Nightly News | October 12, 2012
>>> if the story was not true, they would have to make it up. but the movie coming out this weekend called "argo" is a gripping true story from an awful chapter in our country, the iran hostage crisis . it is directed by, and stars ben affleck , and tonight, andrea mitchell talks to him about what he saw in history that made him want to convert it to the screen.
>> reporter: argo, a film that could have been taken from today's headlines, an angry mob sto storms the american embassy , somewhere in the middle east , but this is not benghazi or cairo, it is tehran . it is in the hands of students tonight. they took 52 americans , most of them diplomats, hostage, in what became a 44-day nightmare, the movie, starring ben affleck , said he was drawn to the story because it was so much like today.
>> i knew it would be the revolution, the consequences of the revolution, i didn't know it would be so tragic and resonant.
>> reporter: for days, americans were glued to their tv on word of the hostages. many didn't know. six embassy workers escaped to the home of the canadian ambassador. and the big secret? a daring cia officer who created an improbable plan to rescue them.
>> they're a canadian film , or science fiction movie .
>> we all fly in together to tehran .
>> we had a film, we had real estate , we had cameras. we had whatever we needed to go out and shoot a movie.
>> reporter: antonio mendez was the real cia mastermind behind the escape.
>> i said let's do something flanboyant.
>> reporter: they put together a film sham in hollywood.
>> we decided to do the film, there were six people involved.
>> reporter: they bought an ad in variety for a fake film.
>> do you have a better bad idea for this?
>> this is the best bad idea we have so far.
>> reporter: incredibly, the bad idea worked.
>> six americans in tehran , not held captive in the american embassy have escaped with the help of the canadian embassy .
>> it is an understatement to say it feels good to be back.
>> the cia is controversy, heros to some, villains to others, but you managed to latch on to a heroic aspect of a gutsy, creative guy.
>> the guy i played as a cia agent was a real american hero , tony mendez .
>> you really believe your story is going to make a difference?
>> i think my story is the only difference.
>> reporter: to protect them, mr. carter gave all the credit to canada.
>> this is a greeting card that the canadian service gave to me, the salutation at the bottom is "see you later".
>> reporter: now, they are bringing this real-life spy drama out of the cold.
>> there is something, really, i think, classy and elegant of that sort of service that the cia performed. it is not done for credit. it is done because it is the right thing to do.
>> reporter: andrea mitchell , nbc news, washington.