Argo (2012) Poster



Jump to: Cameo (2) | Spoilers (3)
In an interview with Piers Morgan, former American President Jimmy Carter said that he believes the film was a "great drama" and it deserved to win an Oscar for best film. However, Carter noted that although "90 per cent of the contributions to the ideas and the consummation of the plan was Canadian," the film "gives almost full credit to the American CIA. With that exception, the movie's very good," Carter said, but "the main hero, in my opinion, was Ken Taylor, who was the Canadian ambassador who orchestrated the entire process."
In reality Tony Mendez was only in Teheran for a day and a half.
In order to make the movie feel like the 1970s, Ben Affleck shot it on regular film, cut the frames in half, and blew those images up 200% to increase their graininess. He also copied camera movements and bustling office scenes from All the President's Men (1976) for sequences depicting CIA headquarters; for L.A. exteriors, he borrowed from The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976).
Ben Affleck has stated that the production was granted unprecedented access to the CIA's actual headquarters, both for interiors and exteriors, and that the gratitude for that privilege belongs to Tony Mendez, the retired C.I.A. officer portrayed by Affleck in the film.
In the movie, it was stated that both the British and New Zealand embassies in Tehran turned away the six American diplomats, leaving the Canadians as their only refuge. In fact the British embassy did shelter the six for a few days but it was agreed by everyone that the Canadian embassy would be more secure and suitable, so they moved. A New Zealand official transported them and the British also helped other Americans trapped in the country at the time. Director Ben Affleck acknowledged that he intentionally deviated from the real events in order to quicken the pace and build up the tension.
Ben Affleck requested that the actors playing the embassy refugees live together for a week in a house dressed with 1979 decor in order to get acquainted and to better understand the period.
In a curious coincidence, the Swissair airliner that flew the six "houseguests" from Tehran to Zurich was code-named "Aargau" (after the canton/district in Switzerland).
As shown in this movie, by the late 1970s, the Hollywood sign (which had first been erected in 1923 as "HOLLYWOODLAND" to advertise an upcoming real estate development) had fallen into severe disrepair. In 1978, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce had a fund-raising campaign in which they solicited nine prominent people to give about $28,000.00 each (one donor for each letter) for the restoration. Some of these benefactors included: Playboy Magazine founder Hugh M. Hefner, who gave the Y; singers Gene Autry and Andy Williams (the second L and the W, respectively), and heavy metal/shock rock star Alice Cooper, who replaced the third O (by far the most damaged of the letters) in memory of Groucho Marx. Warner Bros. Records, a division of the company that later released Argo, donated the second O. However, this restoration was completed before the events depicted in this movie started.
Ben Affleck was criticized by some viewers for casting himself (a European-American) as Tony Mendez and not a Latino/Hispanic actor. Mendez (who is half-Mexican, half-European) however said he had "no problem" with being portrayed by Affleck, and approved of his performance.
Ben Affleck, a longtime Led Zeppelin fan, admits he was desperate to use the track "When the Levee Breaks" (from "Led Zeppelin IV") and vigorously pursued the rockers to win permission, but they asked him to make a very specific change. The scene was originally shot with actor Tate Donovan placing the record needle on the beginning of the album, which was wrong: "When the Levee Breaks" is actually the last song on the second side of the album. Affleck agreed to make the change and he headed back to the editing suit in order to make the band happy. He later told the Los Angeles Times he appreciated the band's attention to detail, despite having to pay for another shoot.
The Iranian official seen on archive footage at the end of the film issuing dire threats against Canada for their role in the rescue was later executed by the regime he served.
A lot of the confidential material seized in the storming of the American Embassy can now be seen in a museum in Tehran.
All the Super 8 footage that is used in the opening sequence of the storming of the embassy was completely recreated. None of it is authentic.
In keeping with the period in which the film is set (around 1979), Warner Bros. used their "Big W" logo, which was utilized on their releases around that time, and painted the Burbank Studios logo onto their water tower. It was the name of the building from 1972 until 1990, when Warners and Columbia Pictures were sharing the same facilities.
For the opening scene, the DP gave 8mm cameras out to certain people in the crowd to make the opening scene have what would seem like this was actual footage from the riot.
In addition to playing Sahar, the Canadian ambassador's housekeeper, Sheila Vand also narrates the prologue.
Several family members of the real Tony Mendez appear as bus passenger extras after the group is allowed to board the plane.
During one of the many promotions for this film Alan Arkin didn't realize that Bryan Cranston was in Little Miss Sunshine (2006), surprisingly quoting "Get out of here. I had no idea!". This was due to the fact that both actors didn't share scenes together (just like in Argo (2012)).
With John Goodman's performance as John Chambers, this is the only time that a real-life Oscar winner is portrayed in a film that won the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Comic book artist Jim Lee owns some of the storyboards from the fake film. He stated on Twitter when this film was released that he had no idea they had been used in the mission, he only bought them being a fan of Jack Kirby.
