Fans of late-night political comedy program The Daily Show will have to do without long-time host Jon Stewart this summer (correspondent John Oliver will be keeping his seat warm during Stewart's three-month break), but not because he's going on vacation. Taking the first step into a new branch of his career, Stewart will write and direct a true-life drama, Rosewater, which he will also co-produce alongside Scott Rudin (The Social Network, Moonrise Kingdom).
The film is based on journalist Maziar Bahari's memoir, Then They Came For Me: A Family's Story of Love, Captivity and Survival, which he co-wrote with Aimee Molloy. While covering the 2009 Iranian presidential elections, Bahari was taken prisoner and held for 118 days in Evin Prison, where he was accused of being an agent assigned to spy on Iran, and beaten and interrogated in an effort to force a confession from him. The title of Stewart's film is taken from the nickname that Bahari gave to his interrogator, who always smelled very faintly of rosewater.
The Wrap now reports that the role of Bahari will be played by Gael García Bernal, a Mexican actor best known for his appearances in The Motorcycle Diaries, The Science of Sleep and Y Tu Mamá También. Bernal is currently filming Pablo Fendrik's Western The Ardor, and is also attached to star in the lead role of a futuristic reboot of Zorro. Though he has a different ethnic background to Bahari, Bernal definitely has the talent to pull this role off. Stewart's next challenge is to find a truly great actor for the antagonist role of Rosewater, since the relationship between prisoner and interrogator will no doubt be at the center of this film.
Though it has been almost four years since Bahari was released, convincing his captors to let him go by promising to work for them as an informant, the subject matter of Rosewater remains extremely topical. A recent report suggests that at least 40 journalists are being held in prison as the 2013 Iranian presidential election approaches. After being freed, Bahari made his own documentary, False Confessions, in an effort to raise awareness about the injustices being practiced upon journalists by the Iranian government, and continues to be an active campaigner for human rights and freedom of the press.
Bahari's prior appearance on The Daily Show was actually used against him when he was arrested, but in a later interview he explained that his connection to Stewart's show was nothing more than an excuse for his captors:
"Those guys who imprisoned me, they wanted to fabricate charges against me. I could be on Sesame Street and they would accuse Elmo of sedition."
Though it's possible that Stewart will play the film as a straight drama, there is also a lot of material here that could make Rosewater work as a successful black comedy. For example, whilst trying to find allegations to pin on Bahari, Rosewater dug into the "likes" on Bahari's Facebook page and demanded to know who Anton Chekhov was, then later interrogated Bahari about his connection to comedian Pauly Shore (as Bahari had "liked" the Pauly Shore Facebook fan page).
Rosewater doesn't have an official release date yet, but will probably arrive some time in 2014.
Source: The Wrap
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