How a fake science fiction film fooled the Iranians

They used drawings by famous comic book
artist Jack Kirby to enhance the illusion.

How the CIA used Hollywood to smuggle diplomats out of revolutionary Iran:
On Nov. 4, 1979, thousands of Iranians stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking 66 Americans hostage, including three CIA officers. The crisis lasted 444 days—a drawn-out drama dubbed “America Held Hostage” on television. But during the tumult, six American consular officials managed to slip by the Iranian mob.

As they hid out in the homes of two Canadian diplomats, the Secret Six dreamed up escape plans worthy of Robert Ludlum, and perhaps just as outlandish.

That is, until the CIA appeared with a plan even crazier than anything they had imagined: a scheme to have them pose as a crew of politically clueless filmmakers from Tinseltown scouting locations for a sci-fi film.

Revolutionary Iran was dangerously chaotic, but the bureaucracy of surveillance and repression hadn’t hardened yet. This was before Google, which meant cover stories were checked by phone, in person, or by fax. It seemed crazy, but it might just work.


"Of all the groups heading into Iran, it wasn’t implausible to imagine a group of self-absorbed Hollywood eccentrics traveling there in the middle of a revolution to find the perfect locations for their movie.

Beyond that, it had the one quality that I felt the other potential cover stories lacked. It was fun, which I knew would help the six “houseguests.” We were going to walk them out through Tehran airport and right onto a commercial plane. They might be stopped; they might be questioned about what they did. And they needed to be comfortable with their new identities. We figured anyone knows enough about Hollywood to fake a little movie-making patter.

Now I needed to convince everyone else at the CIA—and the Canadians—that this crazy idea was our best shot. And we had to work on the back story. We needed a Hollywood office, so if the Iranians’ people called our people, they’d hear something on the phone that confirmed we were legit. We would need to set up our own production company, which I had decided to call “Studio Six Productions,” after the six houseguests trapped in Iran. And we needed to plant ads and articles in the trade press about our new project."
Read the rest of the article, here: The True Story Behind Operation ‘Argo’ to Rescue Americans From Iran, The Daily Beast>>
Another, more detailed telling of the tale: How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran. Wired>>

The story is also a real book, and a real movie, called Argo:
- Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History, Antonio Mendez, Amazon>>
- Argo, IMDB>>

Link found via: The True Story Behind Operation Argo, The Art of the Prank>>

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