Film: The Good Shepherd (2006)
Robert De Niro Depicts the CIA’s Beginnings

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | December 21, 2006                     

The Good Shepherd movie poster Actor Robert De Niro’s new movie The Good Shepherd tells the origin story of the Central Intelligence Agency. De Niro, who co-produced, directed and acted in the film, says he wanted to include the CIA coup of Mossadegh but had to take it out due to space and budget limitations. The film’s 167 minute run time was still not long enough to catalogue the CIA’s crimes.

To add authenticity to the production, De Niro sought the consultation of veteran CIA official Milton Bearden, and even met with former KGB operatives in Moscow. Former UN ambassador Richard Holbrooke has also endorsed the film.

The Los Angeles Times’ Patrick Goldstein describes the lead role of Edward Wilson, played by Matt Damon, as “a composite of several top CIA hands, notably counterintelligence chief James J. Angleton; Frank Wisner, a key man in the 1953 overthrow of Iran’s Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh; and Tracy Barnes, who helped organize the Bay of Pigs invasion.”

December 18, 2006

Charlie Rose (PBS)

Charlie Rose: And so, why wasn’t it made into a movie before?

Robert De Niro: I think it was too hard, and just, people were afraid of what it might cost. I mean, there were some scenes we had to take out, I’m sad to say, like, the Iran sequence and Mossadegh and all that stuff. We had some other things that I had to give up in order to get other things, which is something that happens in movies. You sort of negotiate for what you can hold on to.

Robert De Niro and Matt Damon appeared at George Mason University for a taping of NBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews. They were joined at the GMU venue by former CIA officer Milton Bearden.

December 19, 2006

Hardball (NBC)

QUESTION FROM STUDENT: I was wondering if you ran into any classified barriers when you were developing your character and also working on the film?

DAMON: What type of barriers?

MATTHEWS: Top secret stuff you couldn’t use.

DAMON: Classified—actually, oh, there’s a mountain of research material for this movie because it’s a pretty well-documented time. There are a lot of biographies that have been written about people who were there at the beginning of the CIA, so there’s actually a lot of information. I’d actually taken a class in college about this, and had read some of these books and so I didn’t—I didn’t brush up against anything that hadn’t been declassified. I don’t know if you did?


MATTHEWS: And we really did overthrow the government in Guatemala, we really did overthrow the government in Iran. We did all that, right? [Jacobo Arbenz in 1954, Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953]



The Good Shepherd (2006)
Cast: Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, William Hurt, Billy Crudup, Alec Baldwin, Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro, Timothy Hutton, Keir Dullea, John Turturro
Executive Producer: Francis Ford Coppola
Director: Robert De Niro
Universal Pictures
Rated R
Release: December 22, 2006

The Good Shepherd

From The Good Shepherd’s interactive Flash web site: a map of the world highlighting the various covert activities of the CIA.

Iran: OPERATION AJAX (1953) A covert operation by the United Kingdom and the United States to remove the nationalist cabinet of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh. The idea of overthrowing Mossadegh was conceived by the British. Operation Ajax was the first time the Central Intelligence Agency was involved in a plot to overthrow a democratically-elected government.”

Vernon Walters Amuses Crowd With Mossadegh Stories (1974)


Related links:

Interview with Syriana director Stephen Gaghan

Actor Ben Affleck on Middle East, Iran, Shah, Mossadegh

MI6 Agent Norman Darbyshire’s Explosive Interview on 1953 Coup in Iran

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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