Argo (2012)

R | 120 mins | Drama | 12 October 2012

THIS TITLE IS OUTSIDE THE AFI CATALOG OF FEATURE FILMS (1893-1993)
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Director:

Ben Affleck

Writer:

Chris Terrio

Cinematographer:

Rodrigo Prieto

Production Designer:

Sharon Seymour

Production Companies:

Smokehouse Pictures, GK Films
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HISTORY

The written statement, “Based on a true story,” appears after the film’s title in the opening credits.
       The final shots of the film show a collection of science-fiction action figures and a storyboard from Argo in the room of “Ian Mendez,” “Tony Mendez’s” son, with superimposed title cards containing the following statements: “The Iran Hostage Crisis ended on January 20, 1981, when all remaining hostages were released. They spent 444 days in captivity”; “The involvement of the C.I.A. complemented efforts of the Canadian embassy in freeing the six held in Tehran. To this day, this story stands as an enduring model for international cooperation between governments”; “All of the Houseguests returned to the U.S. Foreign Service after their ordeal in Iran”; “Oscar-winning makeup artist John Chambers was awarded the C.I.A.’s Intelligence Medal, its highest civilian honor. He and Mendez remained friends until Chambers’ death in 2001”; “Tony Mendez’s Intelligence Star was returned to him in 1997, when the Argo operation was declassified by President Clinton”; and, “He lives in rural Maryland with his family.”
       As end credits begin, images of the actors portraying Argo’s lead characters are set side-by-side with photographs of their real-life counterparts. The end credits include the following statement: "Some scenes and dialogue in this film have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes." The following dedications appear in the end credits: “In memory of Ian Mendez,” and, “Mr. Affleck dedicates this film to Jennifer, Violet, Sera, and Sam.” A “Special Thanks” section acknowledges the following organizations and individuals: The Carter Center; Huma Abedin; Whitney Williams; U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Douglas A. Smith, Assistant Secretary, Adrienne Wong, Business Liaison; Rafi Pitts; ... More Less

