Ken Taylor satisfied with Affleck's Oscar shoutout to Canada
Former ambassador had said Argo minimized Canada's role in Iranian hostage crisis
Former Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor says he was satisfied to hear Ben Affleck thank Canada as the director accepted the best picture Oscar for the political thriller Argo on Sunday night.
Taylor watched the awards bash from the AOL offices in New York, where he took part in a live online interview with James Lipton of Inside the Actors Studio.
The diplomat had earlier suggested he was hoping Affleck would mention Canada's role in the 1980 rescue of six U.S. embassy staffers in the Iranian capital if Argo — which dramatizes the high-risk operation — won the top prize.
Late Sunday, he acknowledged Affleck's shoutout to Canada during a rapid-fire speech that also offered thanks to "everyone in the movie."
"He, in a rush, accepted and tried to extend recognition to everybody in sight and so that was fine. We were comfortable with that," Taylor said in a phone interview immediately after the AOL taping.
Iranians dismiss Argo as propaganda
Iranian officials on Monday dismissed the Oscar-winning film Argo as pro-CIA, anti-Iran propaganda.
Iranian Culture Minister Mohammad Hosseini criticized the film for distorting history.
"The movie is an anti-Iran film. It is not a valuable film from the artistic point of view. It won the prize by resorting to extended advertisement and investment," he said.
But some young, moderate Iranians welcomed it as a way of learning about history and how others view their country. Others said it proves Iranians should make films of their own stories.
The movie, based on the escape of six American hostages from the besieged U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979, has not been screened in any Iranian theatres, but many Iranians have seen it on DVD.
The semiofficial Mehr news agency called the Oscar "politically motivated" because first lady Michelle Obama at the White House joined Jack Nicholson via video link to Los Angeles to help present the best picture prize.
"I think that the nature of the Oscars is such that it's an electric moment for those involved and they all want to say something within a set time and I think that's it. Whatever scripted thoughts they had they put away and get caught up in the theme and the celebration."
Flanked by co-producer George Clooney, Affleck threw kudos to his fellow nominees, especially Lincoln director Steven Spielberg and the real-life CIA agent who inspired his film.
"Tony Mendez, who let us do his story, thank you," Affleck said after Michelle Obama announced the top prize.
"I thank everyone in the movie, on the movie, who worked on the movie, did anything with this movie," Affleck continued, as the star-studded crowd chuckled.
"I want to thank Canada, I want to thank our friends in Iran living in terrible circumstances right now. I want to thank my wife, who I don't normally associate with Iran."
Affleck's film — which had already won a slew of awards leading up to the Oscars — centres on Mendez and a Tinseltown scheme to concoct a fake movie project that would disguise the escapees as a Canadian film crew.
Taylor has been outspoken in his assertion that Argo minimizes Canada's role in spiriting the employees out of Iran in the midst of the hostage crisis.
Starring Canadian actor Victor Garber as Taylor, Argo says little about the ambassador's intricate role in concealing the fugitives and makes no mention of his efforts to persuade Ottawa to issue fake passports, arrange plane tickets and spy for the U.S. government — all while carrying on with his role as a diplomat.
It also completely ignores the role of Taylor's deputy, the recently deceased John Sheardown, who took the first call from escapee Bob Anders seeking refuge and also hid embassy employees in his home.
Praise for Taylor's creativity during crisis
Argo screenwriter Chris Terrio, who won best adapted screenplay prize on Sunday night, mentioned Taylor 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 said it was no surprise that Terrio put more weight on Mendez's contributions than his own.
"I think they had to — it was his book they used and that was the theme of what he wrote about so I think he was compelled to talk about Tony Mendez," said Taylor.
"Otherwise, the movie itself would lose its authenticity."
He added that it was nice to hear mention of the late John Sheardown, noting that he "certainly played a key role."