Jack O'Donnell: What we are is required to follow orders.
Jack O'Donnell: Carter's shitting enough bricks to build the pyramids.
Ken Taylor: [meeting Tony] I was expecting more of a G-man look.
Tony Mendez: I think you're thinking of the FBI, sir.
Consultant: And if you find yourself about to be tortured, try to look surprised...
Tony Mendez: [after quizzing the hostages on their fake bios and the one hostage paused] Shoot him, he's an American spy!
Lester Siegel: Bad news, bad news. Even when it's good news, it's bad news. John Wayne in the ground 6 months and this is what is left of America.
[shooting down ideas to exfiltrate the Houseguests]
Tony Mendez: Sir, if these people can read or add, pretty soon they're gonna figure out they're six short of a full deck. It's winter. You can't afford to wait around till spring so it's nice enough to take a bike ride. The only way out of that city is the airport. We build new cover identities for them, you send in a Moses, he takes them out on a commercial flight.
Tony Mendez: Okay, you know those science fiction movies? Star Trek, Star Wars. They need an exotic location to shoot. Moonscape, Mars, desert, you know. Now, imagine this: they're a Canadian film crew on a location scout for a science fiction movie. We put it out there - the Canadian producers put out there - that we're looking at Egypt, Istanbul. Then we go to the consulate and say "Hey, we wanna look at Iran, too." I fly into Tehran, we all fly out together as a film crew. Done.
David Marmor: Flamboyant cover identities should be avoided, as it increases operational visibility.
Tony Mendez: This is a lot more plausible than foreigners who wanna go be teachers in Iran.
Bates: You wanna blend in with the population, you don't look like a rodeo clown.
Adam Engell: Just gonna wake up tomorrow morning and be in the movie business? We already have credentials for the teachers.
Tony Mendez: No, sir, we have a contact in L.A.
Jack O'Donnell: Chambers.
Tony Mendez: John Chambers. He's a Hollywood prosthetics guy. He's got an Oscar, he did "Planet of the Apes", and he's done a bunch of contract work for us in the past. I go see him, he sets us up. One, two days, make it look real.
Space Vixen: My Creation? My Creation!
"Stafford": [English] Kevin, give me the storyboards.
"Kevin": [hands over storyboards from an abandoned production of Roger Zelazney's "Lord of Light"]
"Stafford": [Farsi] These are the drawings that show what we will film for the movie. Alien villains have taken over the hero's planet. They fight for their families and take back the city. The villains know he is the chosen one so they kidnap his son in the Spice Market. So he and his wife storm the castle. The people... hold that... the people are instructed to join him. They are farmers but they learn to fight. Voom! Neow! Pew-pew! They shoot weapons at their enemies. Kaboom! And the King of the Aliens is destroyed when the people find their courage.
Guard: Hello, can I speak to Mr Hawkins, please?
John Chambers: I'm sorry he's out of the country on a Location Scout, can I take a message?
Guard: [Hangs up]
Tony Mendez: [to his wife, on the doorstep of his home after his return from Iran] Can I come in?
Tony Mendez: "The Minister of Culture and Guidance has approved your location scout. He will send his representative to meet you and your crew at the Khayyam entrance to the Grand Bazaar tomorrow at 3 p.m."
Jack O'Donnell: They called your bluff.
Tony Mendez: Maybe they're cooperating.
Jack O'Donnell: Absolutely not. Seven Americans walking the bazaar is asking for a riot. It's the hive.
Tony Mendez: Seven Canadians, Jack.
Jack O'Donnell: Never give them multiple shots at a cover. Are they even ready?
Tony Mendez: They're getting there.
Jack O'Donnell: There's no prize for most improved.
Tony Mendez: I don't have a choice. We say no, they show up at the residence and drag everyone out at gunpoint. How well do you think their covers are gonna hold up while they're getting their fingernails pulled out?
Tony Mendez: [Tony's exfil has been scrapped and he's been ordered to return home] So you know.
Ken Taylor: ExtAff wants you to burn the passports before you leave. If we tell them now, they'll panic. I think it's best if you just don't show. It was always a fucked mission. You came closer than anybody else.
Space Princess: The Universe is Changing. The fire of goodness is going out in the Galaxy.
Space Ambassador: The Ship is... turning around...
Ship's Captain: Fire the thrusters!
Esper Robot: [is silent]
Communications Officer: He says a gravitational field that strong would kill everyone.
"Stafford": [In Farsi] It's a fantasy story about a war in another World. Here you can see our notices
"Stafford": Of course I can speak Farsi! I wish to make a film in Iran.