The written statement, “Based on a true story,” appears after the film’s title in the opening credits.
       The final shots of the film show a collection of science-fiction action figures and a storyboard from Argo in the room of “Ian Mendez,” “Tony Mendez’s” son, with superimposed title cards containing the following statements: “The Iran Hostage Crisis ended on January 20, 1981, when all remaining hostages were released. They spent 444 days in captivity”; “The involvement of the C.I.A. complemented efforts of the Canadian embassy in freeing the six held in Tehran. To this day, this story stands as an enduring model for international cooperation between governments”; “All of the Houseguests returned to the U.S. Foreign Service after their ordeal in Iran”; “Oscar-winning makeup artist John Chambers was awarded the C.I.A.’s Intelligence Medal, its highest civilian honor. He and Mendez remained friends until Chambers’ death in 2001”; “Tony Mendez’s Intelligence Star was returned to him in 1997, when the Argo operation was declassified by President Clinton”; and, “He lives in rural Maryland with his family.”
       As end credits begin, images of the actors portraying Argo’s lead characters are set side-by-side with photographs of their real-life counterparts. The end credits include the following statement: "Some scenes and dialogue in this film have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes." The following dedications appear in the end credits: “In memory of Ian Mendez,” and, “Mr. Affleck dedicates this film to Jennifer, Violet, Sera, and Sam.” A “Special Thanks” section acknowledges the following organizations and individuals: The Carter Center; Huma Abedin; Whitney Williams; U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Douglas A. Smith, Assistant Secretary, Adrienne Wong, Business Liaison; Rafi Pitts; The Central Intelligence Agency; Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority; Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism Directorate of Cultural Assets and Museums and the Directorate of Ayasofya Museum; Grand Bazaar, Istanbul; and Faith Municipality. After the Special Thanks, two disclaimers appear: “The Central Intelligence Agency has not approved, endorsed, or authorized this production or the use of the CIA seal, name and initials,” and, “The Seal of the Department of State was used with permission of the Department of State and such use does not constitute an endorsement of the production by the Department of State nor the United States Government.”
       Archival footage and images in the film receive the following acknowledgements in end credits: “Footage from Battle for the Planet of the Apes provided by Twentieth Century Fox; Posters from The Planet of the Apes (1968) & Conquest of the Planet of the Apes provided by Twentieth Century Fox, all rights reserved; Battlestar Galactica and photo of Brandon Tartikoff courtesy of Universal Studios Licensing, LLC; Use of photo still from Love Boat – provided by CBS Television Studios; Ravagers courtesy of Columbia Pictures; Use of elements from Star Trek – provided by CBS Television Studios; Certain artwork in the style of Jack Kirby’s artwork was created by Michael Maher and Leonard Morganti; © 1980 Time Inc., all rights reserved, image of Time magazine used with permission, no recordation or further transmission permitted without the express written permission of Time Inc.,” and, “Archival footage provided by ABC News Videosource; AP Archive; Canamedia Productions/Les Harris; Jimmy Carter Library; CBS News; Corbis; F.I.L.M. Archives; NBC Universal Archives; Thought Equity Motion.” End credits also contain the following written statement: “Still photographs provided by Abbas/Magnum Photos; Bettmann/Corbis/AP Images; Bettmann/Corbis; Getty Images; Thomas Hoepker/Magnum Photos; Los Angeles Public Library; Mazdak/Sipa; Wally McNamee/Corbis; Jahangir Razmi/Magnum Photos; Duane Rieder; Mohsen Shandiz; Christine Spengler/Sygma/Corbis; Ken Taylor; and Variety.”
       A 3 May 2007 DV news item announced that Warner Bros. optioned Joshuah Bearman’s article, “How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran,” published in the May 2007 issue of Wired magazine. Although DV stated that producers George Clooney and Grant Heslov would write the screen adaptation, they did not receive any writing credits in the final version of the film. As of 4 Feb 2011, Ben Affleck was in “early negotiations to direct,” according to an HR news brief of the same date.
