“Daily Show” host Jon Stewart has never been shy when talking about his career in film. Often the butt of his own jokes, Stewart’s film credits as an actor include “Big Daddy,” “The Faculty” and “Doogal,” but for his next project, he’s stepping behind the camera and shifting to an entirely new genre, the international drama.
For “Rosewater,” Stewart will take 12 weeks off from “The Daily Show” to tell the story of Canadian-Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari, who was imprisoned in Tehran in 2009 for four months, accused of conspiring against the government. Bahari’s own account of the ordeal, “Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity and Survival,” which he co-wrote with Aimee Molloy, served as the source of Stewart’s screenplay.
The late-night host spoke over the phone with the New York Times about what Bahari’s story meant to him and how the project came about. “It just kind of happened,” Stewart explained.
Filming on “Rosewater” won’t begin until this summer, but Stewart is already considering the schedule change and how the structure of the work will differ. “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,” Stewart said. “So this is a little scary, yes.”
Aside from Bahari having appeared on the show a number of times, the two have a history that goes further and gets more complicated. When Bahari was arrested in Iran, his captors used footage of a taped segment from the show against him. Though Bahari later went on “The Daily Show” to explicitly say the appearance had nothing to do with his arrest, the turn of events still got to Stewart. “You can imagine how upset we were,” Stewart said. “I struck up a friendship with him afterward.”
The Times didn’t fail to point out that producer Scott Rudin has a history with Oscar success, especially when “Rosewater” will film in the same year another movie based in Iran, “Argo,” won Best Picture, but Stewart quickly deflected premature awards talk.
“Oh, yes, because that is a great expectation to put on a first-time director,” Stewart said.