Ben Affleck on Creating 'Argo,' Relying on Jennifer Garner

Oscar winner directs the film and plays its title character, Tony Mendez.

September 26, 2012, 6:16 PM

Sept. 28, 2012— -- On Nov. 4, 1979, an angry mob stormed an American embassy in Iran. For 444 days, the world watched with rising concern as tensions between Iran and the United States mounted over the 52 American hostages that were held in Tehran.

It would come to be known as the Iran hostage crisis. It was the historical moment that created "Nightline."

Few knew about the six embassy workers who escaped and fled to the home of the nearby Canadian ambassador. While they hid from the deadly wrath of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, a CIA agent named Tony Mendez hatched an insane rescue plan. He would fly them out of Tehran posing as a film crew scouting location for a "Star Wars" rip-off titled "Argo." But before he would convince the frightened Americans to play along, he needed Hollywood to help sell the lie.

Academy-award winning actor Ben Affleck directs the film based on these events and plays its title character, Mendez. In talking about "Argo" with "Nightline" anchor Bill Weir, Affleck said he grew out his hair and beard for the part.

"It was really important for me to match, as closely as possible, the historical events," he said.

What made "Argo" so intriguing to Affleck was the idea of Washington spies and Hollywood producers becoming hustlers of a different stripe.

"To make up all these yarns in order to get done what they want to get done. I mean, the security of our country is dependent on endless stories, and so with making the movie, you know, it never would have worked if it weren't a true story, because people would have just thought there is no way the CIA would be working with Hollywood," he told Weir.

Affleck said his movie was shot during the Arab Spring, something that stayed with him through making the film.

"Usually you do a period movie and every day that goes by, it sort of faded into the past and becomes less relevant," he said. "And this movie, as I started working on it, has become more relevant. It's a movie about the consequences of revolution, and who the United States allies itself with, and what happens in these counter revolutions."

Since the mission was top secret, it was years before Mendez got the glory he deserved, but Affleck may not have to wait so long. If the early buzz is right, that grinning kid who got an Oscar for writing "Good Will Hunting" with Matt Damon could be picking up another for directing "Argo."

PHOTOS: Ben Affleck as CIA Agent Tony Mendez

And what a ride it's been for the actor. Affleck's filmography includes a wide spectrum, from blockbuster thrillers, "The Town" and "Gone Baby Gone," to rom-com flops, "Gigli" and "Jersey Girl." It's clear that this is a guy into making very different choices.

"I'm not super into the idea of doing super hero movies," Affleck said. "Not because I have any judgment about them, but because I'm interested in doing other stuff and I definitely decided I'm going to focus on directing a little bit."

His next project will be to direct Matt Damon in the story of Boston crime boss Whitney Bulger. Affleck was just 25 years old when he starred in "Good Will Hunting." Now at age 40, he has been married seven years to actress Jennifer Garner, the mother of his three children and a constant counsel.

"She seems to have these instincts, whereas I'm totally lost," he said. "She sometimes always knows what the right thing to do is."

Affleck said if he is worried about an upcoming movie, Garner will help him work through it.

"She doesn't need my professional counsel," he said. "We're together and we're there in the same house, we're reading each other's scripts, and just being part of that. But she is definitely independent, makes her own decisions, has really, really sharp instincts."

When asked who the alpha was in their household, Affleck laughed.

"Any man who wants to have a marriage work needs to know who the boss is," he said. "The smart thing about me is that I know how great she is."

Now a father of three kids under the age of 7, Affleck said fatherhood has taught him how important it is to live by your values and lead by example.

"Kids, they see what you do," he said. "They don't listen to what you say, and it means that I have to hold myself to account, in a way, that I think is really good."

Four years ago, Affleck invited "Nightline" along as he laid the groundwork for his Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI), an effort he helped launch to bring attention to the desperation of millions ravaged by war and famine. Recently, the ECI worked with Theo Chocolate to launch a series of chocolate bars made entirely from Congolese cocoa. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the ECI to support Congolese farmers.

"This is something that's really exciting to me because it's not aid, it's not hand-outs, it's reaching out to our partners in a place that's really broken and damaged," Affleck said. "Things are getting better, but they are getting better slowly."

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