×

Tony Mendez, Former CIA Officer Depicted in ‘Argo,’ Dies at 78

Tony Mendez, the former CIA technical operations officer who orchestrated the 1980 rescue of six American diplomats from Iran and who was portrayed by Ben Affleck in the Academy Award winning film “Argo,” has died. He was 78.

Mendez’s book agent, Christy Fletcher, announced the news on Twitter Saturday morning.

“Early this morning, Antonio (Tony) J. Mendez finally succumbed to the Parkinson’s Disease that he had been diagnosed with ten+ years ago,” the statement reads. “He was surrounded with love from his family and will be sorely missed. The last thing he and his wife Jonna Mendez did was get their new book to the publisher and he died feeling he had completd writing the stories that he wanted to be told.”

The message states Mendez will be buried in a private ceremony at the family graveyard in Nevada.

Born on Nov. 15 1940, Mendez began his career as an artist after studying art at the University of Colorado. He was hired by the CIA after answering a blind advertisement for a graphic artist in 1965 and became an espionage artist for the technical services division.

After working in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and South Asia, Mendez was sent to Iran to manage what became known as the “Canadian Caper,” in which he created the plan to pass off six American diplomats as a Canadian film crew to get them out of the country.

Popular on Variety

Mendez is the author of three memoirs, including “Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA”; “Spy Dust: Two Masters of Disguise Reveal the Tools and Operations that Helped Win the Cold War” with his wife Jonna, who is a 27-year veteran of the CIA; and “Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History,” upon which “Argo” is based.

“Argo,” loosely adapted for film and directed by Ben Affleck, won three Oscars at the 2013 Academy Awards, including best picture, best adapted screenplay, and best film editing. It was nominated for four more, including best performance by an actor in a supporting role for Alan Arkin, best original score, best sound mixing, and best sound editing. It also won Affleck the best director Golden Globe and the best motion picture – drama Globe.

More Film

  • Legion M Launches Film Scout Mobile

    Film News Roundup: Legion M Launches Film Scout Mobile App at Sundance

    In today’s film news roundup, Legion M is launching its Film Scout mobile app, the first round of Oscar presenters are unveiled, Verve is expanding its book-to-screen business, “Gladiator” producer David Franzoni boards an American Indian project, and XYZ announces promotions. SUNDANCE LAUNCH Fan-owned Legion M is launching its Film Scout mobile app at this [...]

  • Writers vs Agents Packaging War WGA

    APA Reaches Deal With Writers Guild of America

    APA has reached a deal with the Writers Guild of America, ending a nine-month standoff over allowing the agency to represent guild members. The full-service agency made the announcement Tuesday, four days after the Gersh agency signed a similar deal with the WGA. It’s the sixth mid-size agency to accede to the WGA’s bans on [...]

  • UTA Sundance

    UTA Marketing Ups Sundance Game With Private Residence, Programming

    Talent agency hospitality is a mainstay at the Sundance film Festival, be it in swanky lounges on Park City’s Main Street or private chalets in nearby Deer Valley. United Talent Agency, whose talent roster and independent film group always come in force each year, typically throws a brunch for friends and press — but will [...]

  • Joel Silver

    Silver Pictures Settles with Family of Assistant Who Died on Bora Bora Trip

    Silver Pictures has reached a confidential settlement with the family of Carmel Musgrove, the assistant to Joel Silver who was found dead in a Bora Bora lagoon in 2015. Musgrove’s family filed a wrongful death suit in 2017, alleging that she had been overworked and furnished with drugs and alcohol during the trip. The family [...]

  • David O. Russell

    David O. Russell Looks at 'Three Kings' 20 Years Later

    When David O. Russell made “Three Kings” in 1999, it was one of the most definitive films on the Gulf War. At the time, the director had worked on shorts “Hairway to the Stars” and “Bingo Inferno: A Parody on American Obsessions.” He had also worked on features “Spanking the Monkey” and “Flirting with Disaster.” [...]

  • Metoo Sundance The Glorias Zola On

    #MeToo Issues Continue to Make an Impact on Sundance Films

    If there were any doubts that the impact of sexual-harassment exposés­­ and backlash against them had died down, Oprah Winfrey put them to rest when she withdrew her name (and Apple’s distribution) from “On The Record,” a film about allegations against music execs Russell Simmons and L.A. Reid — just two weeks before its Sundance Film Festival premiere. Variety reached out to Winfrey and the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content