Recreating an international crisis of historical proportions is not as easy as you think.
For Ben Affleck, the director and star of “Argo,” opening Friday, it may have been the biggest challenge of his career: fomenting the chaos necessary to simulate the 1979 storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran that launched the hostage crisis.
“We had several thousand extras on some days,” the 40-year-old actor-director told The News of filming in Istanbul, which doubled for Tehran. “It was not quite ‘Lawrence of Arabia,’ but it felt pretty big to me.
“I wanted to hire real people, but that meant we had to dress them and we had to teach them Persian chants,” he adds. “We had to bus them in from all over the place; some of these people had to leave their homes at one in the morning. All of a sudden, it turned freezing and raining on the days we were going to shoot. So there were a ton of logistical challenges. Chief among them, they could just go home. They could just decide it wasn’t worth it.”
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The result, though, has been well worth it for Affleck.
Based on a real incident only declassified during the Clinton administration, “Argo” tells the story of a clandestine CIA operation that freed six American diplomats. They narrowly escaped capture after their embassy was breached and 52 of their peers were taken hostage.
Secretly holed up for weeks in the home of the Canadian ambassador (played by Victor Garber), they realize it’s just a matter of time before they’re discovered. So Langley assigns a top “exfiltration” expert, Tony Mendez (Affleck), to sneak into the midst of the chaos of the Revolution and whisk the diplomats home…