Ever heard of the film Argo?
Based on Roger Zelazny’s Hindu-inspired mystical science fiction novel, Lord of Light, the story takes place on a colonized planet where humans needed to use certain chemical treatments and “biofeedback” to mutate their minds, allowing them to manifest superhuman powers needed to combat hostile natives. The film’s look was designed by legendary comic artist Jack Kirby, and Academy Award winning make-up artist John Chambers (Planet of the Apes) was hired to design the creature FX.
Not familiar? That’s probably because the film never actually existed. Well, that’s not totally true. A producer named Barry Geller put together the Lord of Light film back in the late 70’s, and even envisioned a theme park called Science Fiction Land based on Kirby’s concept art. But shady dealings imploded the film and it died in the crib…
Only to have a truly ridiculous and amazing rebirth as the fictional film Argo.
In 1979 the US Embassy in Tehran was taken hostage by Iran. The hostages were held for 444 days. It was a clusterfuck. Jimmy Carter effectively lost re-election because of how it was handled. But, during the episode, there was one bright spot – at the onset, six Americans managed to evade being captured and were on the lamb in Tehran. They were ultimately rescued by a joint effort between the CIA and the Canadian government in what is now adorably known as the “Canadian Caper.”
It is the Hollywood infused, wacky back-story to the Canadian Caper that interested George Clooney and producing partner Grant Heslov when they optioned the rights to a Wired magazine article titled “How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran,” by Joshua Bearman, back in 2007. And now The Hollywood Reporter is Hollywood reporting that Ben Affleck is in talks with Clooney to direct their feature adaptation, Argo.
The film will no doubt center on CIA agent Tony Mendez who devised the cover story that allowed him and the others to get into Tehran to retrieve the six fleeing diplomats. CIA cover stories are normally very mundane. You don’t want to draw attention. But for a variety of reasons, none of the typical cover stories seemed likely to work in this circumstance. Then Mendez had one of those stranger-than-fiction genius ideas – what if they were location scouting for a movie?
Mendez tossed $10,000 into a briefcase and flew immediately to Los Angeles to meet with an old friend of his, John Chambers, the Hollywood make-up artist. When Mendez explained his plan, Chambers had the perfect idea: why not use the materials and script from the Lord of Light movie he had just recently been working on? Mendez swapped out the old title for Argo – named after the mythical ship Jason used when seeking the Golder Fleece – and even purchased production offices.
This tale is really begging to be a comedic action thriller, and at this point I’m definitely on the Ben Affleck director bandwagon. So bring it motherfuckers.
Bearman’s original Wired article can be read here.