52 Americans were taken hostage when Iranians stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979. Six other American embassy workers secretly escaped the building and were taken in by the Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor who risked his own life to keep them hidden away from revolutionaries.
After months of hiding in Taylor's house in Tehran, the safety of the six Americans was threatened by ever-escalating tensions and house-to-house searches by the revolutionaries. The CIA was brought in to help rescue the six, with Tony Mendez - the agency's "top exfiltration specialist" - charged with coming up with a plan. And that top secret plan was never revealed to the public until President Clinton declassified it in 1997. Mendez wrote about it in his 2000 book, The Master of Disguise, and Joshuah Bearman wrote about it in a Wired magazine article in 2007. Still, the public remained largely unaware of the true events until it became the subject of the feature film, Argo, written by Chris Terrio, produced by George Clooney and Grant Heslov, and directed by Ben Affleck.
The true story did in fact involve the creation of a fake Hollywood movie production company backing a sci-fi film called Argo. Mendez would travel to Tehran masquerading as the film's producer. The six Americans would be given fake identities as Canadians who were involved in the film in different capacities including as the director, cinematographer, production designer, and screenwriter. With the full cooperation and support of Taylor and the Canadian government, Mendez was able to fool the Iranians into believing the six 'Canadians' had only arrived in Tehran a few days earlier and were returning to Hollywood after scouting locations.
Affleck admits the story sounds too bizarre to be true, but that's how the rescue went down. Says Wired writer Bearman: "This operation was a little-known success story in an otherwise difficult chapter in history. People knew at the time that six Americans escaped with the help of the Canadians a few months into the crisis, but until the operation was declassified years later, no one realized that the CIA had actually led the Americans to safety with such a daring mission and wild cover story."