Iran to ‘Argo’: See You In Court

Mark Deming
Movie Talk
Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck, George Clooney
Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck, George Clooney

"Argo" may have become a box-office smash, won the Oscar for Best Picture, and earned the seal of approval from John Kerry and the State Department, but the Ben Affleck-helmed thriller just got one major thumbs-down.

From the Iranian government.

And they're suing mad.

Several Iranian news sources have reported Iranian officials want to take the film's producers to court, insisting "Argo" presents an "unrealistic portrayal" of the nation during the 1979 hostage crisis. The producers -- the presumed targets of Iran's legal action -- include Affleck, George Clooney, Grant Heslov and a handful of others, according to the film's IMDb page.

While "Argo" hasn't been released in Iran and can only be seen there on bootleg DVDs, on Monday a number of cultural officials and film critics attended a private screening of the movie in Tehran to discuss how the film characterized Iran and its people. (The fact the event was called "The Hoax of Hollywood" suggests the organizers may not have gone in with an entirely open mind.)

[Related: Oscar Bromance alert! Ben Affleck and George Clooney goof it up backstage]

At the screening, "Argo" was denounced as a "violation of international cultural norms," and Affleck was criticized for not digging deeper into the reasons for Iran's differences with the West, in particular the CIA's engineering of the rise of the Shah of Iran at the expense of the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh. (The CIA's role in deposing Mossadegh is discussed in the film, but only in a brief prologue.)

For the most part, though, reports have been short on specifics about Iran's problems with the film, who in particular they planned to sue, and what would be the grounds for the case. Any lawsuit brought in the U.S., for example, would be laughed out of court.

However, the event's organizers are serious enough to retain a lawyer. French attorney Isabelle Coutant-Peyre reportedly flew to Tehran for the meeting and discussed legal options with Iranian officials. Coutant-Peyre is known to have interesting clients – they include Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, the terrorist best known as Carlos the Jackal.

This isn't the first time the Iranian media have weighed in on "Argo." After winning the Oscar in February, the Iranian news agency Fars declared the movie "an anti-Iran film … produced by the Zionist company Warner Bros.," and Iran's state owned television network decried it as "an advertisement for the CIA."