Q: Well speaking of structure, your character is very involved a back and forth [sequence] between what's going on in D.C. and what's going in Tehran. How real was that entire sequence?

A: I think the admission is that this is – Argo is first and foremost an entertaining film.  

Q: Right.

A: Film entertainment.  And the fact that it's based on a true story makes the story and the experience of watching the movie all the richer.  And that can't be taken away.  This is the – that in and of itself is a valuable entity.  Movies have always taken liberties in order to tell a story, truncated stories, compressed time capsules and that sort of thing, chronology of a story.  For instance, in my composite character there were several people at the CIA who were pulling strings while this mission was going on, but for the sake of following the story from an audience standpoint the producers felt that if we had one voice, one visual and one voice there it would be stronger and easier so that the audience doesn't go, "Wait a minute, who's that guy?" and not stay on track.

Q: Yeah.

A: So whenever it cuts back and you see me, they immediately think CIA.  That's his CIA guy.  So that's how you're able to follow the story.  So that's why my character was a composite character to begin with.

Q: I know you've worked with other directors who have been actors before.  Is it a misnomer to assume that if someone is an established actor and then they become a director that they're therefore "actor friendly"? That they're more inclined to give their acting brethren more free rein?

A: I think it's a fair assessment to say that an actor turned director has a leg up on how they work with other actors because they've been there, they talk the same language.  They know what it's like when you give a piece of direction for that actor to have to then process it and perform that, that adjustment, that switch, the drive or whatever.  That's in and of itself – Ben has a demeanor on the set that is very calm and very confident so that it allowed me the confidence and comfort to be able to take a chance.  So, I know what I wanted to do and I would try that and that's good.  And when you're on the same wavelength there's really not a lot of conversation going on about you may tweak it a little bit, you may say for the sake of intercutting we're going to cut in between my conversation and you, put a little pause in between that.  It's like – if there was some technical aspects that you do.  We're used to that.  So you do that and you file it away.  You don't think about that the next take, it's just there.  The suggestion was there.  But Ben is more than that.  He's not an actor director now.  He is a bonafide director.  He's smart, he's passionate about the story, he's passionate about filmmaking.  He's very empathetic with other actors and what he's about to ask them to do, he needs to get his shots.  He'll do anything and what we see and what the – the audience sees the finished product of Argo and the story is compelling and it moves and it's gratifying and it's great, and it is.  And then they see Ben on the red carpet getting out of a limousine, in a tuxedo, his beautiful wife, and everything looks glamorous and the flash photography.  And that's what they see.  They see Ben – I can guarantee you Ben in the dog days of shooting this movie was on his belly and wiping away sweat and then realizing he needs to eat something and keeping focus, and something didn't work right so he's got to reconfigure his shots and where he set the camera wasn't quite telling the story.  So, there are innumerous problems that come up and a good director, which Ben is, looks at it like he's playing chess.  Like it's a move that he didn't anticipate and he looks at it and goes, "Huh, okay.  Didn't see that coming."  And then immediately starts to problem solve.  How can we fix that?  And it'll take a moment and think about it, be relaxed, don't panic.  A good chess player doesn't see a move and go, "Ahh, God."

Q: So, he's not a panicked director on set?  He's calm and cool, and…?

A: Not at all.  I direct as well and there is that underlying feeling that I'm going to miss something.  I feel like I'm going to miss something.  So there was a certain amount of anxiety but it's how you deal with that and how you present it.  And he is the captain of the ship and he needs to come on board with a sense of confidence to lead us all to this finish line.  It's a daunting task for many people.  He handles it with a plum.

"Argo" is now playing nationwide.
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With over a decade of experience in the movie industry, Ellwood survived working for two major studios and has written for Variety, MSN and the LA Times. A co-founder of HitFix, Ellwood spends his time relaxing hitting 3’s on the basketball court and following his beloved Clippers.