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‘Argo’ Escapee Says New Zealand Gave Captives Beer, Not Brushoff

Lee Schatz arrives at the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures'
Lee Schatz arrives at the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' "Argo" at AMPAS Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills on Oct. 4, 2012. Schatz, played by actor Rory Cochrane in the film, wasn’t involved in making “Argo,” he said. Photographer: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

March 13 (Bloomberg) -- New Zealand diplomats visited American hostages portrayed in actor and director Ben Affleck’s Oscar-winning film “Argo” and gave them beer, contrary to the rebuff suggested in the movie, said one of the escapees.

Chris Beeby and Richard Sewell met the six U.S. embassy workers “a number of times” while they sheltered in a Canadian official’s house during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis and helped raise their spirits, Lee Schatz said in an interview. Beeby bought them at least one case of beer at Christmas time, after asking Schatz if there was anything special they needed. New Zealand’s parliament yesterday criticized the film for suggesting the nation turned the U.S. diplomats away.

“I have fond memories of those two gentlemen,” said Schatz, 65, by telephone. “If they were still alive I would have called them up and said hey, this sucks.”

New Zealand’s two-man bureau in Iran didn’t have the capability to shelter the hostages, and Sewell went to the departure lounge at the airport on the Americans’ last day in Iran to make sure they escaped, Schatz said.

“Everyone who touched us in those weeks and months put themselves in danger,” said Schatz. “It was diplomats in a modern time doing some really, really, heroic things -- and I don’t use that term easily.”

‘Didn’t Fit’

Affleck directed and starred in “Argo,” which won Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards and depicts the rescue of six U.S. Embassy workers during the Iranian revolution. They posed as a film crew to escape the country.

Schatz, played by actor Rory Cochrane in the film, wasn’t involved in making “Argo,” he said. On first viewing the film, he saw some things “that didn’t fit” and on a second viewing thought “OK, it’s a movie. Let’s watch it. And it was good entertainment,” he said.

New Zealand law-makers yesterday passed a motion “expressing regret” about the film’s depiction of its diplomats. The motion, tabled by New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, said the movie misled the world and the nation deserved a correct and factual record.

“Instantly you felt like these were people that you knew, and you liked knowing,” Schatz said of the New Zealand diplomats. “They were friends.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Bourke in Wellington at cbourke4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Edward Johnson at ejohnson28@bloomberg.net

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