'Daily Show' host to direct first movie
BY BROOKS BARNES, New York Times
LOS ANGELES -- Jon Stewart, serious film director?
Stewart, the stand-up satirist and "Daily Show" host, said Tuesday that he would direct his first movie, a drama called "Rosewater," from a screenplay that he wrote.
The movie -- which will require a 12-week absence from his duties on "The Daily Show" -- is an adaptation of the 2011 book "Then They Came for Me: A Family's Story of Love, Captivity and Survival," by Maziar Bahari and Aimee Molloy.
"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 said by telephone.
"Rosewater" will cost an estimated $30 million to $40 million to make, with financing coming from Hyatt heiress Gigi Pritzker's Odd Lot Entertainment. Scott Rudin, Pritzker and Stewart are producing the film. Casting is still in its early stages; 60 to 80 people will ultimately be involved, and shooting could begin overseas as soon as June.
John Oliver, a regular contributor to the program, on Comedy Central, will serve as guest host for eight weeks of new shows, and the four other weeks that Stewart will be gone are expected to coincide with the show's annual summer hiatus.
"One of the reasons we are in this business is to challenge ourselves," Stewart said, "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."
Bahari's ordeal is familiar to "The Daily Show" fans -- in fact, the comedy program played a role in it.
A Canadian-Iranian journalist and documentarian, Bahari was jailed in Tehran in 2009 for four months, accused of plotting a revolution against the government. Shortly before his arrest, Bahari had participated in a "Daily Show" sketch, conducted by one of the show's correspondents, Jason Jones, who was pretending to be a spy. Bahari's captors used the footage against him.
"You can imagine how upset we were," Stewart said, "and I struck up a friendship with him afterward."
Stewart said he eventually read Bahari's book and "because I'm naive about the movie business" started to think about a film. He said he did not also intend to adapt the screenplay.
"It just kind of happened," he said.