Argo Movie Actors. (L-r) BRYAN CRANSTON as Jack O’Donnell and BEN AFFLECK as Tony Mendez. Photo by Claire Folger

Argo Movie Actors Ben Affleck and Bryan Cranston

ARGO: BEN AFFLECK & BRYAN CRANSTON

Written by Kelli Gillespie

In 1979, a group of Islamic students and militants took over the American Embassy in Tehran. Fifty-two Americans were held hostage for 444 days. It became known as the Iran hostage crisis and was widely televised. But what people didn’t know, until 1996 when the information became declassified, was that six U.S. diplomats hid in the home of the Canadian Ambassador until they were rescued with a unique plan of a fictitious movie called Argo. Thinking outside the box was what helped the State Department bing home thses 6 Americans. Ben Affleck stars in and directs the movie Argo, based loosely on CIA operative Tony Mendez’s account of the historical rescue. Bryan Cranston also stars and Risen talked with them both about integrity, courage, and taking risks.

Interviewed for at The Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, California

Risen Magazine: These characters have such integrity. They step up in courage because they know what needs to be done is right. When was a point in your life when you made a decision that maybe wasn’t the norm, but you just knew at your core that you had to do it?
Ben Affleck: Making a movie like this about people in the State Department who are overseas risking their life, actually is humbling to me because it makes me realize I haven’t had to make choices like this. I haven’t had to make sacrifices like this and I feel really lucky. These people have extraordinary character. I try to live my life as best I can according to my values, but I haven’t ever done anything like that.

Risen Magazine: When it comes to your work and your life, how often do you find yourself thinking outside the box?
Ben Affleck: It’s definitely something that Hollywood – directing, acting, any of that stuff – teaches you. It’s a really good lesson to pick up. Which is that oftentimes the idea that is more unusual that you haven’t seen, that you don’t expect, that sounds stupid at first blush, turns out to be the really good idea. The most inspired, brilliant choices are things I never would’ve thought of [in the norm]… so I actually look for those kinds of ideas. Anything that feels like the normal thing, the ordinary thing, the safe choice, is surely wrong. What you’re looking for is that thing like, why would you just get up in the middle of this interview and start walking around and talking from over there. You might think it doesn’t make sense, but you’d feel all of a sudden like something is interesting and weird. You’d think why is she talking over there? Is she weird? Is she crazy? Is she angry? Which is why I think those choices are really worth looking at.

Risen Magazine: When you’re directing and acting, how do you keep the pace of humor and action and every nuance that keeps the audiences on the edge of their seat?
Ben Affleck: It’s a balance and I guess that’s sort of the craft of it. You know some of it needs to go there, and this part needs to be a little more intense, and oftentimes humor is used to let the audience release for a minute. Because you can’t just keep turning the screw during the whole movie or the audience would rebel I think. So there is a nice balance that you want to achieve until the parts that just have to be more and more intense and make your heart beat. The stuff I’ve learned, honestly, I learned mostly from watching other movies and watching the art of the way other people did it. I just watch it and think, “How do I feel watching this? Does this make me feel more anxious? Does this make me feel more tense?

Risen Magazine: How important is it to step up in courage and take risks?
Bryan Cranston: I think it’s unavoidable. There are times in life when you have to step up and do things that are uncomfortable. You need to be the person to do it. Face the music, be responsible, and keep your integrity. Those are the times that develop character. The actions which we take under duress are what develop character in a person. It’s not during the good times.

Risen Magazine: What will you remember from your time spent at CIA Headquarters?
Bryan Cranston: They are very dedicated people, they believe in the greater good, and that’s why they are there, and yet there is something somewhat lonely about it. Just imagine this, you’re married to someone in the CIA, or you’re in the CIA, and you come home and have absolutely no conversations about what happens at work. Your spouse cannot know, does not know the extent of what you do. That can really separate a relationship and how to manage through it.

Interview originally published in Risen Magazine, Winter 2012

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