Ben Affleck drawn to directing CIA reality on big screen
BEN Affleck's latest directorial effort explores a little known chapter from America's CIA history.
Argo tells the virtually unknown story of the risky mission to free six Americans who took shelter with the Canadian ambassador at the height of the Iranian revolution.
The film's origins lie in a magazine article feature writer Joshuah Bearman penned for Wired, based on information declassified during the CIA's 50th jubilee celebrations in 1997.
Argo is the third film directed by Affleck, who puts his directorial choices down to a superb script.
Screenwriting is something he certainly knows a few things about, after winning an Oscar with Matt Damon for their debut feature film Good Will Hunting
"I've learned that you can't make a movie that even works, much less is good, without really good writing and really good acting," Affleck said.
"So, that lesson has led me to not be distracted so much by the other stuff going on in film making, and to focus on the essence of the story and the words and the events and the way that those are interpreted by the actors.
"And that philosophy has taken me to a place that I really like."
Affleck also acts in the film, making it the second film in which he wears the two hats after he starred in and directed The Town in 2010.
He plays Tony Mendez, the CIA "exfiltration" specialist who concocts the risky plan to pose as the director of a fictional Canadian sci-fi movie, titled Argo, and smuggle the six Americans out of Iran as his film crew.
"I wanted to play him because the script was really interesting," Affleck said.
"And what struck me almost right away was that you have this thriller. And then, in equal measure, this kind of comic, Hollywood satire, and this really intricate, real-life CIA spy story. And it's all based on truth."
As part of his preparation for the role, Affleck met the now-retired Mendez.
"He wanted to meet me at this old, famous CIA bar in Georgetown and he was telling me that it was where Aldrich Ames passed names of the American agents in Russia to his Russian handlers," he said.
"And when he told me that, it sort of sunk in all of a sudden that this was real. This was a real story about a real guy who worked in a real world where real lives were at stake.
"It wasn't just sliding down the roof and kicking in the window and shooting three guys, and the kind of thing that we, in Hollywood, tend to think of as the CIA. It was a real thing."
Argo opens in Australian cinemas on October 25.