Ben Affleck goes straight to facts in telling the story of 'Argo'

BY GEORGE LANG glang@opubco.com Published: October 12, 2012
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As “Argo” took shape and Heslov, Clooney and Affleck began assembling a cast including John Goodman as Chambers, Alan Arkin as Hollywood producer Lester Siegel and Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad” as Mendez' C.I.A. supervisor, Jack O'Donnell, Affleck said he knew that he wanted to play Mendez. As a director, Affleck stayed out of the frame for his first feature, “Gone Baby Gone,” but took a starring role in his follow-up, “The Town.”

“It struck me, right away, that you had this thriller and then, in equal measure, this comic Hollywood satire and this really intricate real-life C.I.A. spy story based on truth,” Affleck said. “That seemed like a fantastically interesting and unusual movie to be a part of, and I really wanted to direct it.

“And then, the actor side of my brain that's still in that phase of auditioning and trying to make connections and get work, asked the director of that movie for a job, and the director was in a tough spot and had to say yes,” he said, laughing.

Focus on events

At a time in which tensions are building in Syria, and several Middle Eastern governments are being reorganized or re-established following the “Arab Spring,” Affleck said he tried to not emphasize the politics surrounding the mission. While former President Jimmy Carter is heard during the closing credits discussing Mendez' role in the “Argo” incident, Affleck said his film concentrates on the actual events rather than hindsight analysis.

The complex and improbable story, a historically accurate account of the details surrounding the rescue, Affleck said, was all he needed.

“We went to great pains to try to make it very factual and fact-based, knowing that it was going to be coming out before an election in the United States when a lot of things get politicized,” Affleck said. “We obviously couldn't forecast how terrible things would become now, but even when we made the movie, we saw some resonance to countries that were in tumult.

“Naturally, we just wanted to be judicious and careful about presenting the facts, and also stand firmly behind that and say, ‘This is an examination of this part of the world,'” he said. “Just because a part of the world is undergoing strife and tumult, it doesn't mean you stop examining it, looking at it or talking about it.”

Travel and accommodations provided by Warner Bros.