It’s awards season and movie critics are buzzing over Ben Affleck’s “Argo,” which chronicles the CIA’s attempt to rescue six Americans during the 1978 Iran hostage crisis. The film, which has been nominated for seven Oscars including one for best picture, is based on real-life events. But what really happened during the covert operation?
ARGO: Inside Story, airing at 10 PM E/P on Saturday, Feb. 23 and at 12 PM E/P on Sunday, Feb. 24 on Discovery Channel, gains access to the top players involved in the crisis to hear their side of the story, including the CIA’s “chief of disguise,” Tony Mendez, who was called upon to devise the rescue plan.
Updated from its original broadcast in 2002 on Discovery, the one-hour special narrated by Bryan Cranston, who plays CIA manager Jack O’Donnell in Affleck’s “Argo,” gives an inside look at the dramatic escape and how Mendez forged identity documents and elaborate disguises to get past the security agents at the Tehran airport.
The CIA had to come up with a convincing reason for the six people being in Tehran in the first place, and devise a way for them to leave without arousing suspicion. The operation became an elaborate scheme involving fake ID’s, a phantom movie production and unprecedented cooperation between the United States and Canada.
Mendez, who had limited access to materials once inside Iran, recalls how he forged official documents in The Office of the Canadian Ambassador. “One of the stamp pads had dried out and I had to mix the right ink color,” Mendez recalls in the special. “So I went over to the Canadian Ambassador’s liquor cabinet and got a bottle of Scotch and poured some on [the pad].”
ARGO: Inside Story reveals how the Americans prepared for their departure, the true story about the agency’s involvement and their reasons for keeping it secret for nearly two decades.
Howard Swartz serves as executive producer for Discovery. To learn more, go to www.discovery.com, on Facebook at Facebook.com/discovery and on Twitter @Discovery.
Source: Discovery press release, 2/20/13