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Ex-Canada ambassador is pleased with Ben Affleck's gratitude

TORONTO (AP) — The former Canadian ambassador to Iran who protected Americans at great personal risk during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis said Monday it was good to hear Ben Affleck thank Canada after Affleck's film "Argo" won the Oscar for best picture.

"Argo" came under criticism from some Canadians, including former ambassador Ken Taylor, who said he felt slighted by the movie because it makes Canada look like a meek observer to CIA heroics. Taylor says it minimizes Canada's role in the Americans' rescue.

Taylor criticized Affleck on Friday and said he hoped Affleck would acknowledge Canada's role. Affleck briefly thanked Canada in his acceptance speech Sunday.

"Finally, he mentioned Canada," Taylor said. "Under the circumstances, I think that was fine. It certainly acknowledged Canada. I think certainly the movie was about CIA agent Tony Mendez. I think that President Carter's remarks put everything in proportion."

Carter appeared on television last week and said, "90 percent of the contributions to the ideas and the consummation of the plan was Canadian," but the film "gives almost full credit to the American CIA."

Taylor kept the Americans hidden at his residence and at the home of his deputy, John Sheardown, in Tehran for three months and facilitated their escape by arranging plane tickets and persuading the Ottawa government to issue fake passports. He also agreed to go along with the CIA's film production cover story to get the Americans out of Iran.

Taylor became a hero in Canada and in the United States where crowds celebrated with banners that proclaimed, "Thank you, Canada."

Taylor said the movie makes it seem like the Canadians were just along for the ride. Taylor and Carter both noted that Mendez, played by Affleck in the film, was only in Iran for a day and a half.

"The movie is done. President Carter expressed his views, and that's where we sit. I think, being realistic, there's not much at this point that can be realized," Taylor said.

"Argo" also makes no mention of Sheardown, the First Secretary at the embassy. Taylor said it was Sheardown who took the first call from the American diplomats who had evaded capture when Iranian militants seized the U.S. Embassy in November 1979 and agreed right away to take the Americans in. Sheardown died on Dec. 30, and his wife, Zena, called the movie disappointing.

"Argo" screenwriter Chris Terrio, who won best adapted screenplay prize Sunday night, mentioned Taylor and Sheardown in his speech after saluting Mendez.

"Thirty-three years ago Tony, using nothing but his creativity and his intelligence, got six people out of a very bad situation," said Terrio, who based his script on Mendez's book "The Master of Disguise" and a Wired magazine article by Joshuah Bearman.

"And so I want to dedicate this to him and the Taylors and the Sheardowns and people all over the world in the U.S., in Canada, in Iran, who use creativity and intelligence to solve problems non-violently."

Taylor appreciated that Terrio mentioned Sheardown, Sheardown's wife and Taylor's wife.

"He dedicated it to Tony Mendez. That was what his script was about, it so that's understandable. I think that recognition of both Pat and myself and John and Zena was in a sense welcomed," he said.

During a recent talk in Toronto, Taylor took issue with a myriad of creative liberties in "Argo" and said Terrio "had no idea" what he was talking about.

Friends of Taylor were outraged last September when "Argo" debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The original postscript of the movie said that Taylor received 112 citations and awards for his work in freeing the hostages and suggested Taylor didn't deserve them because the movie ends with the CIA deciding to let Canada have the credit for helping the Americans escape.

Taylor called the postscript lines "disgraceful and insulting" and said it would have caused outrage in Canada if the lines were not changed. Affleck flew Taylor to Los Angeles after the Toronto debut and allowed him to insert a postscript that gave Canada some credit.

In a statement released on Friday, Affleck said he admired Taylor very much but said he was surprised Taylor still had an issue with the film. Affleck also said he agreed narrate a documentary that Taylor is involved with, about Canada's role in the Iran hostage crisis.

Taylor said it was news to him that Affleck had agreed to narrate the documentary and said he looked forward to working on it with him.

38Comments
Feb 26, 2013 8:09AM
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I am an American, and I can understand completely the apprehension those brave and creative men and women from Canada have about the film not portraying the subject matter in a more complete manner. As I have come to understand it, the British also had a hand in the rescue process as well, and they have not had a lot of press for that effort. Even so, I think that reasonable people can agree that the film does entertain well, and is a gateway to an interesting time which will lead curious viewers to find out more about the events and to be grateful to more of the great individuals who embarked upon such grave personal and professional risk in order to help these people. Personally I knew very little of this story before seeing the film, and after researching it further it has served to solidify my great respect for Canada, a country which fully deserves it's status as one of the most liked in all the world. I am cognizant that my country (and even my state of Texas) is seen as somewhat belligerent, but I can still hope that time and education can only serve to unite more of the brilliant and kind people that exist in all nations. In defiance of the stupidity of many leaders and governments, there are heroes of every possible origin on this earth, and they often come from very surprising places and times. I laud the film for shedding light on some, while opening the door for people to examine the true historical record, which contains so much more than can be captured in a mere evening's film.

 

Kindest wishes to you all, from a Texan!

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Yes happy for Ben Afflecks success too, seems like a nice guy. But hopefully people understand this is purely a work of FICTION based on a true incident that occured. President Carter has it right when he says it was 90% Canadian in the plan and execution of the plan. But most probably no one in America will bother to understand the truth.
Feb 26, 2013 8:48AM
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I'm a Canadian living in the US for the past 2 years, I saw the movie and thought it was very good. So what if it didn't follow the facts to a T, it was a movie meant to entertain not a documentary. Canada has never been a country to toot their own horn and I'm glad of that, it allows me to travel the world proudly wearing a Canadian flag and be welcomed, including the US!! I've been treated very well by Americans since I've been here, and look forward to finishing the immigration process and can truly call the US my new home. I believe the Americans would have done the same for Canadians had the situation been reversed. I choose to focus on what I believe the movie was about, that when the crapola hits the fan and the chips are down you help your friends and allies, and not focus on who got the biggest cookie.
Feb 26, 2013 8:49AM
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Canadians are generally so self-effacing and modest, it's easy to overlook their pivotal role in a daring enterprise like this one. Of course, those qualities just make them look even better. Lessons in peaceful behavior...
Feb 26, 2013 5:10AM
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The thing is...movies have a limited running time. You have a short amount of time to tell a specific angle and they chose the film-within-a-film to be that angle. It's like writing a 5 page essay. Sure you could write a novel but the assignment is five pages so serious editing and generalizations are going to happen. They had a few lines throughout the movie to summarize entire situations because it had to fit into a specific running time. This was made in America for Americans about Americans so obviously their perspective takes priority. If Canada wants to make a five part mini series going into more detail the world would welcome it. 
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