       For one week prior to principal photography, the six actors who played the U.S. Embassy escapees prepared for their roles by living in the home that later served as the Canadian ambassador’s residence, as stated in production notes from AMPAS library files. The actors were sequestered and denied access to modern technology such as cellular phones and computers, and, for the entire week, they wore costumes that fit the period of the early 1980s. Affleck stated that the method paid off, and by the start of filming, the actors had taken on an air of familiarity with each other that translated onto the screen.
       According to a 29 Oct 2012 DV article, Argo’s production budget was $45 million. A 17 Aug 2011 LAT article stated that the production received a $6.3 million tax credit from the California Film Commission, for filming the majority of its fifty-day shooting schedule in California. In addition to Los Angeles and Ontario, CA, principal photography took place in Washington, D.C., and Turkey, which stood in for Iran. As stated in a 10 Oct 2012 LAT article, the “Veterans Affairs medical building” in the North Hills area of Los Angeles served as the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran, while exterior sequences depicting the area around the Embassy were shot in Turkey. The LAT building in downtown Los Angeles provided the location for various office interiors, and a residence in Hancock Park doubled as the home of “Ken Taylor.” The production office for “Studio Six Productions” was set up at Warner Bros. studios in Burbank, CA, although the real Studio Six Productions’ temporary office space had been on the Sunset Gower Studios lot, according to articles in the 23 Oct 2012 LAT and 5 Oct 2012 HR. Burbank’s Smokehouse Restaurant, after which Clooney and Heslov’s production company was named, served as the location for a meeting between Tony Mendez and “John Chambers.” The Beverly Hilton Hotel stood in for itself, and a home in Bel Air, CA, “once owned by Zsa Zsa Gabor,” doubled as the residence of “Lester Siegel.” The Ontario International Airport in Ontario, CA, was used in place of the Tehran Airport, and, in Turkey, Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, Blue Mosque, and the Hagia Sofia were used as filming sites.
       To add a sense of spontaneity for the scenes inside the ambassador’s home, Affleck directed the actors to improvise while director of photography Rodrigo Prieto employed handheld camerawork to follow their actions, as stated in production notes. For a contrasting visual style in Washington, D.C., scenes were filmed with smooth dolly shots and more grounded camerawork. In Los Angeles, Affleck wanted to capture the style of the motion picture industry in the 1970s, so Prieto’s photography contained a lot of zooms and greater color saturation. Also for period authenticity, costume designer Jacqueline West consulted with Tony Mendez, the real-life CIA agent upon whom Affleck’s character was based, who informed her that he used to dress in “herringbone Harris Tweed jackets” at the office and, in order to disappear into a crowd, wore bland colors while on missions.
       A 4 Sep 2012 review in DV stated that the sequence portraying the Americans’ narrow escape at the Tehran airport was fictionalized in order to raise tension, and that the real-life operation went much smoother. The review praised the change for “not only mak[ing] for a thrilling finale” but “correct[ing] the uncomfortably xenophobic way every Iranian is shown in the movie” prior to the sequence, by suggesting that some Iranians were smart enough to suss out Mendez’s operation before the group actually left the country. Also fictionalized was composite character “Lester Siegel,” who, according to the 5 Oct 2012 HR article, was partly based on Barry Ira Geller, a young producer who attempted to work with makeup artist John Chambers on a science fiction film based on Roger Zelazny’s novel, Lord of Light (Garden City, 1967), but left the motion picture industry after being arrested for securities fraud.
       The film’s world premiere took place at the Toronto Film Festival in early Sep 2012, while its European premiere took place at the San Sebastian Film Festival in late Sep 2012, as reported in a 27 Jul 2012 DV news item. In its first weekend of release, Argo took in $20.1 million in box-office receipts, as stated in a 15 Oct 2012 NYT brief. On 29 Oct 2012, DV reported that the film had grossed $67 million worldwide and was expected to earn more than $100 million in the U.S. and Canada.
