Attesting to strong word of mouth, further fueled by Oscar buzz, Ben Affleck’s Argo moved to #1 at the box office during it’s third week. About a crazy scheme to rescue a group of Americans from Teheran in the early ’80’s, using a made-up Hollywood production as its cover, the tagline is, “The Movie was Fake, the Mission was Real.”
How real was the mission? Slate looks at that question in detail in “How Accurate Is Argo?”
As source material, the movie credits “a selection from The Master of Disguise by Antonio J. Mendez and the Wired Magazine article ‘The Great Escape,‘ by Joshuah Bearman.”
The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA is still in print in trade pbk from HarperCollins/Morrow, downloadable from Overdrive and available in the original 1999 hardcover in many libraries. In it, Tony Mendez, played by Affleck in the movie, writes, with co-author William McConnell, about his CIA career which began in 1965. The Booklist review said, “the reader receives a vivid sense of the clandestine world through [Mendez's] part in the successful operations to extract a KGB defector from India and an Iranian spy from revolutionary Iran … he also divulges the hitherto-suppressed details of the [Argo] caper.”
Mendez again recounts that story, with a different co-writer, Matt Baglio, in Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History, released in September (Viking) to coordinate with the move. It’s also available in audio from Blackstone and downloadable audio through OverDrive.
Mendez met his wife Jonna when they worked together on another mission. Together, they wrote Spy Dust: Two Masters of Disguise Reveal the Tools and Operations That Helped Win The Cold War (S&S/Atria; still available in trade paperback).
But wait; there’s yet one more book association. The real script for the fake movie, Argo, was based on Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light (Harper/Voyager). Try putting it on display, to see who catches the reference.