Jon Stewart on Directing Rosewater: "It's Nice to Be Behind the Scenes"

Photo: Jerome Corpuz

Jon Stewart’s a pro at making people laugh, and for his latest project, he’s going in a direction he’s never gone before: directing a feature film. Rosewater debuts this weekend, in which The Daily Show host tells the story of Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari, who was imprisoned in Iran after appearing on Stewart’s show in 2009. Why "rosewater" for the title? While in jail, Bahari said his captor smelled like water scented with rose petals.

The flick showed at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this year. “It is more uncomfortable to be the one being interviewed,” Stewart told us then, where he brought along Bahari and the star who plays him in the film, Gael Garcia Bernal (pictured, below). “It’s nice to be behind the scenes as opposed to in front.”

Jerome Corpuz

Stewart took weeks off filming his nightly Comedy Central hit to lead this experience. “It was clear from the beginning [in 2010] that we wanted to make a universal story,” Bahari told InStyle. “It wasn’t only about me; it was about a love of comedy, a universal theme.” Laughter doesn’t seem to fit in with such a heavy topic, but Bahari’s experience taught him otherwise. “It’s dark humor,” he said. “When you think that you can suppress journalists by jailing them, it is a ridiculous thing to do. I would go back to my cell and laugh at my interrogator because he was so ignorant.”

Stewart went on location in Jordan to film, which helped Bernal really channel Bahari’s story. “I love being in places of conflict in a way,” he said. “It’s an open and very personal ground for creativity. This really shows that people are all the same, and only power structures make things seem complicated,” said Bernal. “But on the ground, it’s like, let’s all just finish this.”

Check out the below trailer for Rosewater, in theaters today.

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