ARGO wins BIG!

ARGO wins BIG!

Video credit: Chris Brown
Photo  credit: Janet Donovan

Tony Mendez, the former CIA technical operations officer who orchestrated the 1980 rescue of six American diplomats from Iran and who was portrayed by Ben Affleck in the Academy Award winning film “Argo,” has died. He was 78.  Variety

ARGO was the big winner at the SAG awards.  Hollywood on the Potomac looks back at the DC Premiere.

Arch Campbell remembers the 1979 Iran Hostage crisis: “You would drive by the Islamic Mosque on Massachusetts Avenue where The Rock Creek Parkway goes and there was always a huge demonstration. It was a very scary, a very tense frightening time.

There was a demonstration on Mass. Ave. every day. All these demonstrations started there.”  We caught up with TBD’s movie critic at the Washington screening of ARGO at the Regal Gallery Place Theater in Penn Quarter.

He is referring, of course, to the diplomatic situation between Iran and the United States in which 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days from November 4,1979, to January 20,1981. That situation has been brought to the big screen by Warner Bros. in the form of ARGO – a political thriller written and directed by Ben Affleck starring John Goodman, Bryan Cranston and Alan Arkin.

Affleck says he didn’t want this to be a political movie about current events, it just happened that way. “Part of this movie is how history repeats itself,” he said. “The audience brings current events to the movie, in the light of the tragic events in Bengazi.”

Bryan Cranston is best known for his roles in the Fox sitcom Malcolm in the Middle and the drama series “Breaking Bad.” Cranston won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series three consecutive times for “Breaking Bad.”

He has a starring role in ARGO as the assistant deputy director of the CIA, Jack O’Donnell who is the boss to the agent (Ben Affleck).  Jack O’Donnell puts in motion the making of a fake movie production to help six Americans escape from Iran during the hostage crisis. The movie is based on actual events, which adds to the drama.

Cranston talked to Hollywood on the Potomac about his feelings towards the government and media, before and after having been involved in the movie.

“What ARGO really tells is the story of the potential of human beings and what we are capable of doing. This is a celebratory movie,” he said, “that shows through cooperation, anything is possible.  Six human beings were saved from death in this movie and that only happened through a cooperation of governments; that happened through a cooperation of my own industry – show business – through the effectiveness and the efforts of the CIA.  It almost like fell away from being a government or political background because it really comes down to a very simple story of doing something that is greater than yourself, doing something that is selfless and more important – and there’s nothing more important – of an endeavor that is trying to save human beings.”   

The film is based on Tony Mendez’s account of the rescue of six U.S. diplomats—with help from Canada—from Tehran.  Former Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor held a reception at the Embassy and also walked the Red Carpet. Taylor became known as “Our Man In Tehran,” a hero for the relations of Canada-U.S.

Affleck spoke of Taylor’s courage in rescuing six American diplomats during the Iran hostage crisis in 1979. “What this movie is about is co-operation,” Affleck said. He also paid tribute to diplomats like Taylor who routinely put their lives on the line to help others.

Among those in attendance at the Canadian Embassy were CIA director General David Petraeus and Huma Abedin with her husband, former U.S. congressman Anthony Weiner. Huma, an aide to  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who guided Affleck on State Department protocol for the film.

Some of the six American diplomats actually rescued more than three decades ago were also in attendance.

Cranston also talked to us about the role of the media:  “If human beings are careless than someone in the media can be careless.  Is it carelss now with our new ingenuity being able to make a movie like the Muslim movie that came out that was riduculous – the free speech that that person had has created an international incident?  We live in strange times, very very complex times.  What I think the message of ARGO can really resonate is to show that people it doesn’t always have to be that way.
Parking shot form Arch Campbell: “The streets would be full of people demonstrating. You couldn’t drive down Mass. Avenue.  Of course, you can’t do that now, so what the hell,” added Arch Campell.