       Critical reception was largely positive. The ensemble cast and Affleck’s direction were consistently lauded, along with Prieto, West, and production designer Sharon Seymour for their outstanding re-capturing of the early 1980s era in the various locales of Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Tehran. The 4 Sep 2012 DV praised Chris Terrio’s screenplay and the film’s thrilling pace, but pointed to Affleck as “the one dubious casting choice in an all-around stellar ensemble,” stating that the actor-director was too soft for the character of Tony Mendez.
       Argo was named one of AFI’s Movies of the Year and one of ten “Top Films” by the National Board of Review, and won "Best Picture" at the Academy Awards. The film also received Academy Awards for Film Editing and Writing (Adapted Screenplay) in addition to the following Academy Award nominations: Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Alan Arkin); Best Music (Original Score); Best Sound Editing; and Best Sound Mixing. The film was awarded Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture (Drama) and Best Director, in addition to Golden Globe nominations for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Alan Arkin); Best Screenplay – Motion Picture; and Best Original Score – Motion Picture. Chris Terrio won a Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA) award for Best Screenplay. As reported in a 2 Nov 2012 HR news item, Ben Affleck received a Career Achievement award from the Casting Society of America (CSA), while Argo casting director Lora Kennedy won CSA’s “Hoyt Bowers Award.”
       According to a 15 Apr 2001 NYT article by Elaine Sciolino, titled “When a Little Production in Hollywood Freed Six Americans Trapped in Tehran,” the fake production company set up by Mendez, Studio Six Productions, shuttered six weeks after the escapees were rescued; however, while in operation, Studio Six received twenty-six screenplay submissions, including one from Steven Spielberg. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
3 May 2007
p. 1, 13.
Daily Variety
13 Jun 2011.
---
Daily Variety
27 Jul 2012.
---
Daily Variety
4 Sep 2012
p. 16.
Daily Variety
29 Oct 2012
p. 3, 44.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Feb 2011.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Sep 2012
p. 74.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Oct 2012
pp. 64-65.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Nov 2012
p. 90.
Los Angeles Times
17 Aug 2011
Section B, p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
4 Sep 2012
Section D, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
10 Oct 2012
Section B, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
12 Oct 2012
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
23 Oct 2012
Section D, p. 1.
New York Times
12 Oct 2012
Section C, p. 1.
New York Times
15 Oct 2012
Section C, p. 3.
New York Times
15 Apr 2001.
---
WSJ
5 Oct 2012
Section D, p. 4.
WSJ
12 Oct 2012
Section D, p. 3.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Immigration officers:
Revolutionary guards:
[and]
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PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANIES
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
2d unit dir
1st asst dir, 2d unit
2d asst dir, 2d unit
1st asst dir, Turkey unit
2d unit key 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Co-prod
Line prod, Turkey unit
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
"B" cam/Steadicam op
"A" cam 1st asst
"A" cam 2d asst
"B" cam 1st asst
"B" cam 2d asst
Cam loader
Chief lighting tech
Asst chief lighting tech
Asst chief lighting tech
Rigging chief lighting tech
Rigging asst lighting tech
Key grip
Best boy grip
"A" dolly grip
"B" dolly grip
Key rigging grip
Best boy rigging grip
Best boy rigging grip
Video playback supv
Still photog
Dir of photog, 2d unit
Aerial dir of photog, 2d unit
"A" cam 1st asst, 2d unit
"A" cam 2d asst, 2d unit
"B" cam op, 2d unit
"B" cam 1st asst, 2d unit
Cam loader, 2d unit
Chief lighting tech, 2d unit
Asst chief lighting tech, 2d unit
Key grip, 2d unit
Best boy grip, 2d unit
Dolly grip, 2d unit
Spacecam tech, 2d unit
Edge crane op, 2d unit
Edge head tech, 2d unit
Remote focus tech, 2d unit
"B" cam 1st asst, Turkey unit
"B" cam 2d asst, Turkey unit
"C" cam op, Turkey unit
"C" cam 1st asst, Turkey unit
"C" cam 2d asst, Turkey unit
Digital imaging tech, Turkey unit
Still photog, Turkey unit
"B" cam 1st asst, Washington, DC unit
"B" cam 2d asst, Washington, DC unit
Cam loader, Washington, DC unit
