After the film Argo had its world premiere at the Toronto International Festival in September, friends of Ken Taylor, Canada’s former ambassador to Iran, criticized it for minimizing Canada’s role in the real-life events that inspired the film. Critics say that the film suggests that the CIA were the real heroes of the rescue mission and that for political reasons, Canada took the credit. It also paid short shrift to Taylor’s role as the mastermind of the operation.
Argo tells the story of the covert rescue mission by the Canadian government, who helped six Americans escape from Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis. They were sheltered at the Canadian embassy until their escape in 1980. The escape was so extraordinary that it earned the name, the “Canadian Caper.”
As a result of criticism, Ben Affleck, star and director of the film, contacted Taylor and offered to change the postscript after meeting in Los Angeles and striking up a friendship. The new postscript, drafted by Taylor, reads, “The involvement of the CIA complemented the 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.”
Said Taylor to the Toronto Star, “I expressed my concern with certain details in the movie. In reality, Canada was responsible for the six and the CIA was a junior partner. But I realize this is a movie and you have to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. Ben was very gracious and we got along really well. There are a few points I want to address. Now Ben and I both feel free to talk about them.”
Indeed, the real-life compromise and friendship between Affleck and Taylor mirror the actual co-operation that brought about the Canadian Caper.
“We’re making [the Washington, D.C. film screening] into a ‘Thank you Canada’ occasion” said Affleck. “It’s important to tell stories about how two countries worked together.”