Tony Mendez, the former CIA agent who engineered the smuggling of U.S. hostages out of Iran in 1980 and was immortalized in the Hollywood film Argo, has died of complications from Parkinson’s disease.
Mendez’s family said in a statement on Jan. 20, 2019, that he died on Jan. 19, 2019, at the age of 78.
The statement, relayed via Twitter by Mendez’s literary agent Christy Fletcher, said the last thing he and his wife, Jonna Mendez, did was to “get their new book to the publisher.”
“He died feeling he had completed writing the stories that he wanted to be told,” the family statement said, adding that Mendez suffered from Parkinson’s for the past 10 years.
When Iranian revolutionaries seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979, a handful of diplomats managed to escape through a back door and took refuge at the Canadian Embassy in Tehran.
Mendez’s plan to rescue them involved setting up the production in Hollywood of a fake science-fiction film titled Argo, traveling to Iran to scout out locations, then returning to the United States with the six U.S. diplomats masquerading as the film crew.
The diplomats, armed with fake Canadian passports, slipped out of Iran and to safety on Jan. 27, 1980.
The story served as inspiration for the film Argo, which won three Oscars in 2013, including for best motion picture.
Fifty-two other Americans were not as lucky. They were held hostage by the Iranian revolutionaries for 444 days.
This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.