Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History
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The true account of a daring rescue that inspired the film ARGO, winner of the 2012 Academy Award for Best Picture
On November 4, 1979, Iranian militants stormed the American embassy in Tehran and captured dozens of American hostages, sparking a 444-day ordeal and a quake in global politics still reverberating today. But there is a little-known drama connected to the crisis: six Americans escaped. And a top-level CIA officer named Antonio Mendez devised an ingenious yet incredibly risky plan to rescue them before they were detected.
Disguising himself as a Hollywood producer, and supported by a cast of expert forgers, deep cover CIA operatives, foreign agents, and Hollywood special effects artists, Mendez traveled to Tehran under the guise of scouting locations for a fake science fiction film called Argo. While pretending to find the perfect film backdrops, Mendez and a colleague succeeded in contacting the escapees, and smuggling them out of Iran.
Antonio Mendez finally details the extraordinarily complex and dangerous operation he led more than three decades ago. A riveting story of secret identities and international intrigue, Argo is the gripping account of the history-making collusion between Hollywood and high-stakes espionage.
was in a meeting. “We give a lot of lip service around here to cross-training our future managers. Why not get somebody from authentication down to run graphics and make me chief of the authentication branch—the first guy from graphics to do that?” I had said. “Not bad,” he’d responded, nodding his head. “I’ll get back to you, Mendez. But remember, you can’t be out on trips, gallivanting around the world. You’ll need to be back here, managing the branch.” “Yes, sir!” I’d said, trying to sound
Come Shine” poured from the radio. I often listened to music while I worked. It was almost as important to me as the light. I had installed a fine stereo system and if I painted late enough into Saturday night, I could catch Rob Bamberger’s Hot Jazz Saturday Night on NPR. I had been painting since my early childhood, and was working as an artist when the CIA hired me in 1965. I still considered myself to be a painter first and a spy second. Painting had always been an outlet for the tensions
be the first to depart. As I headed out the door for the Frankfurt flughafen, Al, the deputy chief, came sprinting down the hall. “Hold up,” he said. “The president is making a finding.” He turned to me, looking slightly perplexed. “What does it mean?” “I think it means he’s making a decision,” I replied. The chief of the office joined Al, Julio, and me in one of their offices. The chief paced back and forth, chewing on his cigar, running his fingers through his thinning hair, obviously
the next stop, then home to Hollywood. We were in the moment. They appeared to have listened to everything I had told them in our rehearsals. All right, I thought. They can do this. The plan I had briefed the houseguests on had one key element: stay together. In the event that anything should go wrong, this would give me the opportunity, as the production manager, to jump in with the Argo portfolio. Lee, however, had other ideas. Even more than Anders, I could see that Lee had embraced the
arranged a secret back-channel meeting with Sadegh Ghotbzadeh in Paris to discuss the release of the hostages. However, the slightest hint that Ghotbzadeh was meeting with Jordan would throw the whole thing out the window. The following day, Eleanor escorted me to the White House basement barbershop. It was still light out when we went downstairs. The shop was closed but Eleanor let me in. I was surprised to see that it looked just like every barbershop I have ever been in: two chairs, two