Digital imaging tech, Washington, DC unit
Chief lighting tech, Washington, DC unit
Asst chief lighting tech, Washington, DC unit
Key rigging lighting tech, Washington, DC unit
Key grip, Washington, DC unit
"A" dolly grip, Washington, DC unit
"B" dolly grip, Washington, DC unit
Key rigging grip, Washington, DC unit
2d unit dir of photog, Washington, DC unit
Cam systems
Gaffer, 2d unit San Francisco
Key grip, 2d unit San Francisco
Grip, Carmel crew
Grip, Carmel crew
Grip, Carmel crew
Grip, Carmel crew
Grip, Carmel crew
Elec, Carmel crew
Elec, Carmel crew
Elec, Carmel crew
Wescam tech, Aerial unit
Wescam tech, Aerial unit
Wescam tech, Aerial unit
Title des
Opt by
Opt by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Asst art dir
Illustrator
Graphic des
Art dept coord
Art dept asst
Art dept asst
Art dept asst
Art dir, Turkey unit
Asst art dir, Turkey unit
2d asst art dir, Turkey unit
FILM EDITORS
Addl ed
1st asst ed
Apprentice ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Asst prop master
Set des
Set des
On-set dresser
Addl set dec
Set dec buyer
Set dec gang boss
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Stand-by painter
Const coord
Const foreman
Greens foreman
Stand-by greens
Labor foreman
Propmaker foreman
Propmaker foreman
Propmaker foreman
Propmaker foreman
Propmaker
Armorer, 2d unit
Const mgr, Turkey unit
COSTUMES
Cost des
Asst cost des
Cost supv
Key cost
Key cost
Cost
Ager/Dyer
Tailor
Cost supv, Turkey unit
Asst cost des, Turkey unit
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond/Orch
Score rec/Score mixed
Score rec
Mus ed
Addl mus ed
Programming
Programming
Programming
Programming
ProTools op
Vocals
Kemenche
Ethnic percussion
Ethnic percussion
Mus supv
SOUND
Sd utility
Video asst op
Supv sd ed/Sd des
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Mix tech
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Foley ed
Supv ADR & Dial ed
Dial ed
ADR mixer
ADR mixer
Foley artist
Foley artist
Foley mixer
Foley mixer
Foley mixer
Asst sd ed
Sd mixer, 2d unit
Boom op, 2d unit
Video asst op, 2d unit
Dolby stereo consultant
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff supv
Spec eff foreman
Main and end titles des
Visual eff
Visual eff, Method Studios
Visual eff, Method Studios
Visual eff, Method Studios
Visual eff, Method Studios
Visual eff, Method Studios
Visual eff, Method Studios
Visual eff, Method Studios
Visual eff, Method Studios
Visual eff, Method Studios
Visual eff, Method Studios
Visual eff, Method Studios
Visual eff, Method Studios
Visual eff, Method Studios
Visual eff, Method Studios
Visual eff, Method Studios
Visual eff, Method Studios
Visual eff, Method Studios
Visual eff, Method Studios
Visual eff, Method Studios
Visual eff, Method Studios
Visual eff, Method Studios
Visual eff, Method Studios
Visual eff, Method Studios
Visual eff, Method Studios
Addl visual eff supv
Compositing supv
Compositor
MAKEUP
Make-up dept head
Asst make-up dept head
Key make-up artist
Prosthetic make-up artist and des
Hair dept head
Asst hair dept head
Key hair stylist
Make-up artist, Turkey unit
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Post prod supv
Post prod asst
Prod office coord
Asst prod office coord
Travel coord
Prod secy
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Loc mgr
Key asst loc mgr
Key asst loc mgr
Key asst loc mgr
Key asst loc mgr
Key asst loc mgr
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Picture car coord
Picture car asst
Helicopter pilot
Researcher
Stock footage researcher
Asst to Ben Affleck
Asst to Grant Heslov
Asst to Graham King
Asst to Nina Wolarsky
Principal transportation
Health & fitness
Unit pub
Casting assoc
Casting assoc
Extras casting
Extras casting assoc
Set staff asst
Set staff asst
Set staff asst
Set staff asst
Set staff asst
Set staff asst
Set staff asst
Set staff asst
Set staff asst
Set staff asst
Staff asst
Staff asst
Staff asst
Staff asst
Consultant
Consultant
Environmental steward
Craft services
Craft services
Scr supv, 2d unit
Transportation capt, 2d unit
Aerial ground coord, 2d unit
Prod services provided by, Turkey unit
Prod mgr, Turkey unit
Prod supv, Turkey unit
Prod office coord, Turkey unit
Asst prod office coord, Turkey unit
Prod accountant, Turkey unit
Prod accountant, Turkey unit
Loc mgr, Turkey unit
Transportation coord, Turkey unit
Asst to the prods, Turkey unit
Casting, Turkey unit
Security, Turkey unit
Prod supv, Washington, DC unit
Prod office coord, Washington, DC unit
Asst prod office coord, Washington, DC unit
Loc mgr, Washington, DC unit