The script originally began by jumping directly into the protests outside the U.S. Embassy. However, Ben Affleck and Chris Terrio did not want the film to simply be a portrayal of irrationally crazy Middle Easterners; the opening credits/prologue, which details how the U.S. helped install the Shah in power and the Shah's subsequent corruption and brutality was created so as to make the anger after the Iranian Revolution understandable while not supporting the grossly illegal and immoral hostage-taking at the embassy.
The script used for the fake film project was based on the 1967 science fiction novel "Lord of Light" by Roger Zelazny. In real life, makeup artist John Chambers (played by John Goodman) came up with the title "Argo" because he loved knock-knock jokes. In the film, the title becomes an off-color joke.
None of the scenes in the film were actually shot in Iran.
The story of the rescue was first filmed in 1981 as Escape from Iran: The Canadian Caper (1981) by director Lamont Johnson.
The stock footage of the Iranian-American getting attacked by angry American protesters was filmed in front of the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. The read-through of the fake "Argo" film occurred in the very same hotel.
While John Chambers, Tony Mendez, and Lester Siegel are trying to figure out how to make their fake movie project look plausible, Siegel recalls that he made a movie once with Rock Hudson, and from that draws the conclusion that if you want people to believe a lie, you should have the media disseminate it for you. This seeming "non sequitur" is a reference to the fact that Hudson, one of the biggest Hollywood stars and sex symbols of the 1950s, was secretly gay, and his agent, Henry Willson, actively fed misinformation about Hudson's "girlfriends" (really studio-arranged dates for publicity only) to the mainstream media. When the gossip tabloid "Confidential" threatened to expose Hudson's homosexuality, Wilson instead fed them scandalous information about two of the less-famous stars on his roster (Rory Calhoun and Tab Hunter) and arranged a sham marriage between his secretary and Hudson. Hudson's homosexuality was not widely known outside of Hollywood until his death in 1985.
In the film, Tony Mendez hits upon the idea of the fake movie while watching Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) with his son. John Chambers, who is played by John Goodman, designed the make-up for the original Planet of the Apes (1968), earning an honorary Oscar for his work.
At his Best Director Academy Award snub, Ben Affleck joked that he didn't feel particularly aggrieved as he didn't get nominated for Best Actor either.
John Goodman appeared in two consecutive Oscar-winning Best Pictures: The Artist (2011) and Argo (2012). In both films he portrayed a Hollywood character, a producer in The Artist and a makeup artist in Argo.
First movie in 7 years to win the Oscar for Best Motion Picture without winning the Oscar for Best Director (the previous movie was Crash (2004)). It is also the first movie in 23 years to win the Oscar for Best Motion Picture without being nominated for Best Director (the previous one was Driving Miss Daisy (1989)).
The character of Jack Kirby (played by Michael Parks), shown briefly as the artist of the storyboards for the fake movie, was a pioneer of the American comic book industry and a co-creator of such seminal comic book characters as Captain America, Iron Man, The Hulk, the Silver Surfer, and the teams known as The Avengers, The Fantastic Four, and The X-Men. Kirby did indeed create storyboards for the adaptation of Roger Zelazny's novel Lord of Light, which were used as "proof" of the movie production during the real-life "Canadian Caper."
The main person who pushed the story to be published was the former CIA director George Tenet (tenure 1997-2004). While the story was never published because of bureaucracy and the yet-to-be-concluded Iran hostage crisis, it was only when Tenet assumed the directorship of the CIA, and in conjunction with the agency's 50th anniversary, that he persuaded Tony Mendez to write his account and memoir of the mission.
The first film directed by Ben Affleck not to be set in his hometown of Boston.
Lester Siegel (played by Alan Arkin) is said to be a composite character. However, in real life, the make-up artist Robert Sidell, a friend of John Chambers, posed as the fake film's producer. Sidell's wife, Andi, was the fake production company's receptionist. Ben Affleck assumed that Sidell, like Chambers, had passed away, but he was informed just before the film's release that he was still alive and well. Affleck had Robert Sidell flown to the film's premiere in Los Angeles, and in his opening remarks, he gave recognition to Sidell for his part in the mission.
The first film directed by Ben Affleck in which he did not play a part in writing the screenplay.
The "movie" being filmed in the movie, "Argo" is named for the Greek mythological ship that Jason and the Argonauts sailed in to retrieve the Golden Fleece.
The first Best Motion Picture winner at the Oscars since Grand Hotel (1932) not to have been also nominated for Best Director or for one of the lead acting categories.
The film has enjoyed great success in bootleg format in Iran where the full facts of the "Canadian Caper" have never been made public (this is not to say that the film is a fully balanced account of the event, as it has attracted criticism for its rather one-sided portrayal of the Iranian people).
The Warner Bros logo from the late 70s can be seen at the opening of the film.
Alan Arkin has admitted that, although his Lester Siegel is a composite character, he based his character essentially on the late movie mogul Jack L. Warner who died shortly before the actual hostage crisis.
While Chris Terrio was writing the script he imagined Tony Mendez being played by George Clooney.
Alan Arkin was the first actor cast in the film.
After the film was released, Iran hired a radical lawyer in France to pursue a lawsuit against the film, claiming that the film was designed to pave the way for U.S. military operations against Iran by garnering anger against Tehran for the embassy hostage crisis. The attorney filed a claim saying Ben Affleck was guilty of war crimes for this possibility. The case was heard in a French court by a judge who heard this presentation and then immediately dismissed the suit as groundless.
