When angling for the lead in the you-couldn’t-make-it-up movie of a group of American embassy staff who escaped from Iran by posing as a film crew, Ben Affleck was at a distinct advantage.
“I was sleeping with the director,” he admits dryly.
Before anyone starts getting outraged on behalf of his wife Jennifer Garner, it should be noted that it is Ben himself who directs Argo.
The tension-riddled thriller set in 1979/80, during the time of the revolution in Iran, came to him via producers George Clooney and Grant Heslov.
“I was stunned by how good it was,” says Ben. “It was a drama, a thriller, a comedy and a true story. So I called George right away and said ‘I have got to do this. Here’s how I am going to do it’.
“We talked for a couple of hours. I think he said yes just to get me off the phone.”
Forty-year-old Ben was just a boy when the drama took place, starting when militants stormed the American embassy in Tehran and took 52 people hostage.
Six Americans managed to escape and sought sanctuary with the Canadian ambassador. There they remained until the CIA launched an audacious but covert plan to send a specialist, Tony Mendez (Affleck), in to persuade the six to pretend they were Canadian film makers researching locations for a new Star Wars-inspired sci-fi movie.
However, all the credit had to be given to the Canadians as the CIA’s involvement couldn’t be revealed until the operation was declassified in 1997.
“I remember very little of it. I vaguely remember Ted Kennedy’s primary challenge (for the Democratic nomination) when he ran against Carter,” recalls Ben.
“I remember the Star Wars action figures (that Tony Mendez’s son has in his bedroom). I was exactly the age of the little boy in the movie so most of what I remember is my Star Wars sheets.”
However, he has injected an authentic 70s feel into the style of the movie, faithfully recreating images seen on news reels.
“I thought the subconscious mind of the viewer might be more thoroughly convinced they were watching something that was taking place because the optics are such that it looks like it was made at that time.”
In order to get his six actors to react to each other as if they had been cooped up together for a long period of time, he made them go method by sequestering them for a week in a home with 1970s decor and cut them off from the modern world.
It meant no computers, mobile phones, outside TV or any technology beginning with an i.
Ben said he wasn’t too concerned about there being any Big Brother style bust-ups over the board games and books that were their only entertainment.
“I didn’t think there was any risk they might have a falling out but it didn’t matter whether they liked or hated each other – both of those things would manifest on camera and it would feel authentic.
“I thought it might even be better if there were two people who didn’t like each other and I could have them improvise with one another, or put them in the same room and do all kinds of quasi social experiments/scenes.