Extras casting, Washington, DC unit
Prod asst, 2d unit San Francisco
Prod asst, 2d unit San Francisco
Prod asst, 2d unit San Francisco
Caterer, 2d unit San Francisco
Caterer, 2d unit San Francisco
Driver, 2d unit San Francisco
Driver, 2d unit San Francisco
Driver, 2d unit San Francisco
Driver, 2d unit San Francisco
Loc scout, Carmel crew
Asst props, Carmel crew
First aid, Carmel crew
Craft service, Carmel crew
Helicopter pilot, Aerial unit
Helicopter pilot, Aerial unit
Wescam tech, Aerial unit
Wescam tech, Aerial unit
Fuel truck driver, Aerial unit
Dailies adv
Financial services
Financial services
Completion bond services provided by
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunt coord, Turkey unit
COLOR PERSONNEL
Digital intermediate col
Digital intermediate col
Digital intermediate prod
Digital intermediate ed
Cinemascan col
Digital intermediate by
Col timer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA by Antonio J. Mendez and Malcolm McConnell (New York, 1999) and the magazine article "The Great Escape" by Joshuah Bearman ( Wired , 2007).
MUSIC
"'Upside Down' from In the Valley of Elah ," written by Mark Isham, courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc./Summit Entertainment, LLC
"'March to the Dead City' from Battle for the Planet of the Apes ," written by Leonard Rosenman, courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
"'Do You Miss London' from Spy Game ," written by Harry Gregson Williams, courtesy of Beacon Pictures.
SONGS
"Charlie's Tune," written by Joseph Liebman, performed by Bobby Short, courtesy of Revlon, Inc.
"Hip-Hug-Her," written by Steve Cropper, Donald Dunn, Al Jackson, Jr. and Booker T. Jones, performed by Booker T. & The MG's, courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp./Rhino Entertainment Company, by arrangement with Warner Music Group Film & TV Licensing
"Little T&A," written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, performed by The Rolling Stones, courtesy of Promotone B.V.
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SONGS
"Charlie's Tune," written by Joseph Liebman, performed by Bobby Short, courtesy of Revlon, Inc.
"Hip-Hug-Her," written by Steve Cropper, Donald Dunn, Al Jackson, Jr. and Booker T. Jones, performed by Booker T. & The MG's, courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp./Rhino Entertainment Company, by arrangement with Warner Music Group Film & TV Licensing
"Little T&A," written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, performed by The Rolling Stones, courtesy of Promotone B.V.
"Dance the Night Away," written by Edward Van Halen, Alex Van Halen, Michael Anthony and David Lee Roth, performed by Van Halen, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records Inc., by arrangement with Warner Music Group Film & TV Licensing
"Sultans of Swing," written by Mark Knopfler, performed by Dire Straits, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records Inc., by arrangement with Warner Music Group Film & TV Licensing
"Adhan - Call to Prayer," traditional, arranged and performed by Shaam, courtesy of Meem Ltd.
"Concrete Jungle," written by Rod Byers, performed by The Specials, courtesy of EMI Records Ltd., under license from EMI Film & Television Music
"When the Levee Breaks," written by Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham, performed by Led Zeppelin, courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp., by arrangement with Warner Music Group Film & TV Licensing
"Abwoon Call to Prayer," written and performed by Jahanara Laura Mangus
"Stalking Stars," written and performed by Andrew Lockington
"Al Adhan," traditional, arranged by Pat Jabbar, performed by Youssef El Mejjad, courtesy Barraka Productions
"Hace Tuto Guagua," traditional, arranged by Taato Gomez, performed by Familion, courtesy of Epic Records, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing.
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DETAILS
Release Date:
12 October 2012
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 12 October 2012
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Copyright Date:
11 December 2012
Copyright Number:
PA1815987
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby® Digital in selected theatres; Datasat Digital Sound; SDDS Sony Dynamic Digital Sound
Color
Color by Deluxe
Lenses
Hawk anamorphic lenses provided by Vantage Film
Duration(in mins):
120
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Languages:
Farsi, English
PCA No:
46118
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

