Playing Joe Stafford, one of six Americans awaiting rescue in Iran, is just the beginning. The actor has five more movies due in theaters over the next year.

By Sara Vilkomerson
October 19, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT
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About That Name

”My pops called me that when I was a kid,” says the Dallas native, 32. ”It’s a nickname that stuck.” (His birth name is John.)

Character Building

While preparing to play Argo‘s Joe Stafford, McNairy and his fellow actors lived together for almost a week in an L.A. house filled with era-appropriate magazines, books, and fashion. ”It was like a 1979 time warp,” he says. ”They took our phones, our computers, and we had no air-conditioning.”

Language Arts

McNairy learned Farsi for the Argo role. ”I was working on it all through the shoot, but I had no idea I was going to do a whole monologue in Farsi at the end. Ben kinda sprung that on me day-of.” The result? ”All I asked was if a person who spoke Farsi would understand me. I was told, ‘Absolutely.”’

Workhorse

McNairy costars with Brad Pitt (”one of the greatest people to be around”) in Killing Them Softly (out Nov. 30), and again in next year’s Twelve Years a Slave. He’s also got Gus Van Sant’s Promised Land with Matt Damon, Lynn Shelton’s Touchy Feely, and the Liam Neeson thriller Non-Stop. Not bad for a relative newcomer. ”Believe me,” he says, ”I’m still like, what the f—?”

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  • R
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  • 120 minutes
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