Jon Stewart is taking a break from “The Daily Show” to direct his first feature film, “Rosewater.” Little is known about the project beyond the fact that Stewart also wrote it and that it’s based on BBC journalist Maziar Bahari’s book “Then They Came For Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity and Survival” that tells the story of Bahari’s 2009 capture in Iran. Stewart has now opened up about what drew him to the tale and why he decided to have this be the first movie he directs.
“I am a television person who is accustomed to having a thought at 10 a.m. and having it out there at 6:30 p.m. and moving on, so this is a little scary, yes,” Stewart tells The New York Times. “One of the reasons we are in this business is to challenge ourselves, and I really connected to Maziar’s story. It’s a personal story but one with universal appeal about what it means to be free.”
It turns out that Bahari’s tale is personal to Stewart. Prior to Bahari’s capture, the reporter had taken part in a “Daily Show” sketch, and that was later used against him by his captors. “You can imagine how upset we were, and I struck up a friendship with him afterward,” Stewart says.
From there, Stewart read “Then They Came For Me” and decided to adapt it into a feature film. Producer Scott Rudin looked over the script and, according to Stewart, “before long it seemed like we had something.” Just don’t expect this movie to be 100 percent serious.
“One of the things that appealed to me about the story is that it does have lighter moments,” Stewart says. “One of the things that kept Maziar alive was his ability to keep his sense of humor — to remember about joy and laughter — and see the absurdity of his situation.”
“Rosewater” is expected to cost $30 to $40 million to make, and will cast 60 to 80 people total. Filming is slated to start overseas as early as June. John Oliver will replace Stewart for eight weeks of his 12-week absence, and the other four weeks are expected to align with “The Daily Show’s” summer hiatus.