Jon Stewart famously took a hiatus from his celebrated The Daily Show to make his first directorial debut for, Rosewater, which makes its premiere at TIFF this year. 

The drama is an adaptation of the memoirs of Iranian-born Canadian journalist, Maziar Bahari, who was arrested, imprisoned from June 2009 to October 20, 2021 and tortured.

Stewart has a personal connection to this story having been good friends with Bahari since the journalist appeared on The Daily Show after his release. “We became friendly and started having breakfast whenever he was in town,” Stewart told Entertainment Weekly. “He told me he was writing this book. Unfortunately, in this line of work you read more than your fair share of I’ve-been-imprisoned-in-another-country-for-merely-reporting autobiographies. But this was incredible. Maziar is an incredibly warm, intelligent, and sort of sparkly fella who has an ability to maintain his sense of humor. He was able to stand back and observe his own situation and feel the absurdity of it, and that allowed him to not lose his mind.”

While the idea to make the move may have just fallen into his lap, the actual task of getting it on to the screen was not an easy one, but Stewart was a good sport. “Did you ever work at a restaurant? Remember your first or second day, how simple s–t like ‘Where is the ketchup?’ takes you five minutes where it takes someone else 10 seconds? Especially early on, there were a lot of people who didn’t know where we kept the ketchup,” he described. “It was a pretty seat-of-the-pants operation. Not to sound too Rumsfeldian, but I didn’t know what I didn’t know going in. I brought five crewmembers, and the rest was local. Pretty much everybody there did the film in their second language, and some in their third. Except for me.”

Rosewater stars Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal in the title role. “Knowing Maziar made casting him more difficult,” Stewart said of casting. “He’s got an elfin quality of mischief that Gael, when he read for the role, really captured. It’s difficult to retain a sense of that while in solitary confinement.”

While his debut is already receiving critical acclaim, Stewart is unclear whether he will be jumping back behind the camera again anytime soon. “It depends on who else I can get arrested,” he joked.


Rosewater stars Gael Garcia Bernal, Shohreh Aghdashloo and Kim Bodnia and premiered at TIFF on September 7th.






—Sarah Khan

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