George Clooney’s production company takes on CIA story

Via; Orange County Register , published August 13, 2007 at 3:00 a.m.

George Clooney

George Clooney’s production company is writing a script for a movie based on the true story of a CIA fake-identity expert who smuggled six Americans out of Iran while dozens of others were being held hostage there.

“Escape From Tehran” is in development but hasn’t been approved for production, Stan Rosenfield, a spokesman for Smoke House productions, told The (Hagerstown) Herald-Mail for a story published Monday.

The trade journal Variety has reported that the script will be a “dramedy” – a humorous drama – and that Clooney could direct and star.

The script would be based on a Wired magazine article published in April about the rescue engineered by retired CIA agent Antonio Mendez of Knoxville. Mendez told The Herald-Mail he agreed to be interviewed by Wired in exchange for sharing movie rights with the magazine writer.

Mendez, honored in 1997 as one of the 50 greatest spies in CIA history, devised the operation after the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran, was overrun by a mob on Nov. 4, 1979. Fifty-two of the 90 people inside were held hostage for 444 days, but others fled. Six of the Americans who escaped hid in the homes of Canadian embassy officials.

CIA agents pitched several rescue schemes, including disguising the Americans as Canadian nutritionists or schoolteachers, Mendez said. Then Mendez proposed outfitting them as employees of Studio Six, a fictitious Canadian movie studio supposedly scouting locations for a science-fiction movie called “Argo.” Using his Hollywood makeup-artist connections, Mendez bought full-page advertisements in Variety and Hollywood Reporter, prompting articles that helped create cover for the rescue.

Mendez, posing as Irish film producer Kevin Costa Harkins, went to Tehran, found the six Americans and coached them on their new identities. Despite tense moments at the airport, the ruse worked and they flew out on Jan. 28, 1980. President Jimmy Carter later honored Mendez.

The public didn’t know details of the rescue until 1997, when the CIA asked Mendez to talk openly about it to help promote the agency’s 50th anniversary. He and his wife, Jonna, a retired CIA disguise chief, have spoken, lectured and written about it many times since then.


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