TORONTO (AP) — On “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart has frequently made a punchline out of his movie career.
When movie stars come on the show, Stewart often happily mocks his own film credentials, the ones largely from his days before becoming a revered late-night host: “Half Baked,” ”Big Daddy,” etcetera.
That may need to change. This fall, Stewart is releasing his directorial debut, “Rosewater,” a film that he also wrote about an Iranian journalist for Newsweek who was imprisoned in Iran after reporting on the 2009 elections there.
“The key is to not be in it,” says Stewart. “As long as I’m not in it, I think everything works out OK.”
And “Rosewater” is more than OK. Even those consistently blown away by Stewart’s comedic talent will be surprised at the sturdiness of his unexpected transition into moviemaking. “Rosewater,” which stars Gael Garcia Bernal as Maziar Bahari, was made largely with an adept naturalist feel despite Stewart’s inexperience.
“This was not on my radar,” said Stewart in an interview ahead of the film’s premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film, first screened earlier in the week at the Telluride Film Festival, has already been received warmly by critics and festivalgoers.
Stewart had an unlikely connection to Bahari’s story. When “The Daily Show” sent correspondent Jason Jones to do to a piece out of Iran in 2009, all three of the people they talked to — including Bahari — were arrested. The footage from the show was used — laughably but also terrifyingly — as evidence of Bahari being a spy for the West.
“We were in very uncharted territory,” says Stewart. “There are sometimes real world consequences to putting out satire. I think (Bassem Youssef, who hosts a “Daily Show”-like program in Egypt), my friend in Egypt, helped open my eyes to that. So when that happened, we were really rocked.”