From AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS to PLANET OF THE APES, perhaps make-up artist John Chamber’s most spectacular transformations were in service to his fellow countrymen. Working for the CIA after the Iranian takeover of the American Embassy in 1979 his efforts (in league with Tony Mendez) resulted in the rescue of six diplomats who had managed to evade the militants…

The CIA enlisted its disguise and exfiltration expert, Tony Mendez, to provide a cover story, documents, and appropriate clothing and materials to change their appearance. Mendez worked closely with Canadian government staff in Ottawa, sending as much as he could in the diplomatic pouch, before flying to Tehran with an associate to assist with the rescue. There were alternate passports and identities for a variety of scenarios, but the cover story selected had the six being a Hollywood crew scouting movie locations. The elaborate back-story involved a film named Argo, for a Middle-Eastern feel, and a functioning office in Hollywood set up with the help of John Chambers, a veteran Hollywood make-up artist. The six were told that telephone calls to the “Studio Six” office in Los Angeles would be answered. Display ads for the “Studio Six” production were placed in Hollywood publications and one paper was carried by Cora Lijek as part of her cover materials. (The movie scenario was considered one way to get an armed team into Tehran to retake the embassy.)[3]


I believe the film ARGO, based on these events and directed by Ben Affleck will be released October, 12. Produced by George Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Ben Affleck. I can’t wait to see it!

Update from August 23, 2012. It’s that time of year when I view and re-view all the movies with Oscar buzz. Last night I watched “Argo” again – and my darlings, this is a contender. A tight narrative (based on an article by Joshuah Bearman, screenplay by Chris Terio), solid cast, with great production value thanks to Production Designer: Sharon Seymour, Costume Designer: Jaqueline West, and Cinematographer: Rodrigo Pietro… And, now we come to the director: Ben Affleck – in a year of over long indulgent and redundant third acts – his work on “Argo” stands apart. A bleak humorous edge, taut from start to finish, with a climax that had me on my feet, “Argo” has emerged as my favorite film of the year.

PGA Motion Picture Nominees Announced – Producers Guild of America.

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  1. August 23, 2012

    It’s always so interesting when the fantasy of Hollywood blends with the real world. I’m really excited to see ARGO as well. I’m debating reading the book first.

    • August 23, 2012

      “The Master of Disguise” by Antonio J. Mendez
      “The Great Escape” by Joshuah Bearman — enjoy!

  2. August 23, 2012

    I love this post! Great stuff. t/y.

  3. August 24, 2012

    “So you want to come to Hollywood and act like a big shot without doing anything? You’ll fit right in.” John Goodman in the trailer …LOL. Loved the post. This is all news to me and I can’t wait to see the film.

  4. August 24, 2012

    Can’t wait for this film. Thanks, Vickie.

  5. cosimo
    August 27, 2012

    John was my mother’s 1st cousin, and we are all so very excited to see this film. I think John Goodman is a great choice to portray him.

    • August 27, 2012

      I thought so too, but then I had no knowledge of the real John Chambers. Thank you so much for sharing that comment 🙂

  6. George Kaplan
    June 1, 2013

    You proved to be dead-on with your judgment of Argo here Vickie – as if there was ever any doubt! – how accurate you are! 🙂
    I just love the idea of John Chambers taking his art from the Apes movies (better make-up than in the Burton abomination featuring fist-faced Wahlberg in my opinion, and superior to the CGI cartoon primates in the recent clunkily-titled Rise of the Planet of the Apes) among other movies and into what we laughingly call “reality”!

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