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The theme of this year’s Oscar race has been historical accuracy. Three of the Best Picture contenders have all been bashed over how close they stick to the truth. The arguments over torture in Zero Dark Thirty effectively killed its chances, while Lincoln was criticized by a Connecticut congressman. Although Argo has been picked at before, Ben Affleck’s film is now being slammed by Ken Taylor, the former Canadian ambassador to Iran.
“In the movie, Canada and Ottawa didn’t exist,” Taylor, who was played by Victor Garber in the film, told The New York Times. “It’s a great film, it’s great. But at the same time it was a Canadian story that’s been, all of sudden, totally taken over by the Americans. Totally.”
"I don't want to be hard on Tony Mendez," Taylor added. "I want to give him all the credit I can. But at the same time, I'm a Canadian, and enough is enough." Mendez is the CIA operative played by Affleck.
Of course, this isn’t the first time Argo has been criticized. After the film was screened at festivals last fall, Affleck agreed to change the postscript to reflect the Canadians’ role in helping the hostages escape Tehran. Just last month, an Iranian director vowed to make his own film of the events.
Still, the controversy has come up again because of Sunday’s Oscars. The film also hit DVD this week.
“Canadians should rightly take pride in what they did for the six houseguests,” Affleck wrote in an email to the Times. “The diplomats were heroic. That’s indisputable. But that part of the story had already been told. When you’re a filmmaker making a film based on a historical event, it’s your job to find a new way into a story.”
Affleck continued, “To be honest, I was surprised to hear that Ken still has issues about the film as the last time we had contact was a few weeks ago when Ken asked me to narrate a documentary about the Iran hostage crisis that he is prominently featured in.”
As E! News notes, former President Jimmy Carter, who gives a narration over the film’s credits, has also taken issue with the film. “Ben Affleck's character in the film...was only in—stayed in—Iran a day and a half,” Carter told Piers Morgan. “And the main hero, in my opinion, was Ken Taylor, who was the Canadian ambassador who orchestrated the entire process.”
The Oscars are Sunday, so it’s far too late for this to affect the film’s chances. Argo is now a favorite to win Best Picture after sweeping the major awards leading up to this weekend.