Special Sunday Episode Of Locked Up Abroad Tells The True, Declassified Story Behind The Oscar®-Winning Hit Film Argo
Tony Mendez - CIA Agent Portrayed by Ben Affleck - and Two Diplomat Hostages Mark and Cora Lijek Give Their Firsthand Accounts of the Audacious Rescue During the Iran Hostage Crisis
"I had three days to turn six diplomats into a Hollywood film crew. My heart was racing. It was game time." - Tony Mendez
Locked Up Abroad: The Real Argo Premieres This Sunday, May 5, 2013, at 10 PM ET/PT on National Geographic Channel
WASHINGTON, April 29, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- This year's "Best Picture" Academy Award® winner, "Argo," was Hollywood's thrilling version of the life-or-death covert operation to rescue six Americans that unfolded behind the scenes of the Iran hostage crisis in 1979. Now, in a special Sunday night episode of Locked Up Abroad, get the real story of the harrowing mission, directly from the actual CIA agent and two diplomats involved.
The nail-biting firsthand account of being under siege in Tehran and the risky cover plan to smuggle them out using a fake science-fiction movie is profiled in the episode Locked Up Abroad: The Real Argo on Sunday, May 5, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on National Geographic Channel – following part one of the two-part Wicked Tuna series finale (go to natgeotv.com/lockedupabroad and Twitter at @NGC_PR).
Click here to download a clip of Locked Up Abroad: The Real Argo: http://files.natgeonetworks.com/_pf6o6aHOsil5hR
Locked Up Abroad – which began the new season with the riveting account of Vietnam POWs Senator John McCain and Ernie Brace –- is a critically acclaimed international hit series and cult cable favorite known for taking viewers inside accounts of capture, incarceration and terror far away from home with intimate personal interviews and dramatic reenactments. The series also continues on its regular night of Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
In this episode, get the behind-the-scenes details the hit movie was based on from the personal accounts of Antonio "Tony" Mendez, a retired CIA officer – portrayed in the film by Oscar®-winning producer Ben Affleck – and married diplomats Mark Lijek and Cora Amburn-Lijek.
The show begins with U.S. Embassy workers Mark and Cora taking us back to November 4, 1979 – the day the Embassy is taken over by militants. While demonstrations were happening daily, this day would be different. "I don't think there's any way we could've had any sense of what would happen that day and what it would be like when we next saw each other," says Mark.
The duo describes the noises outside, the Marines in riot gear, the lockdown ordered and tear gas grenades tossed. And soon after hearing colleagues talking about the Embassy gates being breached, the couple knows that protestors will break in. "It was kind of a moment you hold your breath," says Cora.
They decide to leave the Embassy with a group of diplomats and try to find the British Embassy. But with protestors blocking their way, they formulate a new plan and eventually find refuge at a Canadian diplomat's residence. But they know that's not a permanent solution; they need to be rescued. "Everyone understood we were now a sitting target," says Mark.
The story then turns to the firsthand account of U.S.-based CIA Agent Tony Mendez as he describes how he is charged with developing a plan to rescue the diplomats. "I was home and thinking of all the things that we needed to do. I stopped for a moment. And I thought 'Hollywood.' They knew how to cheat…They knew how to lie," says Tony.
His crazy (and the only viable) idea: pose as a Hollywood film crew, allowing him to swoop into Iran and smuggle the diplomats out through the airport. "This was one of the most dangerous missions that I've embarked upon. But this is the best bad idea we had," says Tony.
After traveling to Hollywood to set up the cover story and pick a script – a science-fiction movie he calls Argo – he flies to Tehran. His task is immense. He has three days to turn six diplomats into a Hollywood film crew. All he can do is hope that they'll be convincing enough.
Mark starkly describes his initial reaction to Tony's arrival: "My first impression was, anybody who had the balls to come into Iran voluntarily…has got to be a pretty brave guy."
In Locked Up Abroad: The Real Argo, Cora and Mark recount Tony's distribution of false identities and Canadian passports, the time they spent learning their new "characters," the fake interrogation Tony gave them for practice, their nerves entering the airport, the panic that ensued when their flight was delayed and the jubilation when the plane finally took off.
"In my memory there was nothing that gripped the United States any more than the Iranian Hostage Crisis. The fact that I was there and was contributing to a solution to some of the problems, made me happy," concludes Tony.
This season on Locked Up Abroad, we hear the firsthand accounts not only of those who were locked up but also of those who were directly part of the story, such as the agent compiling the evidence against the suspect or the person offering the drug deals. Upcoming episodes include stories of Californian surfers arrested in Mexico after the shipwreck of their marijuana-filled yacht, who attempt to dig their way out of prison; an American hippie turned cocaine smuggler who ends up in a Peruvian hell; and a spectacular FBI sting operation that captures mobster Frank Cullotta.
Locked Up Abroad is produced for National Geographic Channel by Raw TV Ltd. For Raw, series producer is Srik Narayanan. Executive producers are Richard Bond, Dimitri Doganis and Bart Layton. For NGC, Kevin Mohs is vice president of production and development; Madeleine Carter is executive producer; Noel Siegel is senior vice president, development and production; and president is Howard T. Owens.
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SOURCE National Geographic Channel