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Tuesday 30 September 2014

Ex-Canadian diplomat's anger at 'Argo' portrayal

ROB GILLIES in TORONTO

Published 24/02/2013 | 04:00

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The former Canadian ambassador to Iran who protected Americans at great personal risk during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis says it will reflect poorly on Ben Affleck if he doesn't say a few words about Canada's role should the director's film Argo win the Oscar for best picture tonight.

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But Ken Taylor – who said he feels slighted by the movie because it makes Canada look like a meek observer to CIA heroics in the rescue of six US embassy staff members caught in the crisis – is not expecting it.

"I would hope he would. If he doesn't, then it's a further reflection," Mr Taylor said. But he said that given what's happened in the past few months, "I'm not necessarily anticipating anything".

Mr Taylor kept the Americans hidden at his residence and the home of his deputy, John Sheardown, in Tehran 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.

Mr Taylor became a hero in Canada and the US afterwards. He felt the role that he and other Canadians played in helping the Americans to freedom was minimised in the film.

"In general it makes it seem like the Canadians were just along for the ride. The Canadians were brave. Period," Mr Taylor said.

Affleck's thriller is widely expected to win the best picture trophy. Two other high-profile best picture nominees this year, Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty and Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, have also been criticised for their portrayal of some factual issues.

Affleck said on Friday that he thought his issue with Mr Taylor had been resolved.

"I admire Ken very much for his role in rescuing the six houseguests. I consider him a hero. In light of my many conversations as well as a change to an end card that Ken requested I am surprised that Ken continues to take issue with the film," Affleck said.

"I spoke to him recently when he asked me to narrate a documentary he is prominently featured in and yet he didn't mention any lingering concerns. I agreed to do it and I look forward to seeing Ken at the recording."

Mr Taylor noted that former US president Jimmy Carter appeared on CNN last Thursday night and said "90 per cent of the contributions to the ideas and the consummation of the plan were Canadian, but the film gives almost full credit to the CIA".

Irish Independent

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