Ben Affleck's political thriller "Argo" was a big hit at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, with many critics and audiences lauding the film as a big-time Oscar contender. But part of that popularity -- at least for local audiences -- has to do with the fact that the Hollywood film is, at its heart, a very Canadian story.
A dramatization of the famed 1980 "Canadian Caper," Affleck's film follows the joint U.S.-Canadian operation to rescue six Americans who'd managed to escape the United States' embassy in Iran before it was stormed by revolutionaries. The six embassy staff managed to make it to Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor's personal residence, where they holed up during the hostage crisis until the arrival of C.I.A. exfiltration expert Tony Mendez (Affleck). With the cooperation of the Canadian government, the six Americans posed as a Canadian film crew scouting locations in Iran in order to fly out of Tehran.
Ambassador Taylor (played in the film by Canadian Victor Garber) sheltered the Americans at great personal risk to himself and his wife, and many who saw the film at TIFF -- including friends of Taylor -- reportedly felt that "Argo" glossed over the major contributions of the envoy and of Canadian government.
The Toronto Star is reporting that Affleck was quickly made aware of these criticisms, and subsequently modified the film's post-script after speaking with the real-life Taylor. In order to better reflect the major role that Canada and its ambassador to Iran played in the operation, "Argo's" modified post-script now reads: "The involvement of the C.I.A. complemented efforts of the Canadian embassy to free the six held in Tehran. To this day the story stands as an enduring model of international co-operation between governments."
Though he hadn't seen the film, Taylor reportedly had some issues with the way he'd heard that things were portrayed in the film, citing the fact that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency was given the majority of the credit in the film and that his own role was underplayed.
"In reality, Canada was responsible for the six and the C.I.A. was a junior partner," Taylor said, adding that he understands that facts sometimes have to fall by the wayside in the name of drama. "I realize this is a movie and you have to keep the audience on the edge of their seats."
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According to the Star, not only did Affleck amend the film's post-script, but he went a step further to make things right with Taylor. The filmmaker flew the former ambassador and his wife for a private screening of the film in Los Angeles and spent several hours talking with them afterwards.
"I love Ken," Affleck told the Star. "I already had so much respect for him before we met. He is a class act."
He added: "It's important to tell stories about how two countries worked together."
To hell with acting and directing! Affleck might just have a future in international diplomacy.
"Argo" arrives in Canadian and American theatres on Oct. 13. That's something we can all get behind.