The Hollywood Reporter article followed the trade ad for the 1980 Argo that was part of an elaborate -- and daring -- secret CIA mission to rescue six U.S. State Department officials trapped in Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis. Hollywood -- THR included -- merely played along with the ruse unwittingly. In fact, the back story behind the fake Argo is even more byzantine than depicted in the real Argo. But it all boils down to one line that a movie producer played by Alan Arkin delivers in the new film: “If you want to sell a lie, you get the press to sell it for you.”
Ben Affleck’s Argo begins with the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by Iranian revolutionaries, with the blessing of the Ayatollah Khomeini, on Nov. 4, 1979. Fifty-two Americans were taken hostage, but, unknown to the Iranians, six others escaped and found refuge in the homes of the Canadian Embassy’s top officials. But even with newly issued Canadian passports, the six still needed new cover identities if they were to fly safely out of Iran. Enter Tony Mendez, then 38, a CIA expert in “exfiltration,” Affleck directs and stars as Mendez in the upcoming thriller set to release by Warner Bros. on Oct. 12.
Photo by: Barry Ira Geller Productions
Jack Kirby's Illustration
One of the pieces of concept art Jack Kirby created for Barry Ira Geller’s proposed Lord of Light movie and Science Fiction Land theme park. Geller, a hustling, young producer, was envisioning Lord of Light as the cornerstone for a Disney-like empire, complete with a Science Fiction Land theme park to be built in Aurora, Colo. To illustrate his dream, he turned to comic book artist Kirby, co-creator of the X-Men.
Photo by: Warner Bros.;Corbis
John Goodman as John Chambers
In a scene from Argo, Affleck, as Mendez, briefs John Goodman, playing Chambers, and Arkin, playing a fictional producer, about the rescue plan. While researching the original Argo ads in the pages of the trades, Affleck was surprised to see so many “For Your Consideration” Oscar solicitations. “I thought those were something Harvey Weinstein invented,” he jokes. Chambers, seen accepting his Honorary Oscar in 1969 for his makeup on Planet of the Apes, told Mendez his most treasured possession was the CIA’s Medal of Merit. “He cherished that medal and it hung on his wall. He told me that in an emergency it was the only thing he would grab on the way out the door,” Mendez says.
1980 Argo Poster
The Jan. 17, 1980, issue of the Hollywood Reporter was full of ads promoting that year’s Oscar hopefuls. Amid all the hoopla, it was probably easy to overlook one, relatively unassuming, full-page, black-and-white display ad announcing a new movie called Argo, described only as “A Cosmic Conflagration … commencing principal photography, March 1980.” In fact, there never really was a movie called Argo that was ready to go before the cameras -- at least not in 1980.
Photo by: AP/Titan Books
Jack Kirby/Joe Simon
In an undated publicity photo, Jack Kirby, left, appeared with Joe Simon, with whom he co-created Marvel’s Captain America comic.