Mark Lijek (F'73) and his wife were two of six Americans who escaped Iran during the 1979-1980 hostage crisis by pretending to be part of a Canadian film crew. The ordeal is depicted in the recently released film Argo. Lijek, a Michigan native who now lives in Washington State, spoke with the Detroit Free Press.
Each of the six received a new identity; Lijek was transportation coordinator Joseph Harris, married to screenwriter Teresa Harris. A Canadian and a New Zealand diplomat drilled them on their new identities; one Canadian gave them a lesson on all things Great White North, such as saying "abooot," and "ay" and the native way to pronounce Toronto.
Hollywood to the rescue -- but there were problems. The right exit paperwork wasn't in the files at the airport. (The identification paperwork they did have was provided by New Zealand diplomats, glossed over as the "Kiwis" in the Ben Affleck film). Lijek also feared one of the airport employees might recognize him and his wife from the American visa office.
The snazzed-up Hollywood version wasn't 100% accurate, Lijek said.
For example, when the plane taking them to freedom left Iranian airspace, marked in reality and in the film by flight attendants serving alcohol, the six escapees didn't jump around hugging each other; rather, they quietly toasted each other with knowing looks.
Lijek recently penned The Houseguests: A Memoir of Canadian Courage and CIA Sorcery, recounting his experience. Find the book at Amazon.