Is Beirut’s Mason Skiles Based on a Real US Diplomat?

Brad Anderson helmed the 2018 political noir-thriller movie ‘Beirut’ from a shelved screenplay by Tony Gilroy of the ‘Bourne‘ franchise fame. Mason Skiles is the ubiquitous protagonist of the movie, revisiting a personal trauma while saving his friend from a terrorist faction in Lebanon’s civil war. Countries and officials have separate agendas in the war, and Skiles could not care less. However, he respects the culture and its people – professing communication over violence. Is Skiles based on a real-life hero? Let us find out! SPOILERS AHEAD.

Is Mason Skiles Based on a Real US Diplomat?

US diplomat Mason Skiles comes off as a sharp-edged character, albeit rusty from his tragic circumstances. He was a diplomat in the Lebanese embassy in 1972, known for his negotiation skills. After the death of his wife, he came back to Rhode Island, taking up a job as a labor arbitrator in the New England Chamber of Commerce. Haunted by the failure to bring Karim into mainstream society and the death of Nadia, Mason has become an alcoholic.

However, Mason always gives precedence to communication over violence. He is a man of principles. As much as he is done with the country, he goes back to the war-torn landscape to find his friend. In Lebanon, he meets Karim again, under different circumstances. Karim has kidnapped Cal, and he wants his brother – the identical brother who killed Mason’s wife – in exchange. From this point, it could very well turn into a full-blown revenge thriller, but violence only breeds more violence. We feel the rarity of people like Mason in diplomacy, at least from a cinematic standpoint.

However, you may wonder whether Gilroy had any inspiration for the character of Mason. But you should know that he completely imagined the symbol on his own. However, Gilroy cited the 1984 kidnapping of CIA Station Chief William Buckley as a major inspiration. At that time, the news made a sensation, although Buckley had to die at the hands of the terrorists. However, Gilroy thought him to be the perfect role model for a diplomat character – steady-minded and intelligent. To portray the pragmatic nature of his character, Jon Hamm borrowed from his life. He had the fortune of being several real-life diplomats, and he took an active interest in engaging with them.

As a diplomat and a negotiator, Mason Skiles has to be neutral. He cannot take a side, and neither can he use any weapon but his words. He must understand the ground reality and respect the local culture and tradition. The movie is different precisely because of the nuance in the hero, and Jon Hamm makes the best of the material. Therefore, he comes off as a unique hero, although, at a second glance, he is not devoid of genre tropes altogether. However,  Jon Hamm infuses a gritty nature in his character. With honest depiction, Mason Skiles becomes a palpable presence in 1980s Lebanon, one of the many who saved people’s lives against all odds.

Read More: Where Was Beirut Filmed?