ARGO directed by Ben Affleck, screenplay by Chris Terrio, based on the article by Joshuah Bearman, with Affleck, John Goodman, Scoot McNairy and Alan Arkin. A Warner Bros. release. 121 minutes. Opens Friday (October 12). See times.
It's the day after Ben Affleck's Argo premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, and Affleck is feeling pretty good about it. And he ought to; it's a gripping thriller about the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, as seen through the eyes of Tony Mendez, the CIA "exfiltration" expert sent to escort six American embassy workers who'd taken shelter in the home of Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor.
Coming off the larger-than-life thrills of The Town, Affleck wanted Argo to have a more realistic feel. He made sure the period details were as accurate as possible, but he also needed the chemistry between the actors playing Taylor's "house guests" to feel as real as possible.
"The hardest thing to do is to act familiarity," he explains, nursing a Diet Coke. "There's a certain energy you have when you've been friends for 15 years, or when somebody's a sibling. It's almost body chemistry - you're used to being with the other person."
Affleck hit on a simple solution for creating camaraderie among his actors. He held them hostage, shutting the six in the Los Angeles house that stood in for Taylor's home for a solid week.
"I said, ‘You guys can't leave. Just turn off your pagers. Call people and say, ‘I'm gonna be gone, you can't find me.' If something happens, they can get a hold of you.' But I wanted them out of that world," he says. "I thought, ‘Either some of them will fall in love with each other and have great relationships or some will hate each other, but no matter what, it's all good.'"
What Affleck hadn't told them was that the house had already been refitted to 1980 standards and filled with period-appropriate books and magazines.
"Some of them, the method ones, were really into it," he laughs. "I could tell Tate [Donovan] thought it was the stupidest fucking idea in the world. He was like, ‘Well, can I bring my yoga mat?' And I was like, ‘Is it from 1979?'"
"He time-warped us," says cast member Scoot McNairy in a separate interview. "Just sent us right back to that time. We got into the house and we put on our costumes. ‘Just sit around and talk!' And it felt like what it would feel like to be a hostage with these people, and the chemistry just blossomed. It was amazing. I couldn't have been put in the house with five better people."
Obviously, Affleck is delighted with the way it worked out.
"People just go, ‘I could be that. I could be stuck in a house, arguing with my wife,'" he says. "They committed to it, and they really stuck with it. It was so much fun, next I'm gonna do a football movie. ‘You guys all have to go to football camp together!'"