Ben Affleck has brought his latest directorial effort, Argo, to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). The movie is one of our 10 TIFF films to watch and Movie Fanatic sat in on the press conference to hear what the man, who also stars in the film, had to say.
The film -- as seen especially in this Argo TV spot -- is about a secret CIA mission to rescue a handful of U.S. Embassy workers who managed to escape the takeover of the Embassy in Iran in 1979. Affleck's latest is as timely as ever. On this day it was announced that Canada, our host country, had closed its embassy in the Iranian capital.
“The long standing tensions between Iran and Canada, which is reflected in the film, are still relevant,” Affleck said. “It is both in the sense that it's about the unintended consequences of revolution and in the sense that we're dealing with exactly the same issues we were dealing with then. I was quite struck by it."
Affleck also hopes that his film will help our government and our allies take a look at a relationship with Iran that is as strained as it was when his film takes place.
"The West -- we, the Canadians, the British -- are having to examine what our roles have been historically, what the result has been for our involvement and what the benefits are of getting into the 'getting into business with people' business. I think Argo's definitely relevant on a sort of global, political level."
In college, Affleck’s area of expertise was Middle Eastern Studies. “It’s really my zone of interest,” Affleck added.
That could have been part of the reason the studio behind Argo believed in a relatively new director, even though he delivered success for them with The Town, helming what is truly an epic tale. "Warner Bros. took a chance on me to make a movie that was a little bit unconventional and that had elements that could trip you up," he said.
"I got to make a movie that I'm really proud of and that has themes in it that I'm really interested in. I've worked on movies where I didn't feel that way and I know the difference."
Affleck portrays CIA specialist Tony Mendez who orchestrated the rescue. The CIA recently declassified details of the mission and even history buffs are amazed at the larger-than-life true story.
Mendez hatched the idea of getting a couple of real Hollywood heavies to go to Iran posing as a film crew scouting locations for a science fiction film. The filmmaker had his reasons for premiering the film at TIFF considering the Canadian government’s integral role in the rescue effort portrayed in his film. “They said, 'We'll risk ourselves, our diplomatic standing, our lives to harbor these six Americans that we owe nothing to' -- just because it's the moral right thing to do. They did it. As a result of that, those lives were saved," Affleck said.
Affleck cautions that although the film is a true story, Argo is not necessarily moment for moment what occurred back in 1979.
“There’s a clearer line between documentaries, where you expect a stricter adherence to facts and truth and history, and our movie where we say ‘based on a true story.’ But because we say ‘based on’ -- and this is for lawyers -- rather than ‘this is a true story’, it’s understood that we’re allowed to take some dramatic license,” Affleck said and laughed.
“In terms of making a movie and sort of being truthful about it, I think there’s a spirit of truth, and there’s sort of really what happens. We got really lucky, because most of what happened in this movie is extremely compelling, and the characters were very interesting, so it made it fun and a pleasure. And I could actually rely on that."