As he suffers from cancer, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the former Shah of Iran, is granted political asylum in the United States following his controversial reign. On November 4, 1979, Iranian citizens protest Pahlavi’s asylum by storming the United States Embassy in Tehran, Iran. Armed revolutionaries take the American embassy workers hostage, except for six who manage to escape: senior consular officer Bob Anders and fellow officers, Mark Lijek and Joe Stafford; office assistants Cora Lijek and Kathy Stafford; and cultural attaché, Lee Schatz. At the U.S. State Department in Washington, D. C., Robert Pender and his colleague, Bates, learn about the six escapees, who are now in hiding at the home of Canadian Ambassador to Iran, Ken Taylor. Meanwhile, Hamilton Jordan, President Jimmy Carter’s Chief of Staff, instructs government officials to disregard the six escapees while they focus on the hostages inside the U.S. Embassy. Sixty-nine days later, over sixty American hostages are still being held in Tehran while the escapees remain at Ambassador Taylor’s house. In Virginia, Tony Mendez, an agent for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and exfiltration expert, learns from his supervisor, Jack O’Donnell, that the Canadian government wants the American escapees out of Taylor’s home immediately. Jack tells Tony that while the Iranian militants have not yet discovered that six Americans are missing, they are currently re-assembling shredded documents containing mug shots of the entire embassy staff. During a meeting with Jack and Tony, Pender says that roadblocks have been erected in Iran, so the escapees cannot leave by car; in turn, he suggests that someone deliver them bicycles and maps so that they can ride through the mountainside into Turkey. Tony rejects the ... +


