Ben Affleck: 'I love New Zealand'

By Cassandra Mason, Isaac Davison

Director Ben Affleck has addressed his Oscar-winning film Argo's controversial treatment of New Zealand, saying he "loves New Zealand and New Zealanders".

Affleck directs and stars in Argo, which tells the story of six US diplomats who escaped the takeover of their embassy in Tehran in 1979.

The film suggests the diplomats were turned away by the British and New Zealand embassies before being taken in by Canada.

They were eventually whisked out of Iran in early 1980 in an elaborate ruse by the CIA which disguised them as a film crew.

During a backstage press conference following Argo's Academy Award win for Best Picture, Affleck said: "Let me just start by saying I love New Zealand, and I love New Zealanders."

Affleck went on to say that despite it being a historical movie, making a three-hour film involved making "creative choices".

"It's tricky, you walk a fine line. It's not an easy thing to do. You try to honour the truth, the essence, the basic truth of the story that you're telling.

"The story that we're telling is true ... it's constructed as well as it could possibly be."

It's not the first time Affleck has defended his decision.

He told the New Zealand Herald's TimeOut magazine last year that he struggled with the portrayal because it cast Britain and New Zealand in a way that wasn't "totally fair".

He later told the Telegraph: "I was setting up a situation where you needed to get a sense that these six people had nowhere else to go."

"But I believe it was New Zealand who turned them on to the Canadians, so it wasn't merely, 'Oh, we're going to turn you away'. It was more about where was the best place for them to go.

"And the truth is that above all, the Canadians were the most heroic in that sense and in the movie, it does not mean to diminish anyone else," he said.

Prime Minister John Key says it was "disappointing" that the Oscar-winning film Argo misrepresented New Zealand's role in a historical incident.

Mr Key was asked by media this afternoon about the film.

"It's a bit disappointing," he said. "I see [director] Ben Affleck's telling everyone today he loves New Zealand and New Zealanders. That's a good thing, but it would be helpful if it was a bit more accurate."

Asked whether Affleck should have thanked New Zealand for its assistance to the diplomats as well as Canada, Mr Key said: "It would be nice if he did. But look, in the end, it's the movies."

He added it was "a good movie which had done well".

Argo won Oscar trophies for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing.

- nzherald.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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