“The movie was fake. The mission was real,” is a tagline you’ll see printed across a blue-hued photo of Ben Affleck that’s gracing movie theaters and city streets across America this week for “Argo.” The film tells the true story set against the backdrop of the Iranian revolution that follows CIA “exfiltration” specialist Tony Mendez, who develops a dangerous plan to free six Americans who have found shelter at the home of the Canadian ambassador – all under the guise of a film crew shooting a B-Level sci-fi picture. Thankfully the film that they’ve made about the events surrounding the fake film isn’t as flimsy as the one in the latest from multi-hyphenate actor and director Ben Affleck, with our man on the scene at Telluride calling the film “a terrifically suspenseful and entertaining thriller.”
As we head further into October, or for cinephiles the very tip of Oscar season, hopes for “Argo” are high. Its all-star cast consists of Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, and many more in a terrific ensemble, with advance word that Affleck could pull a nomination for directing and “Heights” screenwriter Chris Terrio’s could nail down a Best Adapted Screenplay nod. We caught up with Affleck, Cranston, Goodman, Arkin, Terrio, producer Grant Heslov and Joshua Bearman – who wrote the original article on this historic moment from which Terrio drew from – at a recent press day for “Argo” and some insightful comments ensued.
1. Ben Affleck freely admits to cribbing talent from filmmaker and friend Kevin Smith’s controversial picture “Red State”
It’s nice to see that Ben Affleck holds no ill-will towards his buddy from down the Jersey turnpike Kevin Smith, as many would assume following a bomb as commercially and critically reviled as 2004’s “Jersey Girl.” Thankfully they’re still friends, and it’s Smith’s controversial and confounding “Red State” that Affleck admits to cherry-picking from to cast his latest film. Smith recently told a full house for the recording of his latest Q&A DVD special “Kevin Smith: Burn In Hell” that he sent Affleck a 35mm print of the film to screen for himself, which he sent back to Smith with no word as to whether or not he liked the film. Smith immediately became suspicious when his “Red State” cast starting popping up in trade reports around Affleck’s movie. Affleck said with an air of jest, “Well, I love Kevin and have seen all his movies. I had heard of John Goodman prior to ‘Red State,’ and was a fan. Though I did see Michael Parks and Kerry Bishe in the movie and was really impressed by them. I also really like the movie ‘Red State’ a lot.” It also appears as though Smith eventually heard back from Affleck, who put forth a replacement pull quote for Quentin Tarantino’s current quote that says “I freakin’ love this movie,” by offering Smith the use of the quote “I fucking love this movie MORE than Quentin Tarantino!”
2. In regards to the film’s terrifying opening sequence on the Iranian raid of the American Embassy, Affleck wasn’t worried it wouldn’t make the cut considering the recent and ongoing struggle in the Middle East.
Considering the willingness of Warner Bros. to amend the movie theater shootout sequence glimpsed in the trailer for “Gangster Squad” following the tragedy at “The Dark Knight Rises” midnight screening in Aurora, Colorado that appropriately caused quite a stir, Grant Heslov reveals that the political climate overseas didn’t weigh on their movie, though it was considered: “It was definitely too late. I think it was something that we talked about.” With Affleck adding, “I think it was important to us that the movie not be politicized. We went to great pains to try to make it very fact based, knowing that it was coming out before an election in the United States, a time when many things become politicized. We obviously couldn’t forecast how terrible things would become now, but when we were making the movie, we saw some resonance to the Arab Spring and some countries that were in tumult.” Though, he stands by his choice to keep the pieces of the film intact, explaining, “Naturally, we wanted to be judicious and careful about presenting the facts, as well as stand firmly behind that and say ‘This is an examination of this part of the world, and just because this part of the world is undergoing strife’ – or as I said ‘tumult’ – ‘doesn’t mean you stop examining it, or looking at it and talking about it.’ I think that would be a bad thing.”
3. Bryan Cranston liked stepping out of the shoes of Walter White, and into a role as a good guy – a move he deems important for the film.
Losing the bespectacled and bald trappings of Walter White, Bryan Cranston stepped into the shoes of Jack O’Donnell, a role he deems important because, “One thing I noticed about the question regarding the lack of antagonist, and perhaps it was just ideology was the protagonist of [‘Argo’], it’s incredible how Josh and Chris were able to hold up the story and have it exist on that level – and still propel the plot forward.” Though in regards to his character in particular, Cranston adds that, “What I was amazed at was the chance for all these characters to be heroic in their own right. Jack O’Donnell had his time, and the other characters had their time, and they did it for patriotism. They didn’t do it for any personal or public recognition, any financial gain, it was out of thinking about ‘What is the greatest good?” He adds that the message of the film in his eyes is, “the idea and the concept that great things can happen through cooperation.” Cranston also adds, “Hopefully, if that’s a subliminal message that filters through our Congress here in the United States, that could be a good thing – to lessen the divisiveness.”
4. As far as the soon to be infamous “Ar-go-f**k yourself” line muttered throughout the film, Affleck and screenwriter Chris Terrio confirm that it was indeed real.
A line repeated throughout the film to great comedic effect, Goodman – who portrays movie make-up legend John Chambers in the film — recounts the time he first received the script, saying “they told me the name of the script was ‘Argo,’ and that’s the first thing I thought of. It’s an old joke.” Terrio adds that, “It’s real, Tony Mendez and John Chambers — it was a joke among those two. They said when they were wound up by the tension of the mission, they would often diffuse it by looking at each other and saying ‘Ar-go-f**k yourself.’ That was a historical gift from the now deceased John Chambers.”
“Argo” opens nationwide on October 12th.