Jonna Mendez spent more than 25 years with the CIA through some of the most intense years of the Cold War. Since she retired in 1993, Mendez and her husband, Tony Mendez (portrayed by Ben Affleck in Argo), have written several books about their service.
During her career, Jonna Mendez climbed the ranks of the CIA to become the agency’s chief of disguise, overseeing the process of creating cover identities, training agents to live in their cover stories, and managing the laboratories that produce high-quality masks and prosthetics that Hollywood can only envy. Mendez herself once fooled President George H.W. Bush by wearing a CIA-designed mask outfitted with prosthetics.
In a video interview with Wired magazine, the retired intelligence officer and author of The Moscow Rules: The Secret CIA Tactics That Helped America Win the Cold War breaks down scenes from popular movies and TV shows. From the absurdity of Jason Bourne’s “box of passports” to the Pink Panther’s prosthetic noses and Austin Powers’ bizarre cover names, Mendez shows just how expertly — or sloppily — Hollywood portrays spies in their element.
Ultimately, Mendez covers 31 films — comedies, dramas, and thrillers — showcasing her depth of knowledge and years of experience. She humbly flexes as she describes how, in Argo, Ben Affleck portrays her husband — also a retired CIA agent — and how her friend Jason Matthews wrote Red Sparrow, a novel based partially on the Swallows, the real-life Soviet spy seductresses.