Fans of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show will have to watch the show without its beloved host Jon Stewart for some weeks, as the popular comedian/political commentator is taking a twelve-week hiatus to direct his debut feature film, a drama titled ‘Rosewater’, based on a screenplay penned by him. British comedian John Oliver, who currently works on the show as a “senior correspondent” will fill in for Stewart for eight weeks, while the next four weeks will be the show’s regular off-air season.
Stewart has based his screenplay on a memoir by Iranian-Canadian journalist and documentarian Maziar Bahari, titled Then They Came for Me (A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity and Survival). In 2009, following the controversial Iranian presidential election, Bahari was accused of conspiring a revolution against the government, and was imprisoned for 118 days. During his time in Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison, he was ruthlessly interrogated for long hours by his captors, would would use all sorts of intimidation tactics to get the supposed information out of him. ‘Rosewater’ is the nickname of Bahari’s regular interrogator in the book — a man with a large build who tortured Bahari with both physical and psychological means.
Bahari has made a number of Daily Show appearances, with the first one from before his imprisonment, in which he appeared in a segment titled “Minarets of Menace”with Jason Jones, who was pretending to be a spy. The sketch, in which he provided Jones a list of Iranians he could talk to in Iran, was used by his captors against him as evidence of him being a spy. After his second appearance post-imprisonment, and the subsequent book-release, Stewart and he struck a friendship. Stewart praised the book on the show, during Bahari’s second appearance as the guest, saying:
Your ability to connect the story to your family, and the nuances you pick up, even from your captor, is incredible.
Stewart talked about the movie with The New York Times, explaining how challenging the project is for him.
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.
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.
He added that despite the serious subject matter, the film will have some humorous elements.
One of the things that appealed to me about the story is that it does have lighter moments. 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.
It’s not known who will star in the film, they’re still looking for people, but it’s unlikely that we’ll get any big stars, as the reported budget of the movie is around $30-40 million. Scott Rudin and Gigi Pritzker will produce the movie alongside Stewart, with financing coming from Pritzker’s Odd Lot Entertainment.
With Argo bagging the biz prize this year, are we in for a slew of Iran-based political dramas? Are you excited at the prospect of Stewart getting behind the camera or do you think it’ll turn out as bad as his acting career? Do you think John Oliver will prove to be an able host? Tell us below at the comments!
Here’s the synopsis of Bahari’s book, from Random House:
When Maziar Bahari left London in June 2009 to cover Iran’s presidential election, he assured his pregnant fiancée, Paola, that he’d be back in just a few days, a week at most. Little did he know, as he kissed her good-bye, that he would spend the next three months in Iran’s most notorious prison, enduring brutal interrogation sessions at the hands of a man he knew only by his smell: Rosewater.
For the Bahari family, wars, coups, and revolutions are not distant concepts but intimate realities they have suffered for generations: Maziar’s father was imprisoned by the shah in the 1950s, and his sister by Ayatollah Khomeini in the 1980s. Alone in his cell at Evin Prison, fearing the worst, Maziar draws strength from his memories of the courage of his father and sister in the face of torture, and hears their voices speaking to him across the years. He dreams of being with Paola in London, and imagines all that she and his rambunctious, resilient eighty-four-year-old mother must be doing to campaign for his release. During the worst of his encounters with Rosewater, he silently repeats the names of his loved ones, calling on their strength and love to protect him and praying he will be released in time for the birth of his first child.
A riveting, heart-wrenching memoir, Then They Came for Me offers insight into the past fifty years of regime change in Iran, as well as the future of a country where the democratic impulses of the youth continually clash with a government that becomes more totalitarian with each passing day. An intimate and fascinating account of contemporary Iran, it is also the moving and wonderfully written story of one family’s extraordinary courage in the face of repression.