Along with “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Argo” has come in for some criticism for ways in which it deviates from history—like the dramatic airport chase at the film’s climax.
But you might be surprised that Hollywood special effects man John Chambers—played by John Goodman in the film—was as real as they come, as was his relationship with the CIA.
The movie only scratches the surface of the strangeness.
In Argo, we see CIA agent Agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) employing Chambers to create a fake science fiction movie production as a cover to sneak six American hostages out of Iran— all of which is true.
But Chambers was never really a producer—he was a special effects makeup expert, and won awards for the simian faces he designed for the actors in the original “Planet of the Apes.” The Variety article about the fake “Argo”—all part of the elaborate cover— spoke about the longtime special effects expert trying his hand at producing.
In her book, “The CIA in Hollywood,” Tricia Jenkins recounts how Agent Mendez had previously worked with Chambers to produce makeup and disguises for some special jobs.
In another episode that reads like it came straight out of a movie: Mendez had Chambers use his special makeup skills to a transform a black case officer and Asian diplomat into two white men for a surreptitious meeting in Laos.
For more bizarre stories, or ideas for your next screenplay, “The CIA in Hollywood” is definitely a good read.