As he suffers from cancer, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the former Shah of Iran, is granted political asylum in the United States following his controversial reign. On November 4, 1979, Iranian citizens protest Pahlavi’s asylum by storming the United States Embassy in Tehran, Iran. Armed revolutionaries take the American embassy workers hostage, except for six who manage to escape: senior consular officer Bob Anders and fellow officers, Mark Lijek and Joe Stafford; office assistants Cora Lijek and Kathy Stafford; and cultural attaché, Lee Schatz. At the U.S. State Department in Washington, D. C., Robert Pender and his colleague, Bates, learn about the six escapees, who are now in hiding at the home of Canadian Ambassador to Iran, Ken Taylor. Meanwhile, Hamilton Jordan, President Jimmy Carter’s Chief of Staff, instructs government officials to disregard the six escapees while they focus on the hostages inside the U.S. Embassy. Sixty-nine days later, over sixty American hostages are still being held in Tehran while the escapees remain at Ambassador Taylor’s house. In Virginia, Tony Mendez, an agent for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and exfiltration expert, learns from his supervisor, Jack O’Donnell, that the Canadian government wants the American escapees out of Taylor’s home immediately. Jack tells Tony that while the Iranian militants have not yet discovered that six Americans are missing, they are currently re-assembling shredded documents containing mug shots of the entire embassy staff. During a meeting with Jack and Tony, Pender says that roadblocks have been erected in Iran, so the escapees cannot leave by car; in turn, he suggests that someone deliver them bicycles and maps so that they can ride through the mountainside into Turkey. Tony rejects the idea, along with another suggestion that the escapees fly out of the country disguised as American teachers, reminding his colleagues that the international school in Iran was shut down eight months ago. That night, Mendez calls his son, Ian, who is watching a science fiction film, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, on television. The film inspires Tony, who later suggests the following rescue operation to the State Department: Tony will pretend to be “Kevin Harkins,” a Canadian film producer, travel to Iran for a location scout, and travel back with the escapees, posing as his film crew. Although several people protest the idea as too flamboyant, Tony tells them that he can secure the help of John Chambers, a prosthetics designer in the film industry who has previously done CIA contract work. In Tehran, the Iranian militants piece together information from recovered embassy documents to discover that six American workers are missing. Meanwhile, Tony obtains permission to move ahead with his operation, and, on January 19, 1980, he travels to Los Angeles to meet with John Chambers. At the Burbank Studios, Tony tells John about his plans to set up a fake company, Studio Six Productions, while pretending to produce a science fiction film. John says he will help, but tells Tony that they need an actual script and a producer with Hollywood credibility. Soon after, Lester Siegel, an older film producer who has passed his prime, agrees to take part. In Tehran, the Taylors’ Iranian housekeeper, Sahar, becomes suspicious of the escapees, although she has been told that they are Canadian houseguests. When Tony finds a screenplay for a science fiction film set in the Middle East, titled Argo, he presents it to Lester, who quickly obtains film rights for $10,000. Lester confesses to Tony that he has two daughters whom he only sees once a year, and Tony commiserates, saying he has a son who lives with his estranged wife. Although Tony needs another week to make the film production a viable cover, Jack tells him that he must go to Iran immediately, as the escapees are in danger of being found. Concerned that Studio Six Productions only has an office, business cards, and a poster for Argo, Tony tells John and Lester that the production needs more legitimacy, so they place advertisements in the trade magazine, Variety, and arrange a script-reading at the Beverly Hilton Hotel with film journalists in attendance. While the script-reading takes place, an Iranian woman makes a televised announcement that the Iranian revolutionaries believe the American hostages are spies and claims they will be tried and sentenced. Meanwhile, hostages are threatened by firing squads. After receiving final approval for his mission, Tony flies to Istanbul, Turkey, on January 27, 1980, where he, disguised as Kevin Harkins, obtains an Iranian visa. In Washington, D. C., Pender informs Jack that the Iranian militants have learned that six Americans are hiding out with the Canadians, and there is little time before they are found. At the airport in Tehran, Tony steals extra customs forms for the escapees, and, after he is admitted into the country, goes to the Islamic Culture office to apply for a film permit. As he rides through the city, Tony sees corpses of people who were publicly hanged and truckloads of armed revolutionaries. On a side street, Tony meets Ambassador Taylor, who provides him with Canadian passports for the escapees. Tony later introduces himself as Kevin Harkins to the six Americans inside Taylor’s home and provides them with screenplays for Argo, fake identities, and dossiers to memorize. The next day, Tony informs the group that they must conduct a fake location scout at the Grand Bazaar that afternoon. Joe refuses, insisting that he will not put himself and his wife in danger; however, he is later persuaded when Tony reveals his true identity and pleads for Joe’s trust. The group disguise themselves with slight changes to hair color and modes of dress, but, on the way to the Grand Bazaar, they run into a marching mob that beats on their van and intimidates them. Reza Borhani, an aide from the Islamic Culture office, greets the “filmmakers” at the bazaar and guides them through the marketplace. Pretending to be the production designer, Kathy takes Polaroid photographs, causing one vendor to become irate. As the vendor shouts at Borhani and the foreigners, a mob begins to form and the Americans flee from the bazaar. At the Taylor home, a militant named Ali Khalkhali interrogates Sahar through the gate, demanding information about Taylor’s houseguests. Frightened, Sahar says that the guests have only been there for two days and promises that they are friends of Iran, prompting Khalkhali to leave before the Americans return home. That night, Tony interrogates the escapees on their covert identities, convincing them that they will be shot at the airport the next day if they answer one question too slowly or with the wrong information. Tony gets a call from Jack alerting him that the White House has canceled his exfiltration plan because a military rescue of the hostages still held at the American embassy is in the works, and over concern that they could be humiliated by Tony’s outlandish operation if it fails. After a sleepless night, Tony informs Jack that he plans to remove the escapees with or without approval. Since President Carter must okay the operation before airplane tickets can be purchased, Jack calls the White House, pretending to be a school official with emergency news about one of Carter’s children. As Tony and the escapees arrive at the airport, there are no airline reservations under his name; however, the tickets are confirmed within moments and the group proceeds to a customs checkpoint. There, the customs officers cannot find documents to prove that Tony’s fellow travelers entered the country two days ago as they claim. After they finally gain access to the airport terminal, Tony’s group is sent into a room for interrogation when a guard checks their passports and becomes suspicious. The guard yells at the group in Farsi, and Joe, the only one who is fluent in the language, responds, explaining that they are Canadian filmmakers. Showing deference to the guard, Joe provides him with a copy of Argo’s advertisement in Variety and various storyboards. After the guard warns that he must verify the production before they can leave, Tony provides him with a business card containing the telephone number to the Studio Six office in Los Angeles. The guard calls the number twice, and John rushes to answer, responding to the guard’s request for Kevin Harkins by saying that Kevin is out of the country on a location scout. Satisfied, the guard allows the group to go, and they board an airplane bound for Switzerland. Upon receiving reassembled photographs of the six escapees, Khalkhali raids Taylor’s home in search of the Americans and calls the airport when he realizes they have fled. One of Khalkhali’s cohorts rushes to the airport to inform the guards, but, although Iranian police and airport guards try to chase down the airplane, the flight takes off with the Americans inside. Soon after, as the flight attendant announces that they have cleared Iranian air space, the group rejoices. At the CIA office, Jack celebrates the successful rescue, while Lester and John do the same in Los Angeles. Sahar flees to Iraq that day, and the Taylors evade the militants as well. In order to protect American hostages still in Iran, Canada publicly takes credit for the exfiltration. Tony learns that he will receive the Intelligence Star, the CIA’s highest award, in secret, and, later, he visits the home of his estranged wife, Christine, who embraces him upon arrival. +

Legend
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Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.