Zsa Zsa Gabor's Beverly Hills estate exteriors doubled for the home of Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin). Gabor, who was at home during filming, was too ill to observe the production proceedings.
Ben Affleck met the former CIA operative Tony Mendez for the first time in March 2011 to discuss his role. The meeting took place at the Washington, D.C., Chadwicks Bar on K Street where the infamous spy Aldrich Ames had passed classified American documents to the KGB. In the movie, however, the initial meeting place where the pivotal scheme was hatched was staged at the Smoke House restaurant in Burbank, California, a real-life haunt for many movie celebrities. George Clooney and Grant Heslov's company, SmokeHouse Productions, is named for this restaurant.
The fake film poster created for the real Argo mission was rather plain and black-and-white. In the movie, it is briefly visible in the background before the script reading event is held for the press. In the same scene, the colorful fake poster used in the movie is briefly visible, too.
The screenplay for this film was featured in the 2010 Blacklist; a list of the "most liked" unmade scripts of the year.
The Best Picture Academy Award win was announced live by a satellite feed from the White House by First Lady Michelle Obama.
In Greek mythology, Jason's ship "The Argo" was named after its builder, a man named Argus. Those who sailed on it were called "The Argonauts".
The rifles carried by the Iranian revolutionary guards in the movie are accurately selected fixed-stock G3-A4, a variant of German H-K G3 rifles manufactured locally in Iran by the country's Defense Industries Organization. The movie producers obviously resisted the temptation to use the easy-to-find AK-47 rifles, which were indeed used by the Iran's revolutionary guards, but only a couple of years after the hostage crisis, during the war with Iraq.
The film features 120 speaking parts.
Tied with Gigi (1958) for being the shortest-titled Best Picture Academy Award winner, at four letters. The Best Picture winner with the longest title is The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) (10 words and 35 letters).
All three films Ben Affleck has directed were recognized for a Supporting Actor Oscar nod: Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone (2007)), Jeremy Renner (The Town (2010)), and Alan Arkin for this film.
8 of 9 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
The real John Chambers worked with director Alan Arkin on his TV movie Twigs (1975).
6 of 7 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
The silver robot costume used in the Hollywood script read-through of Argo also appears as the character S.A.M. on the Adult Swim series NTSF:SD:SUV (2011).
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
The film is produced by two Batman performers: George Clooney and Ben Affleck. With this film, both men won their 2nd Oscars in their careers.
3 of 3 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
Victor Garber is the second cast member from Toronto's legendary 1972 stage production of "Godspell" to portray Ken Taylor on screen. Martin Short played Taylor in a 1982 skit on SCTV (1976).
Both Hamilton Jordan and Kyle Chandler, who plays him in the film, graduated from the University of Georgia.
Actor Scoot McNairy (Joe Stafford) and actress Kerry Bishé (Kathy Stafford) play characters that are husband and wife in the 1980's. In the TV show Halt and Catch Fire (2014) McNairy and Bishé also play a married couple in the 1980's.
8 of 14 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
Third collaboration between director Ben Affleck and Titus Welliver, following their work on this film, The Town (2010) and Gone Baby Gone (2007) and second collaboration between Affleck and Victor Garber, following The Town.
6 of 11 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
Ben Affleck and Rory Cochrane previously worked together in Dazed and Confused (1993).
5 of 11 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
The shot used for the postscript text features Tony's son's shelf of sci-fi toys and collectibles. Among them are Star Wars figurines posed standing on a display with appropriate name places. According to their labels, the "Jawa" and "Sand People" figures have been switched. C-3P0 (labeled as "See Threepio") is missing.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
Alan Arkin and John Goodman previously appeared in Mother Night (1996) and later in Love the Coopers (2015).
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
Ben Affleck and writer Chris Terrio reunited in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), Justice League (2017) and The Batman (year of release to be confirmed). Scoot McNairy appears in Batman v Superman.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink


Tony Mendez: Passing by behind Ben Affleck with his family when Tony is dropped off at the airport to fly to Tehran.
Rafi Pitts: Appears as the Iranian Consulate Official. He was also Ben Affleck 's personal consultant on the film.


The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

The dramatic flight from the airport with a last-minute chase by the Republican Guard is entirely fictional. In reality, the diplomats showed up for their flight with pre-booked tickets and had no trouble boarding their plane. As the flight was at 5:30am, there were no Republican Guards on duty - even they were not that zealous for the cause.
When the film was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto, Ontario, the film drew criticism that it unfairly minimized the Canadian government's role in the rescues. The director Ben Affleck agreed, and he rewrote the postscript text that states that the CIA's operations complemented the Government of Canada's efforts, and the mission has become an admirable example of international cooperation.
The Iranian chief guard that questions Tony Mendez and his group when they're about to leave Iran is the exact same guard that was arresting a woman at the airport when Tony was entering the country.

See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

Contribute to This Page