Former CIA officer portrayed in 'Argo' passes away

Former CIA officer portrayed in 'Argo' passes away

Former CIA agent Tony Mendez, who inspired the Oscar-winning film Argo, has died at the age of 78. He had been suffering from Parkinson's Disease. 

At the CIA, Mendez specialised in disguises, forgery and rescues. He is best known for smuggling six American diplomats out of Iran during the 1979-81 hostage crisis by posing as a film producer.

Born in 1940, Mendez worked as a draftsman after graduating from university and joined the CIA after answering a blind advert for a graphic artist. Over a 25-year career he worked with Hollywood make-up artists and magicians to perfect disguises and fake identities, BBC reported.

In 1980 he orchestrated what would later be called the "Canadian Caper", a daring rescue of six American diplomats from Iran. The diplomats were forced to shelter in Canada's embassy in Tehran after protesters overran the American embassy.

Mendez met the six and helped them to pose as a Canadian film crew scouting locations for a sci-fi movie, Argo. With Canada's help, the group was able to evade Iranian security services and board a flight to Zurich from Tehran.

Ben Affleck, who directed Argo and starred as Mendez, called him "a true American hero".

"He was a man of extraordinary grace, decency, humility and kindness. He never sought the spotlight for his actions, he merely sought to serve his country," Affleck said in a tweet.