Remember when Ben Affleck fooled all of us many years ago into thinking he was a talented actor/screenwriter before later actually becoming a talented actor/screenwriter/director? Well, it turns out audiences aren’t the only ones who can be fooled by pretty falsities. Affleck’s latest Oscar-caliber film, Argo, tells a story steeped in historical lies and “Gotcha!” moments. And one of the people who got duped was none other than Steven Spielberg.
In his entertaining account on the CIA website, former CIA technical operations officer Tony Mendez details the tale that Affleck’s film is based on. Proving that nothing is too weird to be considered by the U.S. Government, Mendez concocts arguably the most bizarre rescue mission imaginable in order to extract six members of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran who evaded capture by Islamic militants during the Iranian Revolution. With the help of Hollywood makeup artist John Chambers, Mendez and a small team fabricate, from top to bottom, the creation and production on a fake film, titled Argo, in order to fool the militants into thinking the six staff members are filmmakers scouting locations in Iran. And in case you think your own life is just too hard, Mendez did this in just four days.
As it turns out, Mendez’s mock studio and promotional material, combined with Chambers’ and other Hollywood players’ involvement, were successful in fooling more than just foreign hostiles. It worked back home as well, and when the fabricated Studio Six Productions shut its fabricated doors, 26 genuine scripts had been received, including one from Spielberg himself, though it’s not definitely known which script it was. Judging from the time frame of the real-life events, it’s very possible that the movie was an early version of one of Spielberg’s most cherished films, E.T.. Perhaps a few dozen other rescue missions could have been funded had the script sparked anyone’s interest in using a fake film company to make a real film.