In late 2012 and early 2013, Ben Affleck drew acclaim for Argo, a movie he not only directed, but starred in as Tony Mendez, the CIA operative who led the operation to rescue six U.S. diplomats who were being held hostage in Tehran, Iran in 1979. In real life, Mendez was of Mexican descent, which Affleck is not. As such, Miami Vice and Battlestar Galactica actor Edward James Olmos has called out Affleck for playing a Mexican American in Argo.
During a recent interview, Edward James Olmos spoke about his attempts to make movies about his own culture and ethnicity over the years, and he asked the interviewer if he could name one Medal of Honor-winning hero who’s Latino that’s been shown in a movie. When the interviewer couldn’t think of any, Olmos continued:
There’s not one. And when they have made movies about Latinos, ‘our heroes,’ say like Tony Mendez in Argo? Ben Affleck played Tony Mendez. He should never have played Tony Mendez. He was the director and he should’ve either gotten Michael Pena, or Andy Garcia, or myself, Jimmy Smits, any one of a multitude of people that can handle those roles. He said, well, they wouldn’t have made the movie if I wasn’t playing the role. Bullshit. He was directing it, he wrote it. It won the best film of the year Academy Award, so what are you talking about? Tony Mendez was a Chicano, a Mexican American, born and raised in El Paso, Texas. Now, 99% of the people don’t even know that.
Edward James Olmos aired his grievances about Argo while chatting with Deadline, and this isn’t the first time he’s criticized this aspect of the movie, as he called Ben Affleck’s decision to play Tony Mendez “a mistake” back in 2013. Others shared this opinion, but interestingly enough, Tony Mendez said that same year that he was fine with Ben Affleck playing him in Argo, telling NBC Latino that he didn’t think of himself as Hispanic.
In any case, Ben Affleck playing Tony Mendez was just one element of Argo that generated controversy during the movie’s time in the spotlight. Others included the Canadian government’s role in rescuing the hostages being minimized, the British and New Zealand embassies being inaccurately portrayed as turning away American refugees in Tehran, and the amount of danger the operatives were actually in during their time in Iran being exaggerated.
Ultimately though, Argo went on to be quite the cinematic draw. Commercially speaking, it made over $232 million worldwide off a $44.5 million budget, which is not too shabby. On the critical front, Argo ranks at 96% among critics on Rotten Tomatoes and has a 90% audience score. Among the accolades it collected were three Academy Award wins (and nominations in four other categories) and a Golden Globe win (and nominations in three other categories).
Since Argo’s release, Ben Affleck has come and gone as Batman in the DC Extended Universe, as well as starred in movies like Gone Girl, The Accountant, Triple Frontier, Live by Night (which he also directed) and The Way Back. As for Edward James Olmos, he can currently be seen playing Felipe Reyes on the FX series Mayans M.C.
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