Tony Mendez, the CIA spy who led the rescue of six American hostages from Iran, inspiring the Oscar-winning film “Argo,” died Saturday.
He was 78.
The news was announced on Twitter by Mendez’s literary agent, Christy Fletcher, who called it “a crushing loss for his family, friends and our world.”
Attached to her tweet was a statement from his family confirming the cause of death to have been Parkinson’s disease with which he had been living for more than 10 years.
“He was surrounded with love from his family and will be sorely missed,” the family said, adding that Mendez had just turned in a manuscript for a new book.
“The last thing he and his wife, Joanna Mendez, did was get their new book to their publisher and he died feeling he had completed writing the stories that he wanted to be told.”
Mendez was widely acclaimed following the 2012 release of “Argo” starring Ben Affleck, who plays the spook in the adaptation of the 1980 mission that brought home several U.S. diplomats during the Iranian hostage crisis.
Affleck was among those who offered their condolences on social media following the news, praising Mendez as “a true American hero” and “a man of extraordinary grace, decency, humility and kindness.”
Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell also paid tribute to Mendez for helping “to protect our nation in significant ways.”
Mendez, who in the title of his 1999 memoir dubbed himself “The Master of Disguise,” gleaned insights from magicians and Hollywood makeup artists to craft elaborate costumes used in his various international missions.
Upon retirement after more than two decades in the field, Mendez spent his days running an art studio where he painted landscapes, according to The Washington Post.
“I’ve always considered myself to be an artist first,” he once told the outlet, “and for 25 years I was a pretty good spy.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the six rescued diplomats had been held within the U.S. embassy in Tehran. The officials actually took shelter inside the homes of two people ― a Canadian ambassador and an embassy official.