Loosely based on a true story

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argoThe terms “based on real events” and “based on a true story” are classic realities of Hollywood. They are so real that it allows Hollywood to inject the unreal, or the extreme stretch of truth.

“Argo,” the story of how six U.S. embassy workers escaped Iran after the hostage crisis of 1979, won the Oscar for best picture Sunday night at the Academy Awards. It’s supposed to be one heck of a good movie. Considering it’s based on historical events, people will take every element of the movie as fact.

And that’s most unfortunate.

“Argo” screenplay writer Chris Terrio (still in diapers when the real crisis took place in 1979), who picked up the Oscar for best adapted screenplay, based his work around CIA spook Tony Mendez’s book. What wound up thrilling audiences and drawing accolades, however, isn’t a true depiction of what happened.

Ken Taylor is all but an afterthought. Yes, the same Ken Taylor who was the Canadian ambassador to Iran at the time. You know, the guy who spearheaded the efforts to conceal the stranded Americans? Or the one who urged our government to issue fake passports to the six so they could eventually sneak out of the country as bogus Canadian film makers?

Don’t just take my word for our nation’s, and specifically Taylor’s, contributions to the rescue. Here’s what some fellow named Jimmy Carter had to say. He was the 39th President of the United States, the guy in the oval office during the hostage crisis.

“Ninety per cent of the contributions to the ideas and the consummation of the plan was Canadian. And the movie gives almost full credit to the American C.I.A.,” Carter told CNN in a recent interview. “But Ben Affleck’s character in the film (Mendez) was only—he was only in, stayed in, Iran a day and a half. And the main hero, in my opinion, was Ken Taylor, who was the Canadian Ambassador who orchestrated the entire process.”

As for Affleck, according to an article in Maclean’s in September, it all makes for a good movie.

“Because we say it’s based on a true story, rather than this is a true story,” he said, “we’re allowed to take some dramatic licence. There’s a spirit of truth.”

That “dramatic licence” is wonderfully outlined here on Wikipedia. Check out the list of historical inaccuracies.

Does this all make “Argo” a bad movie? Just the opposite. But remember how far “based on a true story” can actually stray from actual events.

Ken Taylor remains the true hero of the Iran hostage crisis.

1 COMMENT

  1. Well said, Bruce. Interesting that Carter came to our defence as a nation. Having seen what you’ve written puts the movie in a different genre. Not sure if I can watch it without thinking it’s a load of fertilizer.

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