Ben Affleck shocked the world by going from J. Lo’s dorky boyfriend with baby teeth to respected director with Gone Baby Gone and The Town in the space of a few years. And for his next project, according to Vulture, he’s going all Blue Valentine method on us. You see what a few good reviews will do to you? His next film, Argo, is about people hiding out in a safehouse during the Iranian revolution. Naturally, he plans to make his actors actually live in a safehouse together.
Vulture has learned that Affleck intends to have the ensemble cast actually live together in a single “safe-house” for half a month prior to the start of production, to better re-create the claustrophobic and tense conditions of the six American diplomats unlucky enough to be inside the U.S. embassy in Tehran during the Islamic revolution in November 1979.
The film is based on this 2007 Wired article, “How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran”,
about the true story of how a CIA agent helped six diplomats who’d managed to escape capture and hide out during the revolution flee the country by smuggling them out of the country passed off as a Canadian film crew. The fake film was called “Argo.” Prior to that, the diplomats spent 84 days in a house together. The article describes the experience thusly:
The accommodations were luxurious. There were books, English-language newspapers, and plenty of beer, wine, and scotch. But the guests could never leave their quarters. As the weeks went by, a quiet routine developed. They cooked elaborate dinners, read, played cards. Their biggest daily concern was how to assemble teams for bridge — and whether they’d be captured and potentially executed.
Hmm. So a group of actors will spend two weeks living in a mansion together, getting butthoused and playing cards, and this is going to be… claustrophobic and tense? The only tension I can imagine is them trying to figure out how often to f*ck each other. Stories of method acting are always funny to me because they’re all so super serious, and yet based on the assumption that actors can basically trick themselves into thinking they’re not pretending. Not that they can’t. To be fair, actors are pretty dumb. And it’s not like they have anything better to do.
Here’s more on the story of operation Argus, which is pretty interesting:
CIA cover stories are generally designed to be mundane and unlikely to attract attention. That’s how [CIA Agent Tony] Mendez’s plan started out. He would use Canadian documentation for the Americans, because of the common language and similar culture — and, well, everybody loves Canadians [it's more like nobody cares much either way, but I see your point. -Ed]. But Mendez still had to figure out an excuse for a half-dozen Canucks to be wandering through Iran’s theocratic upheaval. There were plenty of North American journalists, humanitarians, and oil industry advisers in country. But they were either heavily monitored or well known to authorities. The State Department thought they could masquerade as unemployed teachers, until someone realized that the English-language schools were all closed. When the Canadian government suggested nutritionists inspecting crops, Mendez dismissed the idea as preposterous: “Have you been to Tehran in January? There’s snow on the ground. And certainly no agriculture.”
He was stuck. For about a week, no one in Washington or Ottawa could invent a reason for anyone to be in Tehran. Then Mendez hit upon an unusual but strangely credible plan: He’d become Kevin Costa Harkins, an Irish film producer leading his preproduction crew through Iran to do some location scouting for a big-budget Hollywood epic. Mendez had contacts in Hollywood from past collaborations. (After all, they were in the same business of creating false realities.) And it wouldn’t be surprising, Mendez thought, that a handful of eccentrics from Tinseltown might be oblivious to the political situation in revolutionary Iran. The Iranian government, incredibly, was trying to encourage international business in the country. They needed the hard currency, and a film production could mean millions of US dollars.
When the ads appeared, Hollywood Reporter and Variety writers called, generating small news articles in each magazine. “Two noted Hollywood makeup artists — one an Oscar winner — have turned producers,” read an article in the January 25, 1980, Holly wood Reporter. “Their first motion picture being Argo, a science fantasy fiction, from a story by Teresa Harris … Shooting will begin in the south of France, and then move to the Mideast … depending on the political climate.” About the cast, Bob Sidell was quoted as saying, “We will use substantial names. At the moment we are sworn to secrecy.” The coverage in turn generated further interest in this new Hollywood player soon to start filming in the Middle East.
Sidell, who had been working in Hollywood for nearly 25 years, always said the whole town ran on BS, but even he was surprised by how easily the fictional universe of Studio Six took on the force of apparent reality. It was not long before this small CIA outpost found itself deep in the movie business.
Everyone was in costume before dawn on January 28, 1980. Cora Lijek had used sponge curlers to give herself a Shirley Temple look. She thumbed through the script as they waited. Kathy Stafford donned heavy, bohemian-looking glasses, pinned up her hair, and carried a sketch pad and folder with Kirby’s concept drawings. Mark Lijek’s dirty-blond beard had been darkened with mascara. Anders thought of their escape as an adventure and flung himself into his role as Argo’s flamboyant director: He appeared in a shirt two sizes too small, buttoned only halfway up his hairy chest to reveal an improvised silver medallion. He wore sunglasses, combed his hair over his ears, and acted slightly effeminate. Schatz played with his lens. During the previous two days, they’d done several dress rehearsals, with a Farsi-speaking staffer from the Canadian embassy dressing up in fatigues for mock interrogations, probing for cracks in their cover. They’d learned the movie’s story line and their characters’ backgrounds and motivations and were now waiting, essentially, for call time. By 4 am, they’d packed, thanked their hosts, and were on their way to Mehrabad Airport.
So anyway, yeah, some actors are going under deep cover in order to impersonate a group of diplomats impersonating movie people. Haha, have fun, you guys