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So Sad!!!Tony Mendez, ‘Argo’ spy who smuggled US hostages out of Iran during crisis, dies at 78

Tony Mendez, ‘Argo’ spy who smuggled US hostages out of Iran during crisis, dies at 78

Tony Mendez (pictured in 2012) was portrayed by Ben Affleck in the Oscar-winning movie “Argo.”
By Harrison Smith WASHINGTON POST JANUARY 19, 2019
A forgery artist and master of disguise for the CIA, Tony Mendez once transformed a black agent and an Asian diplomat into a pair of white business executives, using masks that gave them an uncanny resemblance to the movie stars Victor Mature and Rex Harrison. On another occasion, he devised an oversize ‘‘jack-in-the-box’’ — a spring-loaded mannequin — that enabled a CIA source to sneak out of his car while a dummy popped up in his place.

Mr. Mendez, a 25-year veteran of the spy agency, was effectively in the business of geopolitical theater. Pulling techniques from magicians, movie makeup artists, and even the television show ‘‘Mission: Impossible,’’ he changed one person into another, transforming agents into characters with backstories, costumes, and documents that helped them evade detection and avoid capture in foreign countries.

Appropriately for a man whose career seemed drawn from a Hollywood thriller, his greatest triumph hinged on a bogus sci-fi film, a sham production office in Los Angeles, and a fake location-scouting expedition to Iran. Disguising himself as an Irish filmmaker, Mr. Mendez successfully smuggled six State Department employees out of Tehran during the 1979-1981 Iran hostage crisis, passing them off as a Canadian movie crew in a daring mission that formed the basis of the Oscar-winning movie ‘‘Argo’